And so I come finally to the “end” of this story (to read the chapters that precede this post see: Possibility Within Impossibility, Breakdown, Stuck. Again., Shifting Sands, Set Free and Paradise), and I do feel a need to finish telling it. Although I also have a sense that I’ve been avoiding doing just that, thus the painfully slow process of thinking it through and getting it out here on the blog.
This may be because, despite everything I’ve lived here in New Mexico, a part of me was still imprisoned by lessons left smoldering in the ruins of my married life in Utah. You know that sense of something–an idea, a passage from a book, a feeling–just out there floating in your periphery but you can’t quite catch it? It was a little like that, nibbling at me but running far under my radar.
As deeply as I like to imagine I analyze my world and its interior, there remain places I’ve not yet had the courage to go. Truly loving I fear is one of them. It seems that in order to face that possible truth I needed to return to the place where I believed I’d lost so much. Something there was not settled. A “death” had occurred and some breath of it hadn’t been fully absolved. Of course I wasn’t aware of that when we were planning our road trip.
Ken Page writes in his Psychology Today article, “How to Love Yourself First,” that, “When our authentic self doesn’t work in the world, we create a false self which lets us feel safe and accepted–but at significant cost.” That sentence shook me to my core and something within slipped into place.
I believe that as a child I established a false self that met with Mom and Dad’s approval, and then withdrew into relationships with animals. Consequently I didn’t learn about deep love, at least not beyond the unconditional (and therefore safe) love of my pets.
Although I expect I’m most often received as one who is nonjudgmental and loving, I’m not sure I’ve ever fully learned what that is. Because, I’ve both read and believe, that critical behaviors need to be shown to us as children; they need to be modeled or acted out, cushioned by love, so we can see them and learn them “by doing” for ourselves.
But I don’t come from a loving home. The best I can remember is Mom making fresh doughnuts on a whim one night or the time when both my parents pushed the living room furniture aside to polka!
These are the happiest memories I can summon and all they serve to represent is the surface love or surface happiness I was presented with as a little girl. Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire love. Treading-in-the-shallows love. And this was at the best of times.
The regrettable truth is that when given a chance to be unconditionally loved by a wonderful family and its various members when I lived in Utah, I was uncomfortable and clumsy because, I see now, I’d simply never experienced such a thing before.
I’d not witnessed anything comparable to their absolute, abiding love, feelings that had been burnished and tempered over generations, by grief and hardship, trials and tests. So I didn’t know what to do with it when it was handed to me.
I think it’s fair to say I was blinded by the light of laughter and love afforded those who know how to do it, like their family did, not realizing at the time I was not one of them. Nor did I understand what caused my discomfort in the face of it.
And so, gone unrecognized by me, the best love I’ve had to offer (except for that given to countless critters) has been on the surface where I could feel comfortable. But when the inevitable difficulties inherent in any complex human relationship would appear, I retreated. Thus three marriages and several more relationships later, I find myself questioning my ability to love at all.
And yet a few hearty souls have stood by me and it is they who are showing me a path to deeper love. It’s not easy, as you who have traveled there already know. But I believe deep and hard-held love to be one of the primary life-giving miracles we are offered. Making art the only other avenue I personally know.
Even though I didn’t realize it before the trip, or indeed during the course of it, this was to be the beginning of a journey that would help me understand and begin to resolve my quixotic relationship with love. And the desert, where I’d lost so much, seemed to be the place the Universe wanted me to start.
So life took me back to Utah in order for me to sit silently in the heat of that old pain. My decade-older self was meant to look it straight in the eye and begin to understand.
And, as nature has its perfect sense of design, our journey home “accidentally” landed us in the town of Farmington, New Mexico, surrounded by marvelous ancient sites, the most prominent of these being the wonderful Salmon Ruins and the Aztec Ruins National Monument.
As we bore witness to the legacy of an ancient people who had lived there a thousand years before, I believe I was being given a message (the Universe hasn’t given up on me yet despite the fact I’d pretty much given up on it). And I intuit that at least a part of the message is that we all come and go so swiftly, leaving our mark or not.
We are temporal things.
Accordingly I ought to learn how to love while I’m still here…
… and give myself over to this life as much as I am able, no matter my individual discomfort or pain…
… to turn myself decidedly, as the sunflower to the sun, toward life.
Because there is meaning waiting out there I think, and joy, and beauty and, yes, maybe even genuine love for the likes of me who feels as if she has squandered her chances impulsively, jumping in and out of it but not really ever knowing it at all.
Love to you all,