It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read anything I’ve written that I have a regular appointment with a therapist. Well, in one of these recent regularly scheduled appointments I had a bit of a revelation. I am not good at love. I don’t love people the way you should and I don’t let them love me back (don’t make that dirty). I don’t suppose I ever really learned how or tried to learn. Honest, open love requires vulnerability and that is terrifying. So much can go wrong when you open yourself completely to someone. There are so many ways to hurt someone or to get hurt by someone in this world. And when you’ve spent most of your life building up armor so you don’t get hurt, it gets fairly difficult to let all of that go and just be open. If you grow up feeling unsafe and without protection or a safe -haven you can trust, that armor is what you need to survive. But I’m not a child anymore and I don’t need that protection but I still have to work on shedding all of it. I have to re-learn what love means which is SO damned weird (and also the cheesy plot of several Lifetime movies).
What has love meant to me up until now? It’s meant giving selflessly (be it time, money, objects, maybe even a set of books THAT I LET SOMEONE BORROW IN HIGH SCHOOL AND I STILL WANT MY ANNE RICE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES BACK). But you don’t ask for anything in return from people you love. You don’t place undue burdens on them (mostly because you can’t trust that they can handle it) but you take every one you can even if you break. And if you dare place a burden on them (like asking them to help you move, or paint your house) you do so in a way that lets them know you don’t really need help (even though you do).
But hey, it’s not all self-martyrdom! It’s also about placing UNREASONABLY HIGH expectations on them and passing extreme judgment when they fail to meet your standards. So much so that eventually they stop being your friend and hey, all that means is that THEY’RE flawed. I mean, you’re flawed too but not as flawed as that amirite?? So you don’t need that in your life. What’s wrong with expecting the best from your friends, anyway? You know they can do X better? Or they can be X better? Aren’t you just being a good friend by holding them to that?
But mostly what I thought love was (the thing I’ve been the most wrong about almost all of my life) is that love is conditional and it can be taken away at any moment. If you go out into the world, it’s best to protect yourself because people can be cruel and love is fleeting. I guess the overall point here is that I started out in life with a flawed premise about love.
So if what I knew about love is flawed, what do I need to learn now? I’m still working on that. Maybe I just need to start with accepting that I am flawed. And if I am flawed, then I have to accept that other people are flawed. Which means if I want people to love me unconditionally, then I have to do the same to others. And how do we learn how to love others unconditionally? That’s something I don’t know yet. I’m working on it though. I’m trying to start with forgiveness and acceptance and work my way up from there. I’m trying to be a better friend and to keep my mind open (and my judgments as minimal as possible). I’m working on trusting people and being okay if they hurt me or let me down (people are only human har har har). I’m probably going to fail and that’s okay too. But as long as I keep trying, I think I’ll get there.
I’m going out into the world without my armor and hoping for the best. Because people are mostly good and even if they sometimes aren’t, I’m not easily broken. I am resilient and I am worthy of love. And so are you – and you – and you. Oh what the heck, you are too.