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April 15th, 2012

On Love

They say you're really not somebody
Till someone else loves you

   A year or so ago I would have hated that phrase. It makes every feminist molecule in my body bristle. How dare a song lyric imply that I need someone in my life to be whole or to be "somebody". I certainly wasn't going to change my life for another person. I wasn't going to be somebody to garner the love and affection of another person. Surely that was a recipe for disaster.

  Then 18 months ago I met The Beard, and...absolutely nothing changed. I met a nice guy at a bar (of all places), and he fit into my idea of what I wanted my life to be. A musician. Well read. Intelligent. And eccentrically good looking in that "last piece of the puzzle of my crazy artistic life that I'd been putting together since I was 18" kind of way  I was reveling in being a single mom who was still out there working for a promotions company and getting tarted up to sell cupcakes to drunken hipsters on the weekends. Life was finally coming together perfectly.

  The thing that I forgot was that I suck at puzzles. I am not patient. I was the kid that jammed the pieces together and took every shortcut I could devise to make the pieces fit together as quickly as possible. What I didn't understand then is that life is not a puzzle. There aren't pieces to be stuck together and set into a frame that makes some bigger picture. Life isn't a collage, or winding journey through some Waldenesque woodland. Life is just life, and there isn't any one way its supposed to go.

  But I met this guy in a bar, and over the course of the next year and a half he showed me all of the details I'd forgotten to fill in when I was making my life plans. He reminded me how love is about giving and caring, and that it's not a one way street. I'd never been loved by someone who didn't think that taking care of me involved putting me or my choices down. Who didn't minimize my life or treat me as helpless because I needed help. I'd never been loved by someone who took my side, who didn't spend every day telling me what I'd done wrong or didn't let me constantly victimize myself by playing the bad guy. 

  That's something that you learn growing up in an abusive home. As an abused child you learn the lines quickly. "I deserve to be hit. I deserve to be told I'm nothing. Because I am nothing. I am the problem. If I weren't so terrible (or lazy or ugly or stupid or fat..pick your adjective) then they wouldn't hit me or say those things". You learn those lines by heart, until one day that is how you view yourself. And there's really no amount of therapy or working through the trauma that unteaches that. So you grow up desperate for other people's approval, and when you don't get it, it's because you weren't enough.

  When your family abandons you because they don't like your life choices? Well clearly its because you made the wrong choices.
  When you fall in love and the guy you love doesn't give you the time of day? Clearly its because you aren't amazing enough to deserve him.

  When relationships fail before they even get started its because you weren't pretty enough or good enough in bed.

  When you get married to the first guy who pays you any mind, and then before you even walk down the aisle things become miserable it's because that's all you deserved.

  When your marriage ends you take the blame. No matter how awful your husband was...well there aren't any reasons why the failing is your fault. It just is.

  When you grow up being abused everything is your fault. The bad things that happen to people you've never even met is somehow still your fault. Because you deserve all of the bad things.

  You make friendships that are the worst kind of friendships. The ones where you follow around, and are more groupie than friend. Those friends too will lay the blame on you for everything that's convenient. You'll be their little girl to protect, or their project to save or just simply their punching bag. Physically. Emotionally. Mentally. Its all the same. And as the abused little kid you will lap every last bit of up and call it friendship because...

  Because that's the only things you know of love. And dear god if you could just be good enough. Pretty enough. Smart enough. Thin enough. Talented enough. Nice enough. Enough. Enough. If you could just be enough then one day....if you could be enough then its love isn't it? If you could just fix all of the things that are wrong with you, and dear god clearly EVERYTHING is wrong with you. Then it would be love. Right?


  Then I met this guy. And suddenly the words "it's not your fault" were said. Suddenly someone didn't think that I was so horribly damaged. Suddenly someone didn't think I needed saving. Suddenly someone thought I was already enough.

  When your a kid whose been abused you don't know how to deal with that. Obviously this person is crazy because when every one else in your life can hand you a laundry list of all of your faults (and willingly do so on a regular basis) then this person who is sitting in front of you and telling you that you're fine...well clearly they're crazy.

  But then they stick around. Then they don't disappear and the longer they're around the more they keep telling you that there's nothing wrong with you. They tell you that you're not just enough, you are exactly what they've always wanted. Little by little with every repetition the words start to sink in, and you start to think maybe this person isn't so crazy after all. Maybe I am fine. Maybe I'm not so broken.

  Maybe all those times I thought I was experiencing love I was actually just playing out the same victimization I'd been born into. Because love like this is nothing like I've experienced before.

  Being loved by somebody did make me somebody. Not because I went through my laundry list of faults and changed myself. Being truly loved by somebody for the first time in my life finally resurrected the person I already was. I just didn't know she was there because she'd been buried under the fault and the blame my entire life. Being loved by somebody made me the somebody I'd been all along.