Don Juan

About five years ago I learned of my father’s double life for the first time.  My suspicions, finally, affirmed.

When I was young I had a dream, yet it felt just as real as this moment, now.  I can still recall much of the detail.  My father had taken me to a house I didn’t recognize and I entered to see some strange woman standing next to the living room before us.  He convinced me to stay put as he casually approached the stranger and began to kiss her.   This was weird for me because 1) the woman was not my mother and 2) I had never seen him take my mother into his arms the way he did this woman.  I recall her having a child, as well, and we were encouraged to play together.  The kid acted like nothing out of the ordinary was happening.  I think I may have had this dream.. or whatever it was.. twice.  The other time my brother was there and he also acted like everything was normal. My dad was dressed in his Tide white work uniform.  And I remember thinking, who would want to be with him?  He smells like cheese and if she really knew him, she’d figure out what a jerk he is… what a liar and a cheater.

As a child I felt haunted by this “dream” which I put in quotation marks to stress how real the visions felt, how visceral the dream IF, in fact, that’s all it was. I even summoned the courage to approach my dad once by describing the house–yellow sided ranch style with a great big willow tree in the front, off to the side, swaying before an open field and dusty gravel road.  It was summer time, the sun was shining.  My dad had driven us there in his creamish colored Toyota station wagon which always smelled of fish from his weekend trips.  I felt disgusting every time I found myself a passenger in it.  The car was parked on the side of the road in one memory and in the other, up into a partially gravelled driveway next to the willow tree.

Of course, for the purpose of confronting my dad, I described the house as: yellow with a willow tree in front.  He denied ever knowing anyone who lived in a house like that; I pretended it wasn’t a big deal.  But it was a fucking big deal.  It felt like having the right key in my hands, but not knowing which door it unlocked.  I started “sleuthing”, looking for clues.  However, all I ever found, which may have preempted the dream, was my dad’s “drawer”.  My dad had one drawer in my parents’ dresser which was his sole territory.  The assumption was that we left it alone.  But I was despetate to learn more about the stranger I knew as ‘daddy’; I never left it alone.  And I can only guess that my mom surely didn’t, knowing now what she knew then.

But I, on the other hand, didn’t know what it meant when I found pictures of other women that were signed “To Tommy” on the back of them.  “Tommy?” I thought. I just tried to assume these ladies were from my father’s past.  There were other things I had found scattered around, too.  Perverted things that I felt embarrassed and confused by because that’s how I thought you were supposed to feel about sex.  Things like a sketching (presumably done by him) of a naked “devil woman”.   I never let on that I had seen any of it.  Deny.  Deny.  Deny.  Lie (to yourself).  Lie some more.  Do what needs to be done to cover your tracks.  Don’t let anyone know you’re onto them.  Because that could expose their vulnerability and hence your own.  What you pretend not to know can’t hurt you, and it can’t hurt them, as long as you don’t talk about it.  When you don’t understand something but you know that whatever it is, it’s going to be painful, avoiding the issue at hand often seems like the best “solution”.

So I pretended the pictures didn’t mean anything.  I pretended to understand  why my parents didn’t wear their wedding rings–my dad’s stuffed in his cluttered drawer and my mom’s conveniently left in the strawberry dish next to the kitchen sink which she later retired to the confines of her jewelry box on top of her dresser.  It had two pearls intertwined with a tiny diamond between them.  Simple and yet, it defined their marriage so well.  They were the pearls and there was a wall as tough as diamonds between them.

I had been obsessed with the “irrational” idea that my father was having an affair. But what I learned from my mother five years ago is that my suspicions weren’t as absurd as I had once believed. I had reason to doubt my father’s loyalty to his wife and to his family.  And I have every right to be fucking upset about it.  But where am I supposed to direct that anger? My parents have never even talked about it, so confronting either one of them seems an impossibility at this point.

Furthermore, I feel naturally inclined to question the validity of the words spoken when someone says they love me.  It takes time to process and accept that your father’s life and marriage was a lie, a sham, a meaningless pile of vacant words tied to a host of insecurities, leaving behind him a cancerous trail of unspoken betrayal and quiet indignation.  Could he possibly know the damage he has caused?  Could he possibly care? It takes time with a person to convince yourself that they won’t desert you like that, that you alone are enough for them, that they’ll love you and hold you above all others, forever and ever, as long as you both shall live.  And even then, after years of being together and putting all my faith in someone, I was completely blind sighted by my own husband.

People make promises all the time.  Sometimes words can harness all the power in the world. And sometimes they don’t mean shit.

So when someone’s staring you in the face telling you who they think you are and you know they’re wrong, what proof do they have to go by other than the action you take next?  Do you back down?  Or do you stand there and fight?  I choose to fight, as hard as I possibly can. Because I guarantee, whatever you think about me is wrong.  And though I may fight you now, ultimately I am a lover who believes very strongly that the world needs more love; every single one of us needs and deserves love, even when we forget.  Especially when we forget.

And I feel compelled to believe that through the numerous women my dad slept with during my parents’ marriage, all he was ever looking for was love, acceptance, reassurance that the world was a safe place, perhaps, in the bossom of someone charmed by his false bravado.  They say Don Juan slept with hundreds of women because he was afraid he could never be loved by one.  He was afraid… he couldn’t be loved.  Then so too was he afraid to fight for the only thing worth fighting for.

Wanker

I’ve always felt like people are watching me, no matter what I’m doing, even sometimes when I’m alone.  As a result, I tend to keep a watchful eye on others, as well.  But it’s made me, I think, a more thoughtful and conscientious person.  Because only by paying attention can we anticipate needs.  I think a lot of people are too busy to notice; they’re in their own little world, oblivious to the fact that when they are interacting with or even near another person, they are actually engaging with a human being.  Sometimes we forget that other people have problems just like we do, which may even be worse. We could meet someone and not realize they just lost someone they love.  Maybe it was their child.  Or maybe they lost everyone they love a long time ago and they just can’t shake the emptiness that fills their life.  Who knows, right?  Because we don’t know them.  But we can help them and thus help ourselves by extending a little courtesy; some understanding, perhaps, of how difficult and tragic life can be.  Share a smile, sure.  But forgive those who can’t return the favor.

It’s not always an easy thing to do.  Some of us get pissed off when we go “out of our way” to be nice and the jack off on the other side of the counter gives us a menacing look.  Okay, maybe he is psycho.  Maybe he’s a washed out, angry, resentful bastard and he chooses to take it out on you and anyone else who crosses his path.  But hey, at least you’re you and not him!

Things could always be much worse, yes.  Maybe this helps to explain our haughty interest in other people’s lives.  Gossip news, for example, thrives on bad press like love affairs and weight gain (gimme a break).  But is any of that really interesting?  People are people.  Some we connect with and some we can’t fathom at all.  Certainly, our happiness relies a lot not on what we’re dealt, but on how we play the cards.  If I don’t know the cards in your hand, I’m going to assume mine will trump yours and receive what you deal me with graciousness,  even if I do get frustrated with your insistence on being an inconsiderate prick.

If nothing else, a cold shoulder reinforces the importance of being kind to strangers and forcing a smile every now and then, even when it feels like a chore; even when you want to slash the face of everyone you see because they don’t look anything like the only person you’d care to see.  We all get along somehow.  Life goes on.  There’s no point in making it more miserable for yourself and others by being a loathsome wanker.

Nice Guys Finish Last

…But only if you sit around on your duff feeling sorry for yourself while the rest of the world passes you by.  To be true, no positive change has been brought about, no dream has ever been realized without gumption, sweat and moxie.  Yes, the world needs more moxie.  Certainly, I could use a bit more moxie.  But while my dream is to find love, I have decided that I’ve put enough effort into that lately.  I’m calling it quits for a while until, well, I find it or it finds me.  I am adopting the mentality that only when you stop looking for something can it be discovered.  I’m through thinking I can force love to happen.  I’ve disabled my online dating account, and I am accepting my reality.  Being alone is my reality.

It’s what I asked for afterall, so I have no one to blame but myself.  Except that, when you love someone, really love someone, you allow them to make mistakes.  You allow yourself to make mistakes.  In my line of work, with people who have disabilities, there is what is referred to as a “dignity of risk”.  What this means is that we, as support staff, must allow people to make mistakes, as much as we want to try to prevent anything bad from happening to them (and thus creating more work for ourselves).  Furthermore, we must grant people the right to change their minds.  Don’t we all make mistakes?  Haven’t we all changed our minds at times?

In a loving relationship, why should it be any different?  I’m done feeling like I have to prove myself to somebody who either a) could care less or b) pretends to care less just to protect himself from any hurt feelings.  I’ve been surrounded by and attracted to these types of men my entire life.  I’m over it.  Yeah, I fucked up.  I guess I’m not as perfect as everyone’s always expected me to be.  Mark my word, Mr. Wonderful, I will say and do things that are hurtful and misguided (and so will you).  But if you really know me, you will recognize that these are most likely fear responses rather than true expressions of my personality.  And if you are capable of loving me–all of me–you’ll believe in my ability to learn from my mistakes and allow me the right to make mistakes, to find my place in the human race.

Yesterday morning I found myself yelling and shouting profanities at my son who was throwing a hissy fit because he didn’t like the way any of his shirts “felt”.  He was being ridiculous, but then so was I.  I felt rotten, of course, after I dropped my kids off at school, knowing how upset I had made them.  And so I planned, as I always do, to make my apologies once I saw them again.  In the meantime, I was feeling horrible about myself, beating myself up inside and then it hit me: Arguing and yelling and getting on each other’s nerves is sometimes what families do.  Right?  I mean, in some families it happens all the time and sometimes, unfortunately, it’s accompanied by violence.  That certainly doesn’t make for a happy, healthy, loving environment.  But we are all human.  And humans are emotional beings.  So to know that you can express whatever you’re feeling, even anger and frustration, in the presence of people you love and know that they’ll continue to love you is such a comfort and a relief (so long as it’s not one sided and only serves to make yourself feel superior).  Sometimes we just need to explode and get all of that pent up, negative energy out where we feel it’s safe to do so.  And even though my son’s outburst yesterday morning was probably nothing personal, I turned it into something personal because of how it affected the way I feel.  I was becoming increasingly frustrated due to the fact that I was trying to get us out the door and to their schools on time.  So there we were, both yelling.

But I’ve decided not to hold it against him or me.  Because I remember feeling like I could never express myself as a kid.  The only person allowed to raise their voice in my family was my dad.  When he was really angry his voice would become so shrill, no one dared to talk back because we couldn’t match his pitch.  And there were no apologies.  The slightest faux pas any of us made was sure to be criticized.  He didn’t believe one had to learn from their mistakes, just that a person shouldn’t have made one to begin with.  Afraid to face his own shortcomings, my father expected perfection at all times. Though, of course, there is no such thing, and so I was destined to feel myself a failure at every turn.

I can recall only one temper tantrum I had as a child in which I demolished my room, throwing toys and creating a huge mess that I later had to clean up.  I haven’t the slightest recollection of why I was so angry, but I do remember the shame and fear I felt anticipating what my mother would say.  I’m not sure she really tried to understand why I was so upset, just that I was wrong for the way I chose to express it.  That was enough to deter me from expressing any emotions in front of family, certainly, which made it harder to communicate effectively with others, as well.  What do you do with your feelings when, no matter what they are, you feel wrong for having them because you haven’t been taught that it’s natural to feel things like anger.. or even love.. without hurting and disappointing the people around you?

So I’m through falling for men who refuse to accept that I can become emotional and don’t care to try to understand where my emotions are really coming from (lately I blame hormones).  I’m tired of lovers who set a limit to their love and don’t allow me the dignity of risk that I’m entitled to as a fucking human being.  If you want to be a part of our lives (mine and my children’s), you better be fucking ready to love and be loved endlessly.  That doesn’t mean ‘until the day you hurt me’.  That means, ‘until the end of time’.  And if time doesn’t really exist and things just kinda go on and on while the universe continues to expand, then that is exactly how far my love will go, on and on.  I’ll make mistakes and so will you, I’ll test the limits of your love from time to time (but maybe not forever), we’ll disagree and argue and piss each other off.  And it’ll be great.  Because we’ll have the gumption, sweat and moxie to work through it and come out even stronger and even crazier about eachother than we were before.  I’m saying this to my fictional future lover, whoever you may be.  I trust you’re out there.  I also trust you’re a nice guy who doesn’t sit on the side lines begging for pity because someone broke your heart.  And if I do break yours, please know that it’s not a reflection of my love for you.  It is simply a reflection of my inability to be loved and to communicate how badly I want to be loved by you.  But I’m trying.  And if all of this isn’t enough to prove that, then there really is no use getting off your duff because you can’t see past it anyway.

Lost Boys, Indeed

“It is human to have a long childhood; it is civilized to have an even longer childhood.  Long childhood makes a technical and mental virtuoso out of a man, but it also leaves a life-long residue of emotional immaturity in him.” –Erik Homburger Erikson

Just less than 10 years ago I became a parent for the first time at the age of 22. And in 10 years I’ve learned a whole hell of a lot, primarily thanks to my two beautiful children who have taught me so much about myself and the world. Becoming a parent wasn’t something I was planning on doing when it happened, mind you. My daughter came as quite a surprise when I was still in college, when partying was my priority and the loom of adulthood and all of its expectations hadn’t quite settled into my bones.  With that said, becoming a parent is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me, for many reasons. But one is that kids enable us to see in us that which we’ve long forgotten. The lessons they teach or reinforce can occur in any situation whether it’s one we’re familiar with and can recall from our youth or it’s totally new to us. Either way, we’ve all been there, right? We’ve all looked at the world with their eyes and now we’re seeing it through ours. But who are we? And how are we different now from who we were then?

I think one way to answer this is to say that with age comes responsibility. And with great responsibility comes great power.  (Great words spoken by Uncle Ben just in reverse.  No, not my Uncle Ben.)  At any rate, responsibility is power.  I have the responsibility of raising two tiny people and that gives me more power than I could have ever dreamed of, not only in their lives but from a sociological standpoint, as well.  Because it is now that the seeds of personal responsibility must be planted in order for someone to grow up embracing the obligations that accompany adulthood.  Most conservatives downplay the need for social services because they believe a person should help themselves, take responsibility for their own lives, stop depending on other people to solve their problems.  And as a social worker and someone who’s been involved in the “system” personally, I can tell you that while the need for social services is great and shouldn’t be dismissed so readily, there are all kinds of people out there abusing and taking advantage of the system, not taking any responsibility for their actions, their lives, or their families.  And it is a sad state of affairs, indeed.

Because who wants to grow up, right? Growing up can be frightening. All that power and responsibility can be intimidating. What happens if (when) we get it wrong? And so there seems to be an increasing phenomenon of young adults staying confined to their child-like state of mind. Not that there’s anything wrong with retaining some of that innocence, wonder, and vitality that is so much a part of one’s youth.  I think those are good things for anyone to hold onto at least to some degree.  But then there is that thing called reality, a.k.a. “the real world”.   And for so many I want to say, “Welcome! Stay a while!”  Surely we’ve all encountered someone who, as an adult, seems to resist growing up as much as possible.

Take the story of Peter Pan.  Here is a boy who rejects his role as a man by remaining in the imaginary Neverland as a child forever, much to the heartache of Wendy who has true feelings for Peter despite his inability to drop the fantasy and love her back.

In fact, psychologists have used the example of Peter Pan to describe a paradox so prevalent in society today.  Never before have people–both women and men, though it appears to be more common in men–been so resistant to growing up and becoming an adult with adult-like aspirations, achievements and responsibilities.  And reasons for this are better left to another discussion.  But the thing about not wanting to grow up is, you could be a great lover, provider, parent, what-have-you and not be a day older than you would be if you resisted all that “growing up”.  Everybody has to get older.  Everyone notices funny things happening to their bodies as they age.  Everyone has a lesson to learn.  A person with Peter Pan Syndrome (PPS for short) ages physically but refuses to age mentally, spiritually, emotionally… That’s the paradox.

Following is a very general description of individuals with PPS (not to be confused with PMS which, unlike PPS, is actually listed in the DSM as a psychological disorder.  Did you get that ladies??  We’re all crazy!  But a man who wants to remain a child forever, totally rational!)  It is said that when reality is pushed upon such a person they will often respond with rage in order to intimidate others and protect their fragile self-esteem.  Indeed, “rage is the wall that keeps the PPS victim isolated from close contact with others”. One consequence of this, however, is that it also keeps love, concern, and warmth away.

In addition, they often blame others for their perceived shortcomings and are intolerant towards criticism.  They are quick to experience feelings of rejection and since they don’t know how to protect their feelings from getting hurt, Peter Pans have learned to withdraw from emotional areas, maintaining an “I don’t care” attitude.  However, these individuals want desperately to belong as they actually feel very, very lonely.  Alas, “there seems to be an immense vacuum in his (her) life unless (s)he is around people, preferably the center of attention”.  As a result, there is often a “constant desire to be doing something as a coping mechanism for dealing with the hollow emptiness of his (her) life”, be it drugs, sex, alcohol or some other vice.

Oftentimes, a great deal of permissiveness was experienced during childhood which led to a lack of self-discipline and is demonstrated by laziness and irresponsibility, as well as an inability to handle emotions properly.  Due to their lack of internalized controls helping them to initiate responsible activities on their own, they often face pressure from outside sources (parents, employers, spouses/partners) to take on more responsibility.

Furthermore, Peter Pans are often unable to make commitments or keep promises. Whenever their relationships begin to require a higher level of commitment and responsibility, they tend to bail. Consequently, they often find themselves in relationships with younger partners which provides the advantage of allowing them to live carefree, devoting less time to planning and thinking about the future.

They also tend to feel that “the love of a mate should be like the love of a mother – unconditionally positive”.  Peter Pans commonly take lovers for granted and in their eyes, a lover is not supposed to expect more of them than what they choose to give at the time they choose to give it.  In the story of Peter Pan, Wendy plays a vital role in his life, but she is never allowed to challenge his behavior and childlike fantasies; she is simply to remain an unquestioning aficionado.  Similarly, real life Peter Pans seek out women who base their self-worth off of their ability to care for others.  Because in order for Peter Pan to exist there must be someone willing to deal with the things Peter Pan doesn’t do. These kinds of relationships don’t tend to evolve past the first phase of emotional and sexual intensity; they never fully mature. That’s because the Wendys of the world gain what they need (acceptance, control, etc.) by allowing their Peter Pans to live in a fictional world where they never have to grow up.  This doesn’t give these men much of a reason to be anything more.  And so, conflicts inevitably arise.

To evolve implies an ability to learn from mistakes, become something better, and not remain stuck on the past. It requires an ability to forgive, to move beyond.  Without someone’s willingness to evolve (read: grow, adapt), what more can you do?  Simple.  Stop enabling.

I look at my family and I see that it’s the perfect example of the Wendy/Peter Pan paradigm.  My brother is approaching 40 and he still lives at home.  Would you say he’s resisted growing up?  Yes.  And I would also say it’s at least partly because he was never encouraged to.  Because allowing him to remain dependent benefits my mom greatly.  Doing for others is the only way she can gain acceptance from others (in her mind; no doubt some of this mentality wore off on me).  And she’s been doing for him all his life.  But also, what example has my brother had to go by?  My dad is nearly 70 and aside from the time he spent in the Navy he’s probably never done a load of laundry or dishes in his life.  My mom has to center her entire day around him because he is “unable” to cook a meal for himself.  Would you say he’s resisted growing up?  Yes.  And if I were my mother I wouldn’t tolerate such infantility for a single second.  Grow the fuck up.

At the same time, I can also identify with Peter Pan.  Even though I take care of my responsibilities (I raise two kids independently, maintain a full-time job, pay my bills and do what needs to be done; I’ve got a savings account, life insurance and a 401K for crying out loud), I feel way less responsible than other people my age.  I prefer not to engage in boring “adult” discussions about things I don’t care about.  I don’t care about a career path.  I don’t care about chasing money.  I don’t care about putting too much thought into a future I may never know.  I feel like a child in that all I really want is to be happy and to be loved.  That’s it.  Just those two things.  And often it takes very little to satisfy my desires.  But I take it for granted.  I expect love from a romantic partner to be unconditional.  But it’s not even if it claims to be.

My ex accused me of being a child right after I banished him from our lives forever.  Rightly so, even if it is the pot calling the kettle.   Sometimes my inner wounded child comes out to play and I have to fight the resistance to grow up.  My feelings get hurt and I act out in a dimwitted attempt to protect myself.  And I’ve done this my whole life, fluttering back and forth between fantasy and reality, forgetting that the rules don’t crossover.

But now I think what hurts the most is knowing how many little things throughout my day remind me of our life together.  And yet I can’t let him know.  I can’t reach out.  I can’t be fucking real.  I just have to pretend he doesn’t exist, pretend I don’t care, pretend none of it ever mattered.  Except that he does, I do and it did.  That means something to me, even if it no longer does to him; even if we’re better off; even if we both still had more to learn in order to have more to offer.  And I have to wonder, do I hate myself to care so much for someone who could never care that much about me?  Or am I just a relentless romantic who’s ran out of pixie dust and would rather pine away for a love never to be returned than move on?  I just wish our worlds weren’t so far apart.  I wish I could at least stand on the edge of my terrene and wave to him from the edge of his.  Because I’m tired of pretending.  And I could use some more happy thoughts.

*All quotations and information from this blog can be found in Peter Pan Syndrome and The Wendy Dilemma, both by Dr. Dan Kiley, as well as the following link: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070501112023.htm

Letting Go of Attachments: An Evolutionary Cataclysm

“The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death.” –Oscar Wilde

Sometimes I feel like I spend too much time droning on about my desire to find somebody, to myself and in my blog which has become my outlet. Because in the meantime, major atrocities and devastations are happening all across the globe. Certainly, not having someone to share my life with doesn’t rank very high on the list of worst possible things to ever happen in this world.

With that said, I think we’re all looking for a partner, aren’t we?  (Unless you’re lucky enough to have found one.)  We all want to be loved, as hard as it may be to admit.  We are all hoping to find ourselves in someone else.  But why does this drive seem to come so instinctively for people everywhere and at times so obsessively?  We live in an age where self-reliance is revered and independence is our birthright. Even technology is pushing us more and more in the direction of depending less and less on our fellow neighbors. From automated phone services to self check-out lanes, we are now more than ever less likely to engage in real life social interactions with other human beings.  However, it is being argued through an Attachment theory that all of this is counter intuitive and our need to find closeness is actually embedded in our genes.

In Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find–and keep–Love, Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller contest that as a result of our evolution, we seek out a few specific individuals in our lives to cherish above all others.  Essentially, we were born to be dependent and the urge to forge with other human beings persists until the day we die.  This is because, prehistorically, attachment to another provided one with a greater chance of surviving.  And so, our brains have developed a biological mechanism specifically for the purpose of creating and regulating our relationships with the people we are most fond of–parents, children and romantic partners.  That is why a child separated from their mother will cry so fervently until reunited.  This kind of reaction is what is referred to as protest behavior, which we continue to exhibit as adults when a source of love disappears from our life.

However, despite the fact that “we all have a basic need to form close bonds, the way we create them varies”.  Given the heterogeneous nature of human beings, people respond differently to intimacy and the threat of its abrogation, but we all tend to fall into one of these categories: Anxious, Avoidant, or Secure.  What’s great about Attachment theory is that it “does not label behaviors as healthy or unhealthy…romantic behaviors that had previously been seen as odd or misguided now seem understandable, predictable, even expected.  You stay with someone although he’s not sure he loves you?  Understandable.  You say you want to leave and a few minutes later change your mind and decide you desperately want to stay?  Understandable too.  But are such behaviors effective or worthwhile?  That’s a different story.  People with a secure attachment style know how to communicate their own expectations and respond to their partner’s needs effectively without having to resort to protest behavior.  For the rest of us, understanding is only the beginning”.  And that’s where I’m at.

I’m only just beginning to understand how my attachments to others are influenced by the way I came to depend on my parents to address my needs as a child and then later, my significant others.  And since “people are only as needy as their unmet needs” I recognize that at times it may take a bit more to fill my emotional cavaties.  Because in a romantic relationship, “if our partner fails to reassure us, we are programmed to continue our attempts to achieve closeness until the partner does”.  It’s the old tug-of-war routine.

Coincidentally, when our emotional needs are met, we are then free to place our attention outside ourselves.  This is referred to as the “dependency paradox”, which states that the more effective people are at depending on one another, the more independent and adventurous they become in their own lives and the more secure they become in their relationships.  So while we hear so often that we should never rely on someone else for our own happiness, I think we can all agree that that’s a bunch of malarkey.

In fact, studies demonstrate “that when two people form an intimate relationship, they regulate each other’s psychological and emotional well-being.  Their physical proximity and availability influence the stress response.  How can we be expected to maintain a high level of differentiation between ourselves and our partners if our basic biology is influenced by them to such an extent?”  The codependency myth which is quite prevalent today encourages us not to base our happiness on our partner, but to instead find peace within, focus on ourselves, tend to our own needs, etc.  But what could possibly provide more joy than the feeling of being loved and cared for?

Of course finding love is something we all strive for; it’s written in our genetic code.  Then again, something like love cannot solely be explained away with science.  There will always be a mystical, magical quality to the act of falling in love.  It helps to know, though, how our early attachments affect the emotional needs we carry into our romantic relationships.  Not one is either right or wrong.  Someone who is anxious will naturally be attracted to someone who is avoidant and vice versa.  What matters most is the ability to come to an understanding, to be willing to meet half way.

I wish not only for my sake, but for the sake of human kind that every person finds love.  Because it is what has allowed us to evolve as a species, surely.  And it seems to me the only thing worth living for.  If everyone felt loved, imagine what kind of world this would be.

Scars

When I was maybe 5 years old I can remember standing in the kitchen, watching as my dad was getting ready to exit through the garage.  I don’t recall ever showing any outward displays of longing for his affection or attention because I knew my efforts would be dismissed.  But this one day my dad seemed to express an interest in me he normally didn’t share; he spent time with me in my world which he usually didn’t do.  And as he was headed out the door I thought, here is my opportunity for physical contact (besides the spankings he so willingly delivered).  I was terrified he would leave before I got to hug him and say goodbye so I quickly ran to him pleading, “Daddy, don’t go!”  And what I got instead was the corner of a cutting board jutting out from the counter (it was built in).  I was just its height and as I ran, oblivious, it jabbed me right above the eye (my coordination has always been terrible).  My mother had to take me to the ER and I had to have stitches.

I never did get to say goodbye or give my father the hug I so desperately wanted.  And it would be years before I would find my next opportunity for one.  I had already learned my lesson.

Long Live the King

As a child I grew up listening to my dad blare out the melodies of Elvis Presley into a microphone.  Over and over and over.  And I hated it, especially when I had friends over.  He was obsessed with it.  Very often it would happen late at night as I was trying to go to bed.  My dad had his own karaoke system set up in our utility room.   He liked to record himself, replay it, improve it.  Over and over and over.  I didn’t know at this time what karaoke was.  Years later I would discover it in a bar when I was 18 and scoring pitchers of rum and coke from friends who were legal.  Love Shack.  I strayed every now and then.  But my good friend, Chris and I would sing the duet nearly every time.  Chris gave me my stage name, Amilicious.  It means ‘a force to be reckoned with’.  That’s only funny if you’ve witnessed me sing karaoke.

At any rate, music entered my life very early and it was ongoing.  In addition to priding himself as an Elvis impersonator, my dad played guitar.  I always enjoyed it when he would pull it out of its case.  It had a beat up leather cover with a bright pink velvet liner, worn only in one spot; it was antithetic to the case’s rough exterior.  And the guitar itself… a beautifully crafted instrument that had clearly been treasured for years.  I can remember how shiny the gloss made it look, the duo toned wood of the body, ivory bridge and pearly fret markers.  I liked the knob on it too and the embossed leather strap.  When he opened up that case, somehow it smelled like opportunity; it smelled old and new at the same time.  To hear him strum through the strings with his pick, casting a sound through the air – It was the closest I ever felt to him.

It was then that I learned how powerful music could be.  Here was a man shackled by his inability to overcome himself, someone who had long lost the ability to draw anyone close.  He had shut that door and put up those walls; he wasn’t letting anyone in.  Yet here he was, singing of love, remorse, and desire.  What I quickly figured out was that through Elvis and other rock & roll/country legends, my father could escape.  Through their songs he could communicate things he otherwise couldn’t say.  I remember being confused and outraged internally over the hypocrisy of it all.  How can you talk about love in the songs you choose to sing to yourself, but not express it to your own family?

But then… music does the same thing for me.  It allows me to escape.  It was, is, and will always be one of my favorite forms of communication.  Music is an art.  And just like any other art form, it is there to say something, to convey some meaning, to reflect what someone was thinking or feeling.  Music has the power to take me somewhere I would rather be, somewhere connected.

I love a good, intricate rift.  And I pay attention to lyrics.  That’s why I think most popular music is crap.  It’s too simplistic and redundant.  It doesn’t resonate.  It doesn’t seem to come from a place that is rich and full of passion, angst, and strife.   When pop music talks about money, it doesn’t imply a struggle.  When it glamorizes sex, it doesn’t go beyond a 17 year old’s interpretation of it.  It isn’t inspired by the experiences of being human, but rather the experiences of being a cultural icon.  That doesn’t interest me.

I want to listen to music that rips my heart out, throws it on the floor and buries it endlessly into the ground.  I want to feel the chords bleeding through the air waves.   I want a guitarist who sounds as though they’re making love to the notes echoing through their fingertips; a drummer who can entice me with their quick, subtle pulsations and yet demand sudden movement of my body with every loud bang, baNG, BANG!  I want to feel in a song what I have felt my whole life; a song that makes me feel like I have been heard through someone else’s lyrics or melody.  One that speaks every truth I’ve ever known.

Elvis may have been the King of Rock & Roll in his day. But I’d say music has progressed a whole hell of a lot since then.  Even so, Elvis did more than shake his hips while he was performing.  He shook an entire nation.  My grandparents referred to it as ‘devil music’ when my mom was growing up. But by the time the music of my generation started hitting the air waves, they had a different view–Elvis wasn’t such a bad influence afterall.  I have a feeling my opinion of pop music will not waiver, however.  Something that lacks substance will always lack substance.  And even though Elvis’ music has never been anything more than catchy and fun to sing along with (when I wasn’t busy resenting the fact that I felt forced to listen to it more than I wanted to and my dad seemed more interested in trying to be Elvis than be my dad), for me it represents a gateway through which I learned I could safely enter.  My brother has been obsessed with Elvis his whole life.  It’s pretty ridiculous actually, but I get it.  He’s always been as desperate as I’ve been to connect with our father and our father has always been desperate to be taken seriously as a musician.  Perhaps he was hoping to live his dream through Elvis Presley, a true rags to riches success story who was loved and adored by women everywhere who wanted nothing more than to let him be their teddy bear.  In an era of strong sexual rigidity, Elvis had the power to transform “good girls” into desperate, horny hellcats.  And this is probably what frightened the older generation more than anything else.  Women weren’t supposed to feel that way.  But that has certainly changed.

Music today seems to be filled with nothing more than discussions about sex, some explicit and some more illusive.  Then again, I grew up listening to the likes of Sir Mix A Lot, Salt-N-Pepa, Madonna, and Tone Loc.  Yet it’s not the kind of music I identify with, even if I do find myself singing along.  And I’m hoping, as a parent, the same is true of the music my kids now enjoy.  It’s all very catchy and may not state the obvious, but I know what they’re implying.  Not to say all pop music is about sex.  And not to say I think all popular music is terrible.  There is some that I enjoy or can at least tolerate.  And so, while I respect my children’s personal music preferences, I also consider it my duty to expose them to different kinds of music that they wouldn’t normally listen to on their own accord; music that has found me in times of pain, suffering, sorrow, and despair when I felt lost in a world I didn’t understand.  In hopes, I suppose, that they may one day learn to appreciate it; if for no other reason than to know how important music has always been to me and to learn how powerful and transformative it can be for them.

Music is like love.  It’s constantly progressing, blending old and new elements.  At times it tries to mimic itself, giving way to monotony, leaving less room for spontaneity and creativity.  Nevertheless, if you have an appreciation for a certain artist, predictability is not always a bad thing.  What was once your favorite song can be over played and begin to bore you.  You may even grow sick of it.  On the other hand, there are those songs you will never tire of hearing, no matter how many times you set them on repeat.  They will continue to take you everywhere you wanted to go and leave you breathless, heart pounding, yearning for more of the same.