642 Things to Write : The Person you loved who didn’t love you back.
I haven’t opened this book for a while; I bought it because I was finding the blank page impossible to conquer. However, it did not take long, once I committed to the discipline of writing practice, as opposed to writing publication, every day for me to be able to find something to fill that intimidating blank void. Today, I was thinking of taking a different direction, my creativity in writing has been drawing from the same well a lot lately and I thought randomly opening 642 Things, would instantly give me a new stimulus and a new challenge.
Instead, I am back at the same well. I could, of course, just open a different random page and carry on from there. I think that is a betrayal of the exercise. 642 Things often pushes me way past my current capabilities and the result unpublished. The point, of course, is the exercise, the practice, and for me only perfect practice makes perfect. I also believe that everything happens for a reason, even if that reason is I made a poor choice or made a bad decision. I don’t like coincidence and I am not sure how random, random really is; without a philosophical diversion into deity, karma and the universe, it is difficult not to think, was I supposed to see this today.
It is stunning to contemplate, that everything I have done, every decision I have made, put me here, right now, staring at this very question. I could make this about someone other than my ex-wife, who knows, that blend of control and manipulation may be what she thinks love is. I know that I thought that I was loved, because what happened in my marriage was what had happened in my childhood. And your parents love you, they just make mistakes. You don’t speak ill of the dead or your parents, so there was nothing to say. If your parents don’t love you then who would; if they could not love you then something about you made you impossible to love.
I could have ducked and picked a girlfriend, but I never really loved them so that would be outside the spirit of the exercise, a fiction. I never let myself love people, you love you get hurt, I learned that at a young age, fondness is much safer, caring, that is okay, whatever you do set a limit. Loving someone makes you vulnerable, loving someone carries the risk of hurt, so you just don’t do it. I decided to take a risk; I definitely loved, love the noun and love the verb. I didn’t know any better, abuse wasn’t a word I knew existed. Abuse was hitting people, violence, it was sexual stuff, done to children. Of course, at that point I was I didn’t know that I had been physically abused as a toddler, I still don’t remember it, that has been blacked out forever; there is some sort of irony in the person who was so emotionally abusive changing their career to protect you from physical harm.
I could have picked someone who loved me, but I never managed to love her back. I got a lesson in what love was but I missed a bit. I kept what I knew from childhood; love is being rewarded, love is being monitored, love is restriction and control, love is the word no, love is not. I learned what you do when you love, over the years I learned what I was obliged to do because I loved. Just as I learned my obligations first as a husband and then as a father. I learned that these obligations were a privilege, to see them as a burden was to abuse the gift. Love was a verb, I knew what to give, I knew what to receive.
I thought she was pretty, I fell for her, she cared, took time for me, she bothered to hold me, she wasn’t ashamed of me. She let me love her; I wasn’t rejected, we planned the future together, we went places, did things that loving couples did. I had no idea, restrictions on money, movement, the questions, that is what love did. Jealousy was normal. I was the abnormal one for not understanding it. I always thought a guy hitting on her was a compliment, I had good judgement because she was the best he could find. The thought she would audition my replacement never occurred to me. Sure the attention of other women was nice, but I had my love. It was never on my mind, looking back maybe it should have been. Near the end I had the chance, pretty and younger, I think sometimes, perhaps if I had given real grounds, things would have been different, but even in the midst of hell, I just did not consider the arms of another. It would have been a comfort in the darkness, but I never believed her anyway. I wasn’t funny or attractive. How could I be, how could I be of real interest, I guessed it was really some sort of bet to see if I would bite to get a laugh my expense. Laugh behind my back, nothing new by then, I knew I cut a pathetic figure with my belief I could achieve something, that I could be attractive was a joke. My mirrors worked and the evidence of my failure was too easy to see. But I was loved in spite of the fact I needed to lose a few pounds, despite the fact I wasn’t what I used to be in a bedroom, and we could overlook my crushing life failure to live up to anything much with my business that didn’t deliver, my poor parenting, and how I failed to make friends and drove people away. The unlovable cry alone in secret.
That was not love, I know that now. At first, I read it, I read it again and again. I refused to believe it was true. It is not a simple thing to know you were not loved, the longer it was for, the greater the denial, the greater the impulse to keep the mirage true. Just as knowing she came from his arms to mine, his lips to mine, his caress to mine changed forever every memory from that day, it changed memories up to that day. Leaving it years to tell me meant those years became lies, every time I looked at my loving devoted wife, I was looking at a lying cheating wife. Every moment instantly changed colour, and as the story unravels more hypocrisy and lies. I should have known, if you love someone you don’t fall into the arms of another. However lonely I had got, however black and dark my place became, however kind the hand looked, I never went anywhere but home, I never held, I never thought of kiss, I never even wondered at the warm embrace. Perhaps I should.
Love is many things, but it is not a punch to the face, it is not controlling who you see, where you go, your access to money, it is not insisting on knowing all your passwords and reading your email and social media. It is not a two-hour interrogation over what you said to someone who mentioned they saw you when all you said was “hello”. Love is not needing to memorise every telephone conversation so you can repeat them back, love is not going to the hospital alone and being scared of the consequences because they want to admit you to save your leg because you left it so long to go. Love is not being told you made yourself unlovable, or that you need to lose more than a few pounds when you are as light as you have ever been. Love is not cowering on the sofa afraid to fall asleep in case the next thing is a sucker punch to your testicles. Love is not walking with a limp or having bruises and telling lies about how you got them. Love is not despite.
Love is because, love doesn’t hurt!