Monday, October 3, 2011

Love is a set of reinforcing acts

Here's something weird: I feel simultaneously loved and not loved. By the same people. Like, I believe certain people love me, and also do not love me. In other words, their actions don't measure up to the way I believe they feel about me in their heart.

It is a bizarre way to live, and yet it has always been this way with a lot of my loves. I suppose I am touching on one of the greatest challenges in life: matching one's insides with one's outsides, lining up one's heart and one's deeds.

So, let me ask you this: if you feel someone loves you, but they do a crappy job of showing you, like if they neglect you, for instance, but when it's convenient for them, and sometimes even when it's not, they occassionally shower you with something, does that mean they really love you? Or are they just full of shit when they tell you they love you? Seriously.

Because I get that no one loves perfectly. So where is the line between loving and posing? Between loving and wanting to love?

What is love, then? It's got to be more than a feeling, right? Once a counselor in college told me, "Love is a set of reinforcing acts." I think this is the best definition I have heard to date.

In any case, I'm not entirely sure what it feels like to be just completely loved--and loved well--by someone. My marriage is approaching that, but this kind of love takes time. At least with us it has. But we're getting there. It was just this past summer I decided to try to BEGIN trusting my husband. We've been together eight years. Yeah.

I'm not sure what it feels like to be completely beheld by someone, to be seen and understood and admired and adored for being exactly who I am. My grandmother's love was like that, but she and I were separated so much of the time. I didn't get nearly enough of her before she died.

Since I was about four or five, I've never felt understood, and for me, that is a crucial element in feeling loved. I always felt like a foreigner. I grew up feeling like, no matter how hard I tried, I was never the right color or size or brand. I always felt like I wanted to be somewhere else. I missed my people.

And so where do I go from here: this place I've recently landed, where I know that certain people in my life feel something they call love in their heart for me, but I also know they feel long-standing, fundamental disapproval and disappointment and shame and resentment. What kind of hope do I have with relationships like that? And that is not a uh...whatddyacallit RHETORICAL question. I literally want to know.

Because here's the deal: if someone is handicapped by long-term unresolved issues that prevent them from loving you well, is it enough, then, for them to claim they love you? And if that is not enough, what in the world can they possibly do?

Bottom line is, I just want and deserve to be completely cherished. But I'm not sure it will ever happen. And that terrifies me. Or it might happen. And that terrifies me, too. Just not as much.

And listen, if you tell me all I really need is to love myself and feel God's love for me, my behavior may become erratic. Don't say you weren't warned. Because REALLY. That is not all I really need. Granted, it is soooo important to love one's self and to feel intimately connected to and held by the divine.

But one of our needs--one of our fundamental birthrights--is to be loved, truly loved by other human beings, and it is precisely because I love myself that I find myself here today, asking these impossible questions, seeking answers for my worn heart, hoping what has been is not all there is.

And if you are reading this and you're someone who loves me, thank you. I have a lot of people in my life I deeply love--okay, not a lot, but a good number, okay?--and who, in turn, love me sweetly, and this is something I cherish. I'm not saying no one loves me. People love me. And you know who you are.

I am just asking outloud some questions that are rolling like a storm inside me, because I cannot hold these questions quietly anymore.


  1. think of how you love your children. completely, deeply, desperately, unconditionally.... but yet, not perfectly, because perfect doesn't really exist. there are times when you're trying to cook dinner or get work done or for whatever reason NEED A FUCKING BREAK and the love isn't obvious in that moment (to the lovee). everyone does that. that's the closest to perfect love we get. Deep desperate unconditional love is nevertheless wrapped in human imperfections. so i guess you have to judge the "love" you receive from someone in context of their particular bucket of imperfections. Given so-in-so's best and worst, do they love me as best they can? Or could they do a lot better? there's human faults and then there's just plain laziness (or worse, cruelty), and lots of gray in between too.

  2. one other thought
    "And if that is not enough, what in the world can they possibly do?" I don't think there is anything 'they' can do... I think the only thing left to happen is for you to change your expectations, sad as that is. some people won't/can't ever provide the consistency we need, and we are left with a choice to continue living in a fantasy of expectations or get real about what they can offer us. this message comes complete with a cold shower and dead puppy.

  3. I think this is the plight of a great healer like can constantly see the love inside of people and know their potential- you very bravely stand in and believe in it over and over again but it gets hard when that intersects with a need you have yourself (a very human need to which you should have met).

    you are probably always going to attract and have pretty broken messed up folks around you...but in the end, you only have control over yourself- just because you love those people or can see something amazing inside doesn't always mean you have to have them in your life...or maybe they are on the back burner for a bit- maybe now is the time to hibernate with those who do fill you and reciprocate the way you gather your strength and hope so you can continue to love the crazier bunch or draw the boundaries you need with them, or possibly even move on from what is not good for your soul.

    either way, you will find your always do.