Who I am

My name is Sara Beth Wald. I grew up in a family that was publicly perfect, and privately shattered. My family were big fish in a very small sea (more of a pond, really) in rural Montana.

I hopped the first bus out of town after high school. That bus happened to be in the form of an equally shattered person. We were both just 18. We spent 12 and a half years together, eight and a half of those married, none of them happy.

We were miserable, but boy did we look good. My husband and I earned lots of scholarships and degrees. We smiled in photos. We dressed well. I had excellent highlights.

All that posturing was exhausting. At the end of every day, I had nothing left to just be me. I understand now that all I really wanted was to be accepted (i.e. loved) by my family of origin. My marriage, such that it was, had nothing to do with the person I married. Neither of us had the slightest notion of what love really is.

Being “perfect” was the only thing I’d ever known. It was my heritage, a family tradition. I didn’t realize I wasn’t being myself until the façade finally crumbled when I was 31. Seemingly overnight I was a highly educated, unemployed single mom with a toddler son and almost nothing else. No flashy husband. No new house. No impressive job. No sense of self.

And that is when life started to get good. That is when I slowly began to redefine love. It took me nine years. Nine long, hard years of therapy, research, prayer, study, wash, rinse, repeat.

It took courage I didn’t know I had to use a voice I’d never even heard before. (Neither had anybody else, and a lot of people didn’t much like the sound of it, and still don’t!)

Not coincidentally, it was during these years that I fell in love – first with my son, then with my amazing friends, then with a man, then – finally! – with myself. It would have been far easier if I’d learned to love myself first, but I hadn’t yet redefined love.

My circle of love has now grown to another son, and the most incredible self-made family a person could ask for. My circle grows bigger every day. I am blessed beyond measure.

I continue to be a work in progress. I have so much more love to give. I’m just getting started on this journey. You see, I’m not an expert at this stuff. I’m just someone who got tired of living a lie – the lie that love is always happy and warm and tender.

There are always going to be people who are harder to love than others. For me, it is those who have hurt me, who continue to attempt to hurt me, those who refuse any accountability.

But I forge ahead, loving myself and others through it. Love may not be the first emotion that I feel when I encounter these people. I have a finely tuned death stare that still rears its ugly head. Sometimes it takes me days to come to a place of love for someone else.

We all have complicated relationships and I am certainly no exception. It is these very relationships that have brought me to this place, and for that I am grateful. I am as fallen as anyone else. I’m sorry to those I’ve hurt, or will hurt. If you’re not willing to admit your own fallibility, your own mistakes, then you cannot redefine love.

I imagine a time when I have so thoroughly mastered redefined love that I can be at peace with everyone, regardless of our differences. I image a time when I am fully at peace with myself. But I would be lying if I said I was already there.

My journey began when I wanted to give my son something different than the life I’d known. Then I realized I wanted something different for myself. And thus began the quest of a lifetime – the journey to the center of myself.

I sought therapy. I read books and articles. I reached out to others who’d had similar experiences. And I spent a lot of time online, searching. What was I searching for? From every resource I was seeking the same things – validation, encouragement, permission.

Permission for what? I didn’t know at the time, of course. In hindsight, I know that I wanted permission to redefine love. I wanted permission to say “Enough!” to those who hurt me, but to still love them at the same time.

There is lots of information out there about love and forgiveness. And there is lots of information about setting boundaries. But too often the resources for dysfunctional families or broken relationships address one or the other – fight (stand up for yourself!) or flight (forgive and forget or leave those jerks behind).

Tough love, setting boundaries, the shame cycle, accountability… these aren’t new concepts. There are authors who are far more gifted and wise than me writing and speaking on these subjects, and I encourage you to seek them out. What I felt was lacking was a one-stop shop. I wanted a place to go that gave me permission to take care of myself without fear, without fight or flight.

I was tired of fighting and falling back, fighting and falling back. My entire life had been spent endlessly battling and retreating, with no rest. I was physically and emotionally exhausted.

I hope Redefining Love gives you what I couldn’t find – a safe place to rest. You don’t have to fight or fall back. You can stand your ground without anger. You can set firm boundaries and tell hard truths with love. It’s ok to have it both ways. In fact, it’s essential that you do.

We live in a culture where everything is politicized, even love. But it doesn’t have to be that way. My life experience has provided me the unique opportunity to live and love people from all walks of American life. I’ve split my adulthood between two states, one red, one blue, and there are things I love about each of them.

Regardless of your politics, your religion, your income or background, rural or urban, we all have an equal capacity for good and evil, and an infinite ability to love.

What I am

I have a bachelor’s degree in social work, and a master’s degree in journalism. I postponed having children to focus on my career and education until I was 30. I’ve worked in many different sectors of the economy, but I haven’t been a waitress (too uncoordinated) and I haven’t worked in the medical field (too squeamish).

I am married to a wildland firefighter. Yes, he’s as sexy as you might imagine. No, I am not the least bit biased. Together this amazing man and I are raising two beautiful sons.

I am an overthinker. I am an overachiever. I am a people pleaser. I haven’t figured everything out. I haven’t mastered my own theory. I screw up every day. Then I flog myself for it for a few more days.

I am a person on this journey with you. I am someone who has felt the sting of rejection on a massive scale, more than once. Twelve years ago I made a decision to figure out where everything went wrong. Since then, through a great deal of research, therapy, and soul searching I have learned a thing or two that I now feel compelled to share in the hopes that it will help others.

What I’m not

Although I have a social work degree and I have worked in the field of social work, I am not a licensed therapist. I am not a mental healthcare provider. I am simply someone who believes she has something of value to share.

This site is meant to serve as a starting point for you to begin your own journey towards redefining love. I hope that my ideas inspire you. I also hope that you will reach out for help if you need it.

There is no shame in seeking help. If you feel alone, if you feel unloved, if you feel unworthy, reach out. There is love out there for you! Keep seeking it until you find it. Don’t give up!

And please, I beg you, if you feel at any point like you want to harm yourself or someone else, seek professional help immediately or dial 911. You are worth too much to the world to choose otherwise.

Site assistance

Special thanks to Yoshie Barnett at Lotus Flower Journeys for her assistance in developing this site! This site would not exist without her expertise, and I count her among my self-made family.

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Copyright © Redefining Love 2021.

The author of Redefining Love is not a licensed mental healthcare professional. The information included on this site is for general informational purposes only. For mental health questions or concerns, please reach out to a licensed mental healthcare professional.