I’m going to pull myself together, put on a new face, climb down from the hilltop, baby, get back in the race.
Dreams I’ll Never See – Molly Hatchet
Sometimes I feel truly incompetent and wonder how I’ve managed to get through this life so far. Last summer, when I moved into my new house, my son had to show me how to start a lawnmower. The first time I had to use the new weed eater I held it upside down, and for a good long while too, because my son had changed the setting to edging and I didn’t realize it.
I still struggle to change my toothbrush head or put together the simplest of items or remember to change the furnace filter, but there are times when I do remember I really am strong. I walked out on an alcoholic husband to start a new life with two small children in tow. I had never even had utilities in my own name. It took me nine years to get my college degree because I worked full-time and was raising two kids, but walking across that stage I was exuberant. It was one of the proudest and strongest moments of my life. I may not be handy, but I know how to persevere.
Another time, I had to take a job as a waitress at 40-something because my third (and last!) ex-husband walked out on me and moved to another state weeks after returning home from a tour in Iraq. I lost that marriage, my good job in my career field, and my house all in about the space of a year. The crowning touch was when I learned through the grapevine that my ex was re-marrying rather quickly. His betrothed was a soldier he had a secret affair with on one of his missions in Iraq. And guess what? She was also pregnant with his child.
So …I know that I can survive the pain of this heartbreak and learn to live without this man I loved so much in my life. It will eventually get easier, and I do know there is light on the other side. It is just those little things that suddenly tighten your chest when you see or hear them. A line in a song on the radio the other day that reminded me, “No one has ever hurt as much as you.”
Wow, it hit me like a brick, and my eyes pricked with tears, remembering a love so fierce that for me it became transcendent while for him, it merely began to fade away a little more with every step I took closer.
Is that the problem – that I always want for more ? … to be closer, to share more, to have a deep intimacy? I am afraid that maybe I will never be satisfied, never have enough love – but ah hah that is the key, is it not? The love must be inside of me, a part of ME so no one has control of it or can take it away. It needs to live inside of me the way I believe God’s spirit is within me, a love that will never abandon me.
I want to embrace this new path of self-discovery as ardently as I once embraced the person whom I thought was the love of my life. My friend told me one reason I struggle so with this is that I have this great big love in my heart and in my personality, and without someone to direct it to, to shower it upon, I feel lost, and she’s right. I have a great need to give, for someone to be the recipient of my caring. I have too often squandered the gift of me on men who were undeserving or incapable of the deep intimacy I crave. I do understand that I need to love myself; it’s just not always easy to break patterns and to put your mind around what they really mean.
My therapist told me I am overly accommodating to what other people want or need – it’s not called compromising if I don’t get any of what I want – that is capitulation. For some reason, examining who I am or what I want too closely is self-indulgent, uncomfortable, and frankly, kind of scary.
With some perspective, I can see that I care too much about what others think, that I seek approval from men of my sex appeal (such as it is) because desire is proof that I am wanted, and I have always wanted to be somebody’s “someone,” so I have jumped from marriage to marriage and relationship to relationship so I never have to be alone.
My friends have been so validating of me. They say I am cute, smart, funny, spirited, lively, loving – I just want to say to them, “So why is that not enough for me, to know how much I am loved? Why does it have to be a romance with a man when in nearly every instance those have turned out poorly for me?” Jeez oh Pete, you would think I could learn a lesson at some point, huh?
But I am trying not to beat myself up about the past – but I sure want to stop repeating it. I need to remember that it is exactly the sum of these experiences that have brought me this far – that have made me the wonderful person I am. This moment in time is exactly where I am meant to be – there are lessons to be learned, and I am ready.
I have decided I have to start starring in my own story. This time I am the lead role, not the sweet, funny, helpful best friend.
I want someone to be completely captivated by me and chase me – want someone to sweep me off my feet, I deserve that. But I also wish I was the kind of person who could keep themselves more intact. Someone who doesn’t rush to judgment or become enamored too quickly if she is given compliments or kind words or kisses.
In the empty corners of the evening, my heart drops as I remember. There are places and times when I miss him so keenly I feel like inside I am just dying with longing. I can see him – peeking at me from behind the shower curtain and scaring me to death, miss the cute little way he dances, him holding my hand in church, sitting beside me quietly on the cliffs overlooking the lake at Green River, watching the sunset beside the willow tree in my backyard. I miss the way he would bounce in to my house, big smile, happy to see me, hair still wet from the shower. I miss being his honey. I miss the sweet face of us.
But I also know I romanticized the relationship and took the spare threads of his affection and attention and tried to make a blanket out of them to keep me warm. He was loving in his way, but it was always just in his way; often not the way I needed or wanted. I was always a sideline, an option to exercise whenever he wanted. I let him treat me this way, let him dole out the breadcrumbs of his love and then lapped them up like a dog always eager for more. In reality, we lived in different worlds, and we were running parallel with no real future or connection happening down the road.
I think he wanted to be the man I tried to make him out to be. For a while he was able to play the role, to keep up the façade of the loyal boyfriend there for family functions, there to fix things at my house, or to mow my lawn but somewhere along the way it began to change.
He stopped spending the weekend or even spending the night; sometimes he chose drinking over making love. He once told me that my happiness and my full rich life were what he was attracted to about me. But in my mind, he began to be intimidated by those same things because he doesn’t really have his shit together – and in his heart he knows it. So he started lashing out, picking fights about nothing and everything, saying he was merely expressing his opinion, or we were debating. But upon reflection he was extremely patronizing, dismissing my arguments as not worthy of his time, berating me, making me defend not just my beliefs but also attacking me as a person, the very core of me.
I sure wish I could understand why I always seem to gravitate to men that have a hole that needs mending – who need to be taught how to be in a relationship – men that in my deepest heart I must be thinking – “But they just have not had someone like me to love and nurture them – with my extra-ordinary love and ebullient spirit – I can mend them, I can lift them up.” In other words I want to rescue emotionally unavailable men. My sister said it less charitably, “I take in strays.”
Here in November it is time to think of giving thanks, and I am so grateful. I am blessed to have a remarkable life – one full of faith and friendship and family. I have two great sons and an adorable four-year old grandson, who never fails to give me joy in abundance whenever I am around the miracle of him. My mom and dad are both passed, so I am lucky we are a tight-knit family, and I am close to my sisters (all five of them!). I am graced by a rich variety of wise and wonderful women who I am honored to call my friends. I have my writing, my incredibly loving church family who are as beloved and warm as my favorite pair of jeans. I go to plays and the ballet, and I have books. Thank God for books.
I saw it written recently that it is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply. I thought about how my tendency to give myself over to relationships so completely has resulted in searing heartache. But then I smiled, remembering one of the family stories my sisters love to tell on me that always used to embarrass me, but as I get older I feel more pride than regret.
When we first moved back to Louisville from Oklahoma City, I was just starting seventh grade. On a frigid night during Christmas week, I was trying to convince my family to go out for an impromptu Christmas caroling around the neighborhood, but they were having none of it. So, I simply decided it was too important to me so I went by myself. I just wanted to feel some of the spirit of the season, so I literally went Christmas caroling door to door by myself. The neighbors answering their doors were a little startled to see me caroling alone, but mostly they smiled at this girl singing her heart out, off-key and cold, but so determined to be merry anyway.
I am still so determined, and I am slowly, slowly learning how to revel in my own unique and open-hearted self. I can laugh at the audacity of that singing girl, but she is teaching me something.
You don’t see people for who they are, you see people for who you are.
I will pick up the pieces of my heart, I will discover who I am without a romantic partner by my side and stop letting others define my value. I will seek out even more of the kind of people with whom I want to surround myself.
After all, this blog is not called “Holly Accommodating.” It is Holly Ascending.