keep art alive; art by joshua petker
i am not sure when it began, or what started me believing that in love i had to give everything that i am in order to deserve to be loved back. not that i do not think that love should be about giving, but somewhere along the line there was a disconnect inside of me that transmitted this message that i was the one that needed to give, and give until i had nothing left, and that i should not expect to ever receive anything back. that love, for me, was about taking care of the other person's needs, wants, and desires; that if there did not exist this neverending list of needs to fulfill, and issues that needed my care and attention, that i was not needed, or i suppose deserving, of love.
for a girl who swore up and down that she would never be a mother i certainly spent even my formative years trying to mother the boys i chose to love. i look back at my past relationships and it is so glaringly obvious that i would come into their lives and slowly but surely become something they relied on, and unfortunately ended up taking for granted. i do believe it became such a part of who i am that it showed on my skin, on the way i put myself out into the world, and in the way i interracted because every consecutive relationship seemed to become more and more of this situation. bring me your wounded, your broken, your addicted, your mentally and emotionally unstable and i will put on my best nurses dress and break out all my glue sticks and transparent tape, and i will fix you.
what becomes of the nurse in this, though? what becomes of the mothering lover who later becomes an actual mother? and, what happens when she breaks? i have learned to run this race of being everything to the other person in a relationship that it has become a default, an auto-pilot setting, and as my dearest friend told me this morning it becomes part of the system. and, i know some of this goes back to never really feeling mothered myself, that i took on that role of caretaker even to my own mother before i even reached adolescence. somewhere along the way even the family i was born into weaved together expectation with love.
this is where it gets tricky, though, as i sit here trying to sift through my definitions of love; because honestly i think that giving is intrinsic and vital to love. i do not want to veer so far from who i have been that i do not still long to make another person happy, fulfilled, possibly better. but, all these untouched parts of me, all my own gaping holes of want and need, they are so neglected that now they are charging forward in some kind of emotional revolt. and, i do not know how to deal with them, i do not know how to manage anything that i want myself. all i seem to do is collapse a little bit more everytime anyone even reaches out a hand, or mentions the way things could be. the smallest things, the most simple acts of kindness, they bring me to tears.
there has to exist this combination in love. i know i have found it in friendship, and in that realm i seem to be able to accept it so much better. but with love, the idea of not being the one to give and give and give, to even think about allowing someone to give to me anything - even the things that seem small and trivial, it opens up this gulf of vulnerability deep inside. but, i want it. i want to be loved in the way i love, and i want to be able to embrace that in my life. i just wish i was not so scared of accepting it, of changing that part of me that blocks it so often, to learn to actually feel like i deserve to be loved - because deep down in those parts of me that i do not share often, and that i do not exactly understand - i do not believe i deserve love.