A funny thing happened on the way to today’s depression and withdrawal. On the surface, it seemed like even more depressive evidence. But my body seems to be reacting differently.
I had maintained that I loved all three of the women I’ve been involved with. The first one I was involved with for quite a while, though we had some rough sledding and broke up a number of times. The first breakup with her ended about 18 months after we decided to get really serious. It ended because I had spent an agonizing 9 months trying to figure out what was wrong before it occurred to me that I was with her out of a misguided sense of responsibility. We had been together since we were both 16 and she had wanted to be together and to have children. By the time we were both 20, I relented, at least about the being together part. She was upset that I bought my mother a $500 stereo for Christmas and she hadn’t even gotten a ring. So, bright guy that I am, I bought her one and we were off and running.
Wrong. Of course it is obvious. But not to a male like myself who seemed to have downloaded the cultural notion of being responsible for a female, especially one you’ve had sex with.
After nine months, I realized that I didn’t love her and hadn’t loved her, at least in the way I imagined love in an intimate relationship. I just didn’t want to hurt her. Nice plan. Telling her hurt her and made everybody realize what a flake I was.
When we got back together over three years later, she had supposedly learned not to be so dependent and I was supposedly ready to explore relationships. A pattern emerged that stuck through this last relationship: the sheer agreement to work things out means love. So we said it. And we had feelings all right, more like possessions and responsibilities than love, but who knew at the time?
That essential ingredient was what happened in both of the ensuing relationships. Love was an agreement tangled up with emotions of hope, sex, desires, wishful thinking, and a lot of pseudo-romantic images from Hollywood movies and the media in general. I mean one just survives all of the beginnings of a relationship, the pheromones, the rocky misunderstandings, the return together, and then one can live happily ever after. Obviously, there are some sneaky little twists in that happily ever after part.
So today, the enormous ridiculousness of my involvement with these three women hit me. Did I really love them or was it the abstract notion of love that I loved–the hope of love?
Love is not just getting hit by Cupid’s arrow, it is also a social and individual obligation. It is work. And one thing about the reality of love to an addict in the powerful clutches of hope, is that the potential of love has an ethereal quality, a promise that stimulates the opioid receptors in our bodies and lets us float off and away from the broken dreams of actual life.
Was any of that love? All things considered, from this point it doesn’t feel like love after all. But then again, is it possible that the illusion of love can hide the reality of love?
Renewal is a funny path. I can see that path here in these pages, in this seemingly endless chatter about the “why” of things. I suppose the search for why (a creative job) doesn’t change a thing about the nature of love or energy or renewal, it can simply hide them, expose them, transform their vehicle, but it cannot alter their immutable qualities.
But that is not why I chase these thoughts and feelings. Renewal can be found in understanding patterns, the way we assemble the components that create our realities. Assemble them a bit differently and one has a new being, a new view, a new ecology, a new feeling, a new guidance system, even if one still fundamentally deals with energy and love and the process of renewal. Banging off of all of these cognitive and emotional walls may not be very graceful, but there is a certain amount of information and reality in the ensuing bruising.
I don’t know why, but somehow I feel better, if slightly more humbled. Sobriety has a different edge than the vagueness of hope. I like the sharpness and clarity of it.
But, after all of that, who knows about realizations and clarity sometimes? That sharp edge of certainty may only be an attempt to chase off those unseen and vaguely distinguished apparitions that seem to be vying for our hearts and minds. There are studies of eyewitness testimony that indicate the more certain a witness is of their identification, the more likely it is to be wrong. In that sense, clarity would be a coping strategy, whether it is mine, each of the three women, my mother’s, the medical industry, societal notions, etc.
Hmmm. Perhaps Freud just missed another defense mechanism.