Monday, January 31, 2005

On the nature of love ...

As I found out lately, this is often a murky subject ... especially for those of us that have been around the block a few or three times.

When I started thinking about the anniversary of the Challenger disaster, I had no idea the direction my thoughts would take me. Once I reread what I had written, though, I realized I had touched upon a subject that I had promised to elaborate on near the holidays, something that I have been trying to explore for quite a long time, namely the nature of love and trust. Sadly, since I don't have an analyst's couch available to me anymore, I rely on this place to do most of my subconscious spelunking and you, dear reader, get to watch each treacherous, painful step. Or, as George Bush says, if you don't like what you see, you can just "turn it off" ... Good Lord, what HAS the world come to, me quoting Shrub??

Of course, the very nature of my writing, and my domain, attracts some very odd visitors, many of which had no intention of coming here and reading about my first love or my kids or my losing battle with self-esteem and depression. No, many of you came here while searching for g taste whores (#1, though I have NO idea what that is ...) and "helping church whores" (#7 ... must talk more about church, apparently). What you find, sadly, is not a porno site but an introspective, personal blog written by someone who is as far from a whore as you can get. Yeah, I know, the domain is misleading but it was chosen as a lark at a time when I thought being obscene and inappropriate was funny, a time when I would have done anything for the person with whom I chose the domain name. Yes, love leads you to do some crazy things ... and that, dear reader, is where I am today. In honor of the upcoming holiday, which brings with it a whole host of emotions and not all of them pretty, I thought I would start exploring these emotions now so that maybe, just maybe, when that weekend comes around, my head will be clear enough to enjoy my first Valentine's Day with hope and peace and without imploding.

/nevermind if you don't understand ... please remember, dear reader, I don't write for you. I appreciate you and have spared you of some ugliness in the past because of my immense respect for you but, sorry, I do this for me. Continue at your own risk ...

My experiences with love have been varied and tumultuous. Though many people would not agree that adult (read: romantic) love is influenced by our earliest (read: familial) love experiences, I'm convinced otherwise. Yes, I have always believed that how a child is loved influences how a child grows up to love. In other words, I blame my family for most of my relationship failures up to, and including, my marriage. Any failure after that, however, is of my own doing.

Some background is necessary here. I grew up in a middle class family in a small suburb in Massachusetts, a city filled with hard-working, blue-collar Catholics of many different ethnic backgrounds. We were a mixed family: mom, a passionate and vocal Italian had been married before and brought 3 kids into this marriage and dad, an Irishman oozing sarcastic charm, brought one of his own. By the time I came along, both of my parents were thrilled - or so I was told. That didn't stop them from drinking and partying and acting like they were still single ... after all, this was the 60's and things were pretty swinging then, even if you were married.

Their barhopping and partying led to many dramatic scenes, including screaming matches, door-shattering and finger-breaking battles, various police visits to the house and a brief say in a mental ward for a revenge OD, all while we kids watched. For my part, I was too young to understand much of it but I did understand one thing ... I was small and unprotected and everyone and everything that I relied on for protection and security could be taken away from me at any moment. I tried very hard to be perfect and NOT cause anyone to explode in anger. I became the one that never complained, that never rocked the boat, the one that tried to solve every problem and cover every incriminating track before it ever came to my parent's attention. I brought home straight A's from school and never caused so much as a whiff of trouble. Despite my best efforts to keep my parents together and loving me, they couldn't be adults and, one Sunday morning, I woke to find my father had left for good. Since Sundays were typically our days together (going to church, walking the dog, reading the paper, raking the yard, watching football, doing puzzles, taking naps), it settled somewhere in my tiny brain that he had left me, not my mother.

The following years only confirmed my fears as he would routinely forget our Sunday visits together, leaving me to wonder what I could have done better, what I had done wrong the week before to make him stop loving me. Since he could do no wrong (he was an adult, after all, and I had been taught that adults were omnipotent beings of perfection), I knew it had to be my fault when he stopped loving me. Only in retrospect can I see now that he was a raging alcoholic and a self-important narcissist but, by the time I figured that out, I had a good 30 years of damage to undo.

Fast forward to adolescence, a time when my attitudes toward men would be most shaped by the people I was around. Unfortunately, by this time, I was living alone with my mom and she was taking advantage of being single, dating various unsundry men who wanted nothing more than to get me out of the way so that they could have a roll in the hay with mom. Some moved in, took over for a few weeks or months or however long it took mom to figure out that they were scum and then, with much drama and noise, they moved out. I was nothing more than an inconvenience to all involved.

About this time, I had my first sexual encounter, if you can call it that. My mom made the mistake of leaving a 12 year old girl in the care of a 16 year old boy and I found out that sometimes keeping secrets is necessary. After all, something bad had happened and I hadn't prevented it, I couldn't fix it, and so, in my mind, I was to blame. Even the Catholic church said I was to blame (there, my church reference ...) but that's the Catholic church for you ... blaming the violated, not the violator. Unfortunately, my shame after being scolded by my beloved priest kept me away from the one sanctuary I had (God) for the next quarter of a century, something I regret now. I'm afraid too much time has passed for me to be accepted into a church at this point or for me to allow a church into my heart again as fully as I had then. Rejection makes one skittish, I find.

Fast forward to college, a time of freedom and anonymity, surrounded by people that didn't know anything about my past, immersed in the theater department and the radio station which allowed me to succeed at something I was very good at, being someone other than myself. I became a personality, SharonO the sultry late-night deejay. Playing Nurse Ratchet onstage, the embodiment of power and evil, now that had to be the pinnacle. People that had come to know me would laugh at that casting, knowing I was the antithesis of Ratchet and wouldn't harm a flea, but that part let me enjoy, if only for 4 months, a power I had never had before. I controlled the actions of men with a look and a nod. I was mean and I enjoyed it. I even got a standing ovation for it, though the audience was booing while they applauded, the highest compliment an audience can pay an evil character.

Offstage, I had a certain confidence that followed me wherever I went. I allowed myself to fall in love and watched as he moved from one shallow relationship to another, convinced that, when the time was right, he would end up with me. And he did. But we've already discussed how that ended, didn't we?

The summer after he left, I met the future husband and, while I was away from my network of friends, he convinced me that I needed to be taken care of. Taken care of? In 22 years, I had never been taken care of by anyone but myself and, yes, I was tired of it. It was easy to let go of the reins ... I had no idea that becoming a passenger in my own life would lead me to where I ended up. I thought that his 'taking care of me' meant that he loved me ... after all, he used those words but, in truth, one of the first things you learn when learning a new language is how to say "I love you." That and "Where is the bathroom?" will get you pretty far on your first day in a new country.

I convinced myself that I loved him and, well, I ended up loving him in a desperate, "please don't leave me because I'm unable to take care of myself" kind of way. I was foolish to marry him but, I have to admit now, I am glad I did. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have my kids and I wouldn't have gone to a shrink to figure a lot of this out but I do regret how much time I lost being angry and depressed while married to him.

This second adult love in my life mirrored my first love, my father. No matter how perfect I tried to be or how much I tried to please him, he ended up leaving. While I was trying desperately to be better, he was lying to my face about what he was doing with money, sleeping around while he was on the road and berating me for not being pretty/thin/smart/graceful/good enough to keep him.

If my self-esteem had been shaky before, it was through this relationship that it took the worst beating. he would constantly show me pictures/movies/magazine clips of women that were the kind of women he thought were sexy and, oddly enough, I had nothing in common with any of them, a fact that he seemed to enjoy pointing out to me. My boobs were too big/too small, my ass was too fat/not fat enough, my hair was too long, my face too plain, my makeup too thick, my clothes too provocative/not provocative enough. No matter what I changed though, it still did nothing for him. He continued to use porn to get turned on and only came to me when he could catch me unaware, dominate me and then humiliate me.

Fast forward to his leaving and my meeting the third love in my life, the previous other half of this website. I won't elaborate on our relationship here because I still have respect for him and his wishes. Although I have been accused of saying terrible things about him here, I never have, nor will I ever do that. He was a good man, whether he believes it or not. Time and distance became our nemesis and, when it became apparent that, after 5 years, nothing was going to change the distance aspect of our relationship, things pretty much disintegrated. The silence was all my fault,
but the stagnation, no, I can't take the blame for that. Moss was growing long before I came along and my kinetic energy only reached so far, lasted so long.

Fast forward to today. Here I sit, reflecting on missteps I have made, mistakes I have taken the blame for, miscommunications that I have perpetuated ... and I'm realizing something for the first time in my life. I no longer need a relationship that mirrors an earlier, failed relationship so that I can possibly fix it, or fix myself, and do it right this time. I have been lucky enough to meet someone that doesn't have a hidden agenda (no matter how hard I try to find one ... old habits die hard), someone that doesn't want any more from me whan what I can give him.

When faced with this, my first instinct is to expect such a good thing to go away (apparently, old insecurities die hard, too). I spend 98% of my time just feeling lucky that someone would even want to spend time with me and the other 2% of my time convinced that no one should want to spend time with me. Frustrating doesn't even begin to describe it.

In this case, I know the fixing DOES have to come from me, not that I have to fix myself to be better but that I have a lifetime of unlearning to do. I want to finally trust my instincts that have been screaming to me from day one that "YOU CAN FUCKING RELAX NOW!! HE'S A GOOD ONE!!". I only hope he is patient enough to put up with my insecurities for a little while longer while I work through them.

Until I became a mother, I thought I had to be perfect to be loved. As a matter of fact, I don't think that I had ever experienced pure, unconditional love until I looked into their eyes. For some inexplicable reason, they love me even though I am FAR from being a perfect parent. This is as fortifying as it is baffling but I guess that is what love is all about.

Am I worth waiting for? *sigh* There's the million dollar question.

If you were taking a random survey on the street today, asking about the standards of society, the nature of self-esteem and how I see myself, I think you know the answer I'd give.

If he asked me, I would tell him yes, I'm worth it ... a totally self-serving answer, naturally, but I do believe that, in this instance, it's true.

SO ... I have a lot of work to do but it's worth it. I am worth it. And I'll keep repeating that until I believe it.

"posted here just yesterday ... excuse the cross posting but I would love to get a dialogue going on this."

No comments: