This post has been inspired by a month or more of thought and reading. It was then that I read a little book that changed my entire view of love.
To me, love has always been marked by strict walls. This belongs, this doesn’t. Love is a game and it has very specific rules, and Love will only work if you play by the exact rules. If not, eh. Well. You’re a goner. Love was externally defined, by lines and boundaries outside of myself.
But there was always something in me whispering that maybe Love was a little more free and spontaneous than that. That maybe each story is different, and the ways that people’s lives entwine depend on the science of the lives entwining. Depends on the genes, formed in the womb and changed by environment. And maybe each person fits together like a different kind of puzzle – sometimes very specific lines cross, and sometimes, the picture is unclear and haphazard and yet very clearly, a fit.
In relation to people, I have always struggled. Some of that has to do with growing up in a household where I was severely isolated. Homeschooled, living 2 hours away from a home church, and not allowed to attend a public school even for sports because “we would get the money and have to move.” My friends were on the internet. First huge crush? Internet. First bestie? Internet.
So when I have started trying to have in person friendships, my attempts have been fumbling. And that’s just friendships with women.
I feel totally inadequate when it comes to men. In my household, there was a lot of shame around the subject. I discussed that a lot in my last guest post. I really was given no personal power to decide about my relationship to men; it rested entirely in my parents hands. I doubt they meant it to turn out that way, but it’s left me feeling as if I am stupid and inadequate when it comes to relationships with males. My lack of experience with in person friendships left me inept in forming them with women. Not only that, the church piled on the constant motive-checking and fear-mongering concerning sex. So not only did I trust myself to say no, I also assumed guys always had ulterior motives. Eventually, men AND women were suspected for ulterior motives. No one could possibly want to know me, as a person.
Lately, I wonder if my some of my obsession about men was just the anxiety I felt about trying to interact with someone when I couldn’t possibly trust myself to. The entire culture I lived in said that men were dangerous, and so was I.
For my whole life, I’ve defined love and all its accoutrements (great word, eh?) using guidelines outside of my inner heart. Growing up, it was my family and church. Recently, it’s been my love addiction program. While some elements of that have been necessary for me, other parts have restricted me from thinking for myself and deciding my own center. And lately I have felt the pull to leave that behind.
I’m not “going out”, as they say. I’m going in. If my sacred duty is to take care of myself, how can I best do that? Others in my sphere have mentioned how sometimes 12-step recovery can foster perfectionism… in the case of my “love addiction”, it feels like it’s time to try something a little different. The perfectionism is keeping me from caring for myself well.
What do I value?
What do I need?
What do I trust myself to do?
Wait. I can trust myself?
That’s a heck of a lot more spontaneous and freeing than how I have lived. I’ve been utterly convinced that men are all hiding something, a dagger that they’ll plunge in my back just when I start to trust them. I’ve been utterly convinced that I am not strong enough, without certain rules made by others, to maintain distance from men who actually are not healthy.
To be honest, I’ve done the same with women. The instant someone gets close, I’m suspicious of their motives. I’m always watching them. I’m always watching me. I get a microscope out and parse their every move, trying to define them and myself, so I don’t get hurt. If I JUST ANALYZE IT ENOUGH, I won’t die.
But I read this little book that mentioned spontaneity. That spontaneity is okay. Living by rules outside of yourself doesn’t work and defining your own guidelines is necessary. Sometimes walking towards something that is scary is just what you need to grow. Bad and good are irrelevant – be curious, instead, about cause and effect. About what is happening within me when it comes to fear and love. Don’t run – my tendency. Lean in. Stop seeking security and live on the edge so you can grow. Learn spontaneity, all the delicious hairpin curves of it. Translate fear into excitement. Educate myself on the lines and shading of my own soul, and know what trespasses and what should be kept at bay. Be my own guardian – guard my heart, but not with obsession and perfectionism. Guard it because I deeply honor who I am.
I wrote something down in my journal the other day:
“There is no fear in love. How does it, and should it, change how I approach love?”
If I were not always approaching love with an attitude of fear, how would it change my approach? How would I behave in the world? Who would I be?
I am finding, as I move forward in a new way, that it changes everything. Without the fear, I’m more able to make clear decisions about who I am and what I need to do to care for that precious person. With that clarity, I make fewer harmful decisions, and I’m less afraid of making mistakes.
Without the fear… I’m free.