If Only

I break my own heart so others don’t. I can’t believe they’ll stay like they say they will so I keep running until they stop chasing me. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy and I don’t know how to stop it. Every time I believe someone, they turn out to not be who I thought they were. What do I do? Believe again and take a chance? Or take fate into my hands and continue breaking my own heart until it no longer hurts? No more dreaming of mister charming coming up to me in a coffee shop and changing my love life. I want to take it into my own hands and decide my own fate, even if that means I’m alone.

I see a relationship with anybody, a parent, lover, friend like walking down a trail with someone. The further we walk, the more we fall in love or build trust or whatever happens when you get to know someone more. One day I stop and look behind, wondering if they’re behind me. Are they going to catch up? I don’t want to walk alone so I panic and begin walking towards the entrance. The walk turns to a run. The run turns into a sprint until I reach the beginning of the trail and look around. Nobody is here. There are still two cars so they’re here somewhere, I just can’t seem to find the person I started with. I figure they left so I just get in my car and leave.

Lately, I’ve begun to wonder if maybe I’m looking in the wrong direction. I’ve never stopped to think maybe they’re walking ahead of me and I’m the one that needs to catch up. The possibility that they’re continuing to love me while I look behind has never crossed my mind.

I live with a warped view of what and who Love is. I want you to come find me when I’m hiding, but don’t be surprised when I punish you for it. When you get frustrated and walk away, I’ll punish you for giving up. When you’re brave and don’t give up, I’ll punish you for trying. I’m a walking contradiction of desires, forever unsatisfied while searching. How can I ever be whole? I’m a twisted ball of countering ideas and thoughts, forever in opposition. How can I ever be at peace? I’m a spirit ruled by fear of the future, past, and present, forever haunted by nothing. How can I ever find joy? I’m a shadow of a person hiding behind the wall of a facade, forever trapped in an abyss of my own making. How can I ever be free? I am a restless pursuer of the invisible, forever deceived by the promise of glory. How can I ever catch the wind?

Even when Love stares me in the face and tells me to open my eyes, I stay blind. Love continues to remain a blur in my vision and I can’t focus my eyes on it. It calls me to see it, loud and clear in front of me. Love tells me I’m wonderful, smart, beautiful, and I am so loved. So loved. Beyond my wildest dreams. It whispers softly in my ear how loved I am, but my walls refuse to budge. All I can muster myself to say is,

“It’s impossible to love something so unlovable.”

I felt Love’s heart shatter into a million pieces around my feet as it held me. I felt the tears roll down my shoulder and drip onto the mess below. I felt the shuddering of its chest as it fought for air between gasps. I felt the deep ache, the hand reaching out so far for me, but I felt my wall stand stronger.

“What makes you think you’re unlovable? How can you say that about someone like you?”

I just stare at Love in disbelief. It remained blurred and my eyes refused to take hold of its image.

“How can you see all you say you see?” I wanted to scream. “There’s nothing good to see.”

I grab my hair, pull my shirt, turn around, shake my fists, kick my legs, all to prove there is nothing good. I can rip my own heart out and show Love there is nothing there but a hollow and echo of what used to be. I can list a million things about me that are retched and maybe ten things I like about myself on a good day. I sit and stare at the world around me and internalize what perfect is supposed to look like. When I hold that image up next to my own, I see the total opposite and soon, my image is filled with red Xs, crossing out my imperfections. I try to paint the picture of imperfection that haunts my eyelids when I close them at night.

“Why?” Love keeps pleading. “How?”

I just stare back at Love with nothing in my eyes, “Because I wasn’t loved by the ones who were supposed to love me first.”

Love knew exactly who I was talking about: precious mommy and daddy. I could play the if only game for an eternity and a half about the way they raised their only daughter.

If only they had told me it was okay to make a mistake.
If only they had reassured me when I felt ugly.
If only they had told me I was beautiful when I felt less than.
If only they had told me I was good enough just the way I am.
If only they had placed my life above an insurance policy.
If only they had been to even five of my sports games and performances.
If only they had been in the audience to cheer me on with the other parents. Both of them, not just dad.
If only they had placed their children above their social life, just for one weekend.
If only they had followed their own example they set instead of punishing me for following their model.
If only they had modeled what love was supposed to look like, without the list of conditions.
If only they didn’t blame you for the things you were struggling with.
If only they told you that you were good enough, at least once.
If only they had taught me how to respond when Love was standing in front of me, waving its arms.
If only I could say I love you back without an agenda, fear, or conditions.
If only they treated you like you mattered and they acted like they actually wanted children.
If only they didn’t make you feel like a burden when you asked for love.
If only they didn’t make fun of you when you were trying to be a human.
If only they had taught me that there was more to life than money, a green piece of paper with arbitrary numbers scribbled on it.
If only they had taught me it was okay to hurt and they would be safe.
If only they had provided the shelter every child so desperately needs.
If only I hadn’t had to fend for myself in a cruel world.
If only I had learned to say no before he stole my innocence.
If only you had taught me that it wasn’t my fault.
If only I had been the daughter they must’ve wanted.
If only they had been the parents I dreamed of.
If only I didn’t have so many if only’s.
If only I couldn’t write an entire novel based just off of the if only game.

“So there you have it, Love, here is a list of why I am unlovable.” I throw the list over like a live bomb ticking the time away. Love doesn’t move a muscle and the list floats to the ground. Love sighed as it wore its broken heart on its tattered sleeve.

“Your parents weren’t the ones who were supposed to love you first. I am, and I still do. They might’ve messed up, but I don’t and I never will. I am what Love looks like. I am Love.”

I squint my eyes and try to make out Love’s form, “I can’t see you.”

I again felt the eternal pain of Love trying to reach another lost soul and the despair as it watched its creation tear itself to pieces because it doesn’t see the value in the whole picture. All I can see is a blur of pain.

How do you end a tale of despair? The truth is you don’t. You keep writing it until the pen runs out of ink. People heal and grow the most when they are loved, no strings attached, no conditions, no if only’s. Love without an agenda is nearly impossible in the world these days, but it keeps trying. Despite the meaningless punishment, despite the angry responses, Love continues to pursue. Love tries to teach us how to be Love for someone else, but it’s impossible to give what you don’t have. Love provides an endless supply of strength and courage for us to give to others. We must learn to reach.

If only it wasn’t so far away.
If only it wasn’t so hard.
If only.

I could play that game all day. I play and activate my competitive nature but nobody wins in a rigged competition. If I talk myself out of being brave and “win”, I lose an opportunity to grow and live life a bit more full. If I decide to be brave, I lose some fear but inherit a risk of pain with vulnerability. What I’ve learned, is that life comes with pain regardless of what I do or don’t do. Pain walks hand in hand with joy, you can’t have one without the other. Our deepest wounds, the cuts that run through our souls become caverns to hold joy. The joy we feel helps prevent those wounds from running even deeper into our being.

I have learned to face the music in life. I’ve felt excruciating pain and survived. I’ve felt exhilarating joy and lived. Sometimes, the music isn’t what I want to hear. Sometimes it’s too loud, it’s too offensive, it’s terrible rap that I hate listening to and other times it’s gentle acoustic, fun dance music, or something that’s pleasing to my ears. When the music is harsh on my ears, I want to plug them and yell as loud as I can until it passes. It’s hard to sit still when your ears feel like they’re being punished for existing. Somewhere along the way, I finally learned that I don’t have to plug my ears every time the music becomes excruciating to face. I can let it pass over me because even if it doesn’t feel like it, every song ends. I won’t be punished forever, I won’t be wanting to plug my ears for more than a few minutes. The music will slow and come to a stop before the next track comes on.

If I have to sit through three minutes of a terrible song to get to my favorite soundtrack, I think I’ll be okay. If I have to be vulnerable to pain for a while to feel more alive, I think I can be brave. If I have to take a risk for the chance of a lifetime, I think it’s worth it. Even if Love and courage feel far away and beyond reach, that chance is worth taking.

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