I have this friend that I met online several years ago on a quit smoking app that I no longer use- I have several friends from this app, actually, and it’s the only one I have ever developed outside friendships from…anyway, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is, this particular friend- an Irish dude, living in Canada (I mean, as far as I can tell, that’s who he really is- for all I know, he could be some weirdo from Indiana living in his moms basement. Hahaha!), we have the best talks. About real shit, sometimes, things that I really need to talk about. Things like the state of my heart, and the hard work of changing for the better. He understands the deep work I have been doing on myself these past few years, the labor that goes beyond 12 step groups and therapy. The time you spend on your own, examining the way the thoughts you allow in your head affect your life, and the wounds you discover that you didn’t even know you’ve been carrying around.
I told him about a realization that I had, just the other day, about how much I struggle with connecting to other people. I had mistakenly believed it was only a problem I had with men, but suddenly, I realized that it is across the board- with other women, with relatives- even with my children. I don’t know how to explain it clearly, but I can tell you that I hold everyone at arms length. That I might hug, confide, and love fiercely, but…there is a hard stop that happens, and it is causing me some pain now. That’s generally the only way I know about a problem- when it starts to hurt. I don’t really think this is a new thing, either. I suspect it’s been with me for a really long time, but I was able to escape the repercussions with sex, or behind my drug abuse. When you are living in survival mode, or in extreme dysfunction, you don’t have time to worry about things like interpersonal relationships, or connecting with others in a healthy and robust manner. 🙂
Anyway, my friend and I talked about this, and about the funny way things go when you are trying to heal yourself- the thing is, it really doesn’t end. You uncover a layer of bullshit, you sort it out, you find resolution, and you sit back for a minute- you get a short break, then- BAM! A whole new layer of bullshit surfaces, and you start dealing with that. There is no end. We are never perfect. Which is why, I guess, so many people just prefer not to get into it- not to gaze into the gaping maw of their brokenness and try to change. It’s just easier not to. Had I known what I was getting into when I started- had I even known that I was starting- I don’t know if I would have wanted this, either. The phrase “ignorance is bliss” could not be more true in this instance. Self awareness is a motherfucker. Some days I am so proud of how far I’ve come, and some days I can’t believe what an ungrateful, whining, entitled asshole I am. It’s quite a ride.
So, I told my friend about this terrible distance between myself and the rest of the world, including those I love the most, and he said “Now that you know about it, change it.”
Well, yes. But how? For a solid 24 hours I pretended that I couldn’t possibly know how to do that, because I didn’t like the answer, but of course I do know. The answer is to allow myself to be vulnerable. To stop being so sassy, to stop laughing everything off, to stop being too busy, too tired, too…whatever, and be real. Admit that I’m afraid of being hurt, of losing what I love, and therefore, afraid of loving altogether. Because that is the real truth- that I have learned, over the course of my 43 years on this planet, that love hurts. That no matter who I love, it always hurts. Within families, people are volatile and selfish and downright abusive, and it fucking hurts. Or they get old and sick, and they die, and that hurts, too. Your children become teenagers, and they hate your guts, and look down their noses at you, and that just sucks, AND it hurts. And men…oh, for God’s sake, no matter what I do, I pick the same one in a different package, again and again, and it hurts like hell. And it’s also embarrassing.
Somewhere along the way, I know that I picked up the fear, and hid it from myself, that this was somehow my fault. That there must be something fundamentally wrong with me if all of my relationships were so fraught with dysfunction and unhappiness. Even now, as I write this, I am considering that there may be some truth to that- that if I were just a better person, I would be more lovable. After all this work I have done, isn’t that the saddest thing ever? I have accomplished so much, I’ve had so much success in my life, despite the obstacles in my path. I have beautiful children, a flourishing career, a spiritual practice. Every day, I try to be more kind, more patient, more loving, and yet…here I sit. With this truth. That maybe I just don’t really know how to love, and maybe that means I am missing that part, and maybe that makes me unlovable.
Or maybe…maybe it just means that I didn’t have the best examples of what love is really supposed to look like. And maybe I took that with me into the world, and that is what I looked for, and found, over and over again. And maybe it finally got too painful, so I stopped trying, and that is when this wall went up, and it protected me for a while, but it also cut me off from the good stuff, too. Except now I don’t know how to get through it, over it, around it. But I think my job now is to try. To keep chipping away at it, feeling around for the edges, for a place where I can maybe slip through, even if it might hurt. There is still so much work to do. Such a long way to go. But in the end, I still believe it’s work worth doing.