Sometimes it is easy to swing very far in the opposite direction to apparently solve a problem. But in truth, if we continually swing to extremes, we won't get anywhere but stuck in a loop. First too soft, then too hard. First too scattered, then too focused. In the beginning of recognizing a fault, I tend to want to obliterate it completely. I want to be able to choose to be completely different, to make that fault no longer a part of who I am. But what once was just a minor flaw can then become a different kind of crack in my personality, turning me into someone I might like even less, and have more animosity toward. I could start to not recognize myself and wonder how I got this way and wonder if I even have the option of being different. Then there is an about-face, a return to the original flaw but even more so - back and forth until I am confused and battered and completely lost to the cycle of opposites, no longer in control or even able to accept myself, because I have no idea who myself is.
I have been told by perceptive people over and over again that my heart has been broken deeply. They hint that I am not over it. But I have been confused by this perception because I truly thought I have gotten over my heartaches of the past. Here I am, living life. I am not sequestered in an apartment with ten cats. But it is true, if I let myself acknowledge it, that I haven't been willing to love deeply again for a very long time. I may have only been able to do it once or twice in romantic relationships, and after having had so many people take their love away from me without telling me why or even wanting to try and make things better between us, I can see how the wound across my heart is very deep after all.
Friend after friend has given up on bothering to call or write, starting from when I very first had a friend at all, as a small child. I didn't wear the right clothes, so one stopped talking to me and had an active campaign against me for several years, but never answered why until we were teenagers. One went to a different school and didn't care to keep in touch - I was unimportant and not worth the effort. One dropped me for boys and horses on and off throughout high school and beyond, always blaming me for the things she was doing as though I were the one who stopped talking to her, which infuriates me still. My first serious relationship was fraught with infidelity, which I was expected to deal with and even appreciate - I was abandoned again and again even as the mask of togetherness was polished.
All of those friendships and even the one lover didn't completely harden me to being open to others. I still held hope and longed to abandon myself into a relationship, free to love and be loved without fear of it being yanked away or proven false. It was a little hard for me to do so, but eventually I chose to leap past the fear, trusting that this one beloved chosen would be there for me as much as I was for him, faults and all. But he wasn't. One day, despite my complete trust that at the very least we would always have each other (safe to fight, safe to laugh, safe to be silly, safe to make mistakes) was shattered. Even as things were getting difficult, I had faith that we would of course get through it and get back into a state of joy again, because we loved, and loved truly. Or at least I did, and I had allowed the belief that he did, too. He didn't. He chose not to fight for anything, not even to try, and didn't want to talk to me anymore, just like that.
Since then, I am sad to admit, I haven't opened my heart to anyone else again, not like that time. Even when I think that I am being open and accepting, even when I think I am showing all of myself, I am not. I am too scared of having my heart ripped out again and thrown on the ground, bloody and raw, overlooked and despised. I am always just a little bit wary, even in moments of joy. When will the ball drop and the time be over for whatever relationship or friendship I am in? I don't want to feel the pain that is still caught in that wound, so I won't let myself feel anything close to that kind of innocent abandon that I once did for that single person. If a single person could hurt me so badly, I can't let several people go for it. I might die.
Timed with this loss was the loss of another friend, who lost her baby and then chose not to talk to me again after getting pregnant a second time. I think she associated me very much with that first pregnancy. Or maybe I did something hurtful that I wasn't aware of - I was in such grief for the six months following the loss of my boyfriend (I'll call him X), I didn't have it in me to notice much other than deadlines for classes and graduating.
Now, I have logic that allows me to think I am compassionate to others, when I really won't feel it truly for very long or at all. I can honestly understand how others can be callous, or work for their own self-preservation. I can understand why they do hurtful things, because I do them, too. But I won't feel it too much, otherwise that heart-wound re-opens because that's the main thing about my heart - it is really hurt. If I get past a surface feeling like delight or frustration or even fear I suddenly find myself staring into an abyss that I am afraid I won't be able to heal and really don't want to feel anymore. It's a more ragged and brutalized gash than I already nursed growing up - the help I thought I would have in healing it turned out to be a metal wire brush and not a soothing balm after all. So I go numb. I can see why I should feel upset, or loving, or any other thing. But I am separated from true feeling, because it simply hurts so much to return to that place of vulnerability and me-ness.
I had so much practice being other people, my whole life. As a kid, I would try so hard every day to become someone else, a girl who was gentle and sweet and wise and who never fought with her brothers, who by being so passive and quiet would be loved by her family and accepted for once, not thrown to the side for her siblings each day and punished just for showing up and reacting to being taunted. I failed at it several times per day, but I kept trying. I tried to be a good friend to the few people who would even talk to me at school, too - I managed to be mostly neglected but not actively tortured, so I counted it a success. It wasn't until college that I threw myself onto the scene of life and wondered who I might actually be and if I could love and be loved for that. I didn't think so, but I wanted to try. By the time I met X, I had at least saved myself from several emotionally abusive situations and had a bit of a handle on who I was not, anyway. I was willing to trust that he'd witness my finding out who I was with acceptance and encouragement, as I was discovering that even though he had several less-than-stellar traits, I still loved him anyway and wanted to stay with him despite and even because of them. I assumed because I was in that space of acceptance and readiness to grow with another person, he was too. I have never honestly returned to that space of complete vulnerability and complete acceptance of another person since. I guess I don't accept myself. It's too bad.
I am fascinated that I have been able to form new friendships and even my marriage with this giant hole in my heart. I have been oblivious to it because I really believed that when crying myself to sleep finally ended after four months, and I even got hopeful and happy after nine or ten months, that I must have healed up completely. Now I am not so sure. Surface happy or angry or sad followed by complete blankness when having to face how I really feel about anything is not healthy. Continual return to a mindset of having to deal with being completely on my own even if it sucks, even if it isn't fair, even if I didn't deserve it, with a stoic blankness is not a sign of health. And believing this to be my reality has been contributing to me making lots of decisions that further that eventual situation, again and again. I honestly don't believe anybody who says they are there for me no matter what. I wonder what the deal breaker will be on that promise, at what point they will join my army of past friends and lovers who also told me that lie and walked away without putting up a fight. I push, to see where that line is. I didn't know I was doing that, but I do see it now. Maybe I can start to stop pushing now that I see it. I hope so.
The fear of being completely destroyable is huge. If they don't see all of me, they can't hurt all of me. And all of me is hurt already. I hid it even from myself, so I couldn't hurt all of me again. It's no wonder that I daydream about being able to start over, go back to an early time and try again, maybe this time not getting so beat up in the process.
What if I can love the me that I actually am, beat up and sad and lonely? Would I then be able to love Derek more, and Lari, and Cat and Rama, and all my friends who tell me that they really are here for me no matter what? I do love them already, but would it be more real after coming to terms with my sad and tiny and hardened self? I think so. Maybe it's time to try.