Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Very First Lie

In my very first memory, I must have been about 2 or 3, and I’m sitting in a high chair. My mother has just left the house – I have the impression that the door has just now closed – and I’m SCREAMING for her to come back. I’m bereft and sobbing. My dad and his friend are there – the friend with whom we lived for a brief time in San Francisco before we got the house in Berkeley – and they’re laughing at me.

I don’t know if this is a true memory or a dream, but the memory has a deep meaning for me. In it, I’m totally alone and terrified. The people who are supposed to protect me are laughing and mocking me, and my mother – my comfort and my support - has walked out and can’t or won’t hear my cries of need. Obviously, as an adult, I don’t fault her for leaving the house (if that is, in fact, what happened), but on a deep psychological level, this feels like an original wound. Abandonment. Rejection. These are the things that I’ve struggled with for my whole life. And this memory, somehow, represents the deep, deep pain of lifelong hurt.

Somehow, sometime, as a youngster, I believed a lie. I don’t know if anyone purposefully told me the lie, or if I just absorbed it through the messages I got from society, but somehow I absorbed the lie that someday, there would be one person who would love me and protect me and be with me forever, as my partner, lover, friend, and confidante. I just assumed I’d someday meet this person, as naturally as the sun coming up in the morning and setting in the evening. I didn’t think I’d have to try to meet him, or change myself to meet him, or spend years on Craiglist or on dating sites or speed-dating or any of that. I just assumed it would happen. And I assumed that after that, my real life would start.

The funny thing is that I’ve always been critical and thoughtful about what my culture has told me. I’ve always questioned the status quo, always made my own choices not based on what society said I was supposed to do. Except in this one area, where I bought the lie hook, line, and sinker. It never even occurred to me to question it. Until now. Until, nearing 40, I realized that lie was never true.

And now I’m staring at this lie – this false belief that has insinuated itself into every cell in my being – and I don’t know how to stop believing it. The depth and strength of my longing for this thing that will never happen is so intense that sometimes, at night, alone in my bed, I still cry for it, like I did that time when I was 2, in the high chair. I weep and hold a pillow to me and feel that something must be so badly wrong with me that nobody has ever chosen me in the way I thought I’d someday be chosen.

Intellectually, I know how ridiculous it is to expect one person to be our everything, and to wait to be chosen by someone. I know that’s not right. I know that everything I need to be happy, I possess within myself, and that no one person can make me happy. Nor should I expect one person to make me happy. It’s not fair for me to expect that from anybody, and it sells myself short. I know that. But I still long for it, deeply, like I’ve never longed for anything else.

It’s the same longing I felt for my mother in that very first memory. Acellular longing, the longing of spirit for that spirit world where there is no pain, no need, no suffering. It’s not a longing for an actual person, it’s the longing for relief, for a return to that simplicity of pure light, the longing for that place before consciousness.

And each time I realize that I don’t have that deep belonging, the soul-to-soul connection that will always be there and never go away, and that I will never have that, it crushes me whole, knocks me to the ground. I withdraw, both physically and emotionally and in every way. I walk around with a stunned look on my face. I hide in my house, my skin on fire like every nerve is exposed. I wait for the grief and pain to wash over me and pass the way I know they will, because they always have. And I know I’ll get up again, laugh again, dust myself off, and try, once again, to see the joy and beauty and happiness that I’m so lucky to have in my life.

But I still don’t know how to abandon that deep dream, that lie, that false hope. It’s still in there, curled up and waiting, a little girl who still believes that her mommy – in the guise of a lifetime love, a person who will never leave - will come back through that door and hold her and never let her go.


bechtoldlifework said...

Wow, Melissa, this sounds exactly like an original wound. The big universal wound that we all have, in some way, shape, or form. Like you say, the one about abandonment and being orphaned. You've nailed it, with your eloquent, beautiful prose. One of my favorite authors, James Hollis, talks a lot about this wound in his book, "Finding Meaning In the Second Half of Life." If you're nearing 40, you might like it. In the latter part of the book he poses a series of questions, and about this, he asks, "Why do you continue to cooperate with the wound, rather than serve something larger that serves you in return?" Such a simple question, but it's been profound for me and a number of my clients. Hey, I have all of his questions typed up, so if you want a copy of it just shoot me an email.

Shannon E. Kennedy said...

I'm in tears. you struck something in me. your words are so powerful. it wreaks of truth, more than your truth, I think this is a longing we all have. I wanted the same thing. I searched for it, convinced I'd find it in every man I met. I married most, I was wrong. I'm onto my 4th major union (3rd husband)...still don't feel safe, not in the way a mother protects her child. Really like your style.