Saturday, July 7, 2007

seeking that life less impossible

It's all so god damned confusing.

I don't have anything figured out. I'm not entirely confident that I ever will -- though I suppose that can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The ever-inspiring INPY recently wrote something that cut me right to the core:

Love is risk, and often times, many times, it’s risk without reward. And it doesn’t owe you a God damned thing. There is no “I deserve”. You don’t deserve anymore than anyone else does, and everyone deserves it. Everyone. And in the end? There’s really only “I am willing to work, to try, to risk”…and even that just brings up that there are no guarantees. You can work, and you can try, and you can still come home to an empty apartment and a note.

Jesus. I think that was me. Or is me. I work so hard for everything: professionally, academically, everything. And I must admit it: I work for something thinking that I'll have earned it. I think I extend the same sort of -- for lack of a better word -- work ethic in my relationships. This must be bad. Not that I develop a sense of entitlement, per se... but, I most certainly have a goal in mind -- and it's not self-serving, aside from the pride in having made her happy.

Wait. Where is the line between earning something and deserving it? And where is the line between falling on a sword and being selfless?

I'm fucking it all up.

I wrote this almost three months ago:

Which, of course, reminds me of one of those precious few moments, there at the end, when S spoke and I believed what she said as the naked truth. She told me -- that night I came home and thought I'd won her back -- that she "didn't deserve my love," and that she didn't return half of what I gave her, every day.

I insisted that she was wrong. That she did, in countless ways that she just couldn't see right then. I gave her examples; examples that I'm sure she'd forgotten, or simply didn't realize were so important to me. They were for not, of course.

In reflection though, I remember the moment with absolute clarity. As though it happened just moments ago. And I remember a very dark, very small, very secret place in my heart nodded when she said that. It was quick; fleeting. Somewhere deep inside me, I agreed. That I worked harder at us than she did.

But I pushed it away. Hard. Quicker than the breath came that carried my protest, it was gone.

I knew she was right.
I don't know which one of me I believe, now. That she did deserve it? That she didn't deserve it? That I resisted? That I agreed?


I have diagnosed myself with Knight in Shining Armor Syndrome. I'm a helper. A healer. A consoler. A listener. The shoulder that's always there. The problem-solver. Mostly, I'm the doer.

--Edit: One of my closest friends just emailed me and (as is his endearing habit,) bluntly told me that the above paragraph makes me sound like a martyr. This was not my intent at all. I should clarify, by adding:

This compulsion of mine -- the Knight thing -- is a penchant to save
her even when it is not requested. I have failed --repeatedly-- at just listening and empathizing... instead, I see a problem as an obstacle, and recommend an action to get past it. I have this intrinsic need to jump into her problems and solve them, and take responsibility for them, even when it is both unsolicited and, frankly, unwarranted. This has, in the past, lead to a great deal of frustration; mine for being "unappreciated" and confused, and hers for not having had the opportunity to deal with whatever it is on her own. Alas, as I've said, it's been a very tough habit to break. As much as I endeavor to listen, I've been much quicker to just do. Which is bad.--

My ex-wife was a diagnosed depressive. I left when I finally came to realize that misery really does love company. No matter how many problems I solved, always others came springing up to take their place. No matter how empathetic I tried to be, I remember falling asleep many a night, wondering, "What is so bad? Why is it so hard for her?"

She had reasons to be depressed. They are still very good reasons. But I couldn't compensate for them. I exhausted myself -- and our relationship -- fighting demons that I could not see, and that were not my own.

Next came S, the truest and purest and most assured form of love I could have ever imagined. She had demons, too. And also for good reasons. I tried to help. But there was that wall -- damn the cliche, but damn it! -- there was a wall. I only got to peek over it, every so often. Cradling her head in my arms, I felt it. Deep. Stroking her cheek, wet with tears.

Yet my line of thinking was this: I'll prove myself worthy. Of her trust. Of her love. That I'll hold her and never let go.

Jokingly, I used to say that I must attract this kind of woman. With problems -- not in the banal sense, that "problems" -- but the Maiden in Distress.

I think, maybe, that I seek them. And I can't stop. I don't want to stop. It is me. It is who I am.

Heaven help me.

Jess, at what? the curtains? also poignantly reflected on love:
That, to me, love really isn’t about completing another person. It isn’t about some soul connection that should be backgrounded by swelling violins.
The truth is that we are all incomplete and are meant to be so. But we can seek to know more about everything by questioning and analyzing ourselves and the world. Of realizing some answers cannot be explained but simply known.

And I think the new thing for me is this: One of the most incredible things about love is the possibility of knowing someone else. It’s not a simple thing, and it’s a wonderfully courageous undertaking. Because it also requires letting them know you.
I let S know me. I wish she'd have let me know her. I think I thought I deserved it. And now I'm afraid that I'm down by two counts: thinking that I deserved it, and being attracted to women who engender the feeling.

But then again, the only thing in common between my ex-wife and S is: ME. Perhaps it isn't them -- perhaps it's me. Perhaps in ascribing the failures to some sort of wall, I'm excusing my own responsibility. Which only makes me want to try harder, next time. That has to be bad, too.

It's all unraveling. Another cliche: the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know a damned thing. Dad would've been proud at that realization, I think.

All my knowledge and piety I detest

What have I gained from your love in my breast?

Though the wind of separation blew away my zest

I kept my vows to Thee, sincere, honest.

As a spec of dust, I may be small at best

But through love, the sun itself is my nest.

Bring forth the wine, let me joyously ingest

For safety and security, in joy I didn’t invest.

If you are sober, save your advice and protest

Waste not your words on me, the drunken pest.

From shame, can’t keep my head above my chest

I was not of worthy service, in my quest.

Beloved didn’t say, though life Hafiz molest

Let me send him a cure to put him to rest.

-- Hafez


Carrie M said...

very nice post. I do have a couple of things I feel like I need to say, b/c I struggle with some of this stuff as well:

1. Being clinically depressed doesn't mean you have to drag everyone around you down with you. A depressed person can only help themselves. yes, friends and family can help in some ways, but ultimately it's that person's responsibility to figure out how to function. most of the time. But just b/c a person has issues with depression, it doesn't mean they're all drama and incapable of giving back to a person. I don't think you were painting everyone with that brush, but I felt like I should say that.

2. Thinking that you and the person you're dating, you're friends with, etc should be on equal footing all the time like well, I always am considerate of you by doing x, y, and z so why can't you do a, b, and c is like emotional bargaining. yes, a person should give back what they get and vice versa, but sadly, it doesn't always work like that. but if (the universal) you always thinks that it should be that way, you will absolutely be let down. it's a struggle everyday b/c it's natural to expect that from people you care about.

3. "Fixer" people in life are wonderful. Just remember that you have to take care of yourself along the way.

4. Don't think in the terms of you being "deserving" or "worthy" of someone's love and/or affection. you have to like you enough to know that there are people out there in all kinds of relationships that can give back.

I'm bordering on obnoxious now, so I'll shut up. :-)

jess said...

This post breaks me a little in its beauty and searching. INPY's post did the same for me.

In your case, I don't think it's fair there's something wrong with what you do/who you are. You simply, I think, need to find and be with someone who actually realizes how fortunate they are to be with a person like you. We all need saving sometime. Perhaps what would be right for you is someone who compliments this part of you with her own strengths, instead of needing a steady supply of yours?

simply scott said...

Everytime I read you, I am remind why we are so alike. And I know that we are the same in that we both look to help, and I think you hit it right on the head when you say that we look for people who need us to help them, even in love. So my goal now is to find someone who doesn't need me but WANTS to be with me.

Mood Indigo said...

oh the constant struggle between want and need. I want to be needed - but so often that comes coupled with the type of person that needs something other than me at the same time (therapy, a kick in the pants, etc.). The only thing I have to offer is as Carrie says, there's no sense in emtional bargaining - if you're constantly asking yourself whose in the lead in the support/fix it department - something is off. Part of being ready for a relationship, I think, is knowing both how to ask for help and to give it when it's required -with no strings. It's taken me a REALLY long time to get to this point - to be able to let my pride and perfectionism in relationships down and admit when I'm struggling - be honest about where I'm at, while at the same time being willing to get to know someone in their difference from me. I can't help my partner if I simply help based on what seems right or helpful to me. I need to meet them where they're at - find out what sends a message of support to them, not to me.

All this aside - don't be so hard on yourself. It is so easy to try and figure out who is responsible for what when a relationship doesn't work. First we blame the other person, then we blame ourselves, then we find a balance, then we might start the whole thing over again. I'd set blame aside and simply keep asking what was what and how things were between you, and focus on what you want to carry on into the future, and what you can tenderly leave behind as a lesson learned.

Now I'M the preachy one - sorry!