Yes, I know this has been my posted quote for more than a month now. Probably it will stay there for another month.
This is my current challenge:
I can be loved by others. I can accept love from others. It is healthy and positive for me to recognize that other people can love me back. There is nothing special about me which disqualifies me from being a lovable human being.
I realized three years ago that someday I would have to confront the stigma I have which precludes me from being completely lovable. I have always held to these simple core beliefs:
1. Being loved is nice, but not necessary.
2. I can be loved if I'm smart, cute, and funny.
3. People will love me if I don't tell them the bad things.
4. People do not really love me, but rather, the idea of me that I present to them.
5. It is not possible to love the real person, Samantha, but it is possible to love portions of her.
6. The intense love I feel for other people is unnatural and should never be expressed or revealed.
7. No one can feel that same intensity of emotion for me on any level.
8. Darrin loves me, but I don't know why.
Naturally, these are not things I have admitted to feeling until recently. They sound...unhealthy. Unfortunately, in my quest for truth, I had to acknowledge that this is how I feel.
I've been pondering these beliefs for more than a year now. When I try to challenge or change them, I feel real physical pain, even to the point of nausea. It's stressful, to say the least. I've tried using examples. I've tried soliciting love responses from people closest to me. I've tried to change my thought patterns and emotional responses. Nothing works, and everything seems to bring some sort of painful response.
I think, though, I've finally figured out the origins of my beliefs and how they have been reinforced throughout my life. And I realize that most of this began long ago when I was a child and I truly believed that I was not loved or wanted--nor was it possible for me to be so.
I believe most people on some level believe that human love is conditional. We try not to do this, but when we feel most vulnerable, we return to that belief. I think about Sully sometimes, when I'm trying to figure this out.
Two years ago he was in my seminary class. I know him very well, and over a period of about five weeks I could see that something important was taking place inside of him. I probed a bit, and for the first time in two years, he put me off. He would answer, but I knew he wasn't telling me what was happening. Finally, after seminary one day I said, "Sully, are you ever going to talk to me about what's going on?" At that point I was pretty certain I knew, but he still hadn't told me. He looked at me almost in a panic, opened his mouth to speak, closed it again, then said without meeting my eyes, "I don't think I can to talk to you about this."
I was stunned. We had talked about nearly everything imaginable for two years. Sully said he had to go, gave me a hug and left the room. I went home and emailed him. I told him what I believed was going on in his life. I expressed that what he was choosing was in conflict with my beliefs--and then I promised him that this was all right. It was important for him to think and believe independently and I was proud of him for being courageous enough to choose for himself--even if his choices did not align with my own.
I have known Sully since he was seven or eight years old. I fell in love with him as I sat behind his family in church and watched the quiet boy with the unruly dark hair read or color or cuddle with his mom. I loved him as he turned into an awkward Junior High student whose bright smile broke my heart because I could read unhappiness in it. I loved him when I saw his eyes wander to other boys, oblivious of the young women who were watching him. I loved him when I knew he was cutting, when I suspected he was experiencing pain I understood. I loved him so much that when he was sixteen I could stand to watch him no longer, and regardless of the fact that I must step out of my comfort zone to do so, I confronted him and asked him to let me into his life, told him what I knew about him, and promised that I would help him in any way that I could.
A few days after our conversation in seminary, Sully came to talk with me. He talked about how fearful he was that I would stop loving him if he left the church and maintained a different belief system. I told him it was not possible for me to stop loving him. He said he didn't know how to believe that. We talked for a very long time about what it means to really love a person, and how true love is never based on what a person believes, or how he acts, or what he says. Real love continues in any instance and is not swayed by life events, but instead is increased over the passage of time. Today, I think Sully understands that my love for him was never based on his talent, or personality, or faith in God, but stemmed from a soul connection. I know of no other way to describe it.
I have had this type of experience with more than one person in my life. And yet, somehow, I have never been able accept that the experience is/can be reciprocated. Part of that, I believe, stems from the fact that I hide so much that I feel is unacceptable about me from others.
I think about the ways that I have loved Sully throughout his life, and I recognize that I wish, somehow, someone could love me in the same way. I wish someone could fall in love with the curly haired toddler who could not sit still and loved to giggle. I long for someone to love:
-the kindergartner who loved to read but couldn't color inside the lines,
-the seven-year-old who didn't know how to connect with other children because they played games she didn't understand,
-the nine-year-old who loved snakes and collected friends who looked sad or left out because she understood how that felt,
-the ten-year-old who discovered one could lose herself in music as she practiced the piano for hours,
-the twelve-year-old who forgot how to laugh and lived in a world of pain and lost her innocence to someone who took it forcibly without her permission,
-the fifteen-year-old who had spent three years learning about gods and religions and atheism and agnosticism and hated the Christian God who allowed her to be molested in nearly every possible way,
-the seventeen-year-old who felt that she had slept in the bedroom where she had been raped, and lived in the the home where she had been abused quite long enough so she left to live in the real world which, she felt, couldn't possibly be any worse,
-the adult who got married and had children and became a musician and countless other things, but who still loved snakes and giggling, and who still wished to love people who were sad and alone because she hadn't forgotten how that feels...
Back in the days when he actually read blogs and commented, and before I knew him, Tolkien Boy once left this on one of my blog posts: It's possible to love someone...even if you don't know them.
I wonder, sometimes, if that's true. I wonder if it's possible for someone to love the Samantha they never met. I want it to be true. Now that we have met and we know each other well, Tolkien Boy has reiterated that idea more than once--in fact he has told me he loves the little girl who was lonely and confused. But I don't understand how that can happen, and I don't know how to believe him. And I'm only now coming to realize that I love her, myself.
I need to think about this some more.