Thursday, May 31, 2012

LOVE: UNTAINTED


A month ago my granddaughter, Rylee, and I were spending quality time at one of our favorite places-the Cerritos Library. I was browsing through a bookshelf and didn't realize I was reading the description of one of the books aloud but it wasn't my kind of book. "Yuck, this is a romance novel. Blech!" Rylee looked up at me with a quizzical look and asked what romance was. Distractedly I answered, "Ummm...it's kinda like love." She clasped her hands together and put them up to the side of her face like in the picture above and in a sing-song voice declared, "I Loooove, LOVE!" In that moment I felt like the green-skinned witch, Elphaba, in Wicked. My granddaughter only knows love in its purest form and there I was tainting her innocence with my cynicism. 


I grew up without physical affection, positive reinforcement, terms of endearment, praise, and verbal expressions of, "I love you." Instead, I learned to fight against constant criticism, put downs, lashes of anger, frustration, and irritation. I was never told I was pretty or beautiful; rather, my behavior was always ugly, deplorable, and unsatisfactory. Praise was a foreign language and my incessant attempts at gaining approval were met with disdain and more anger. 


So I pursued love and happiness with a desperate ignorance. I made choices that shaped my future like the Jedi saying, "The choices of one shape the futures of all." (from the book Star Wars: Choices of One). My sojourn into relationships began in an abusive marriage that lasted ten years and produced three children, to several tumultuous years of single motherhood, to countless walking in and out of worthless relationships, to another failed second marriage that should never have occurred. I was the perennial flower waiting to bloom. 


Growing up in this environment I've learned to build indestructible defenses that prepare me for combat. I went from flower waiting to bloom to prickly cactus extraordinaire with the super power to blow torch anyone with my words. It wasn't until my present relationship that all the entombed wounds from my past were exhumed for examination. I had no choice but to face them and investigate their causes because the vitality of my present relationship hinged upon this. Essentially, I couldn't escape my demons any longer. It wasn't so much that I didn't trust another person; I couldn't trust myself. I lost faith in my ability to make the right choices.


I'm past the point of blaming others or using my past as an excuse for my dysfunctional behavior in loving people and receiving love. I don't have to wonder or sit through weekly therapy sessions to decipher my idiosyncrasies in relationships. I've been there and done that countless times. It has been established that my screwed up head and heart manifested from my non-existent relationship with my father. That is the bitter root from which my entire being has formed and why I am unable to act "rationally" in relationships. I accepted a long time ago that my dad will never change and the only person I CAN change is me. I've grown tired of defending myself against the same demons that torment me and I take each day that I'm blessed with to banish them forever.

Every day I work on what I've learned so far: 
  • Acknowledge my mistakes, apologize, and move forward to ensure I don't make them again. 
  • Forgive quickly. Don't hold onto grudges as if they were a commodity. 
  • Be slow to anger.
  • Apologize sincerely. (This is STILL a veritable battle with me.) 
  • Communicate promptly. (Another battle. I tend to wait until it's too late and I explode with a blow torch for my tongue.) 
  • Admit my faults instead of making up excuses. 
  • Speak the truth in love. Instead of waiting when I explode in anger and the truth becomes a hailstorm of destruction. 
  • When I begin to perceive rejection it is imperative that I speak up because THIS is the #1 trigger that releases the Kraken within me. 
On some days and weeks I'm on a roll and life is Paradise. On the bad days when I trip and fall I force myself to get up, to move past my steely pride and stare in that confounded mirror despite the disgusting reflection looking back at me. 

My worst nightmare (okay, one of them) is that Rylee will grow up learning from her Gramma Nette that love is to be feared, rejected, and protected from. I want her to know that love is a choice, it is work, it is honesty, it is faith, it is hope, it is enduring, it is patient (oh, so patient), it makes one courageous, and it believes in the good in people. I might not wear my heart on my sleeve anymore but I want my heart to be whole and healed. Untainted.