“We are in a constant state of yearning, wanting love but not receiving it.”
Every so often I convince myself that things were never that bad. I tell myself that I was exaggerating and that the good times weigh out the trauma. I stuff the deaths, the screaming matches, the pressure, anything that I don’t want to think about into a box and stack it on the top shelf. I call my parents, and I laugh about old times. When I hang up I say, “I love you,” and ignore the thought itching at the back of my mind.
In college, I decided I wanted to rebrand, so I shed my angsty teen persona for a loner stoner vibe. I've always been the type to keep a distance between myself and everyone else; at first an emotional chasm, and now six floors and two doors. Do I think that creating space (whether emotional or physical) will protect me from hurt? Or maybe it's my unconscious way of testing how far someone's willing to go just for me.
I lie and say I don’t care what anyone thinks about me. I don’t. It’s just that sometimes I wonder how I am being perceived, so I can finally understand who I am. I need reassurance in my identity, in my “being real”. I wonder if that’s the part of me that’s constantly looking back to my parents for validation. “Tell me I did a good job. Tell me you love me.”
I am afraid to admit to wanting to be loved. It conflicts with my need (read: tendency) to forgo vulnerability for apathy or humor. A technique I picked up in childhood, when I first learned there were wrong ways to feel. I learned how I felt was up to others. It was bad manners to not feel the way others would expect me to. Smile when told to. Show interest when spoken to. I adjusted. Forced down and rewrote my feelings until it became natural. Until I was no longer able to separate how I actually felt from how I thought I was expected to feel.
Recently I wrote a poem about being in love. (I have never been in love, and debatably never been loved, before now.) It said, “Love is a choice that one continues to make. Despite the unsurety of time." The softening of my heart has revealed tender wounds. I am scared in love. Anticipating the day of love's loss as demonstrated by those of my past. I keep trying to pull in, cover my heart with my hands to protect it from further pummeling. But a wound cannot heal when it is smothered.
I have been doing better with love. Letting it out and letting it in. I started reading All About Love by Bell Hooks, and it's been so healing.
Art by Alex Moon