Looking for Love
I’m ready to revisit this haiku+poetry. It took a while….
peers into old beer bottle –
* * *
searching for myself
lost somewhere out there
in your eyes your smile
your listening ear
your approval your tenderness
your dream for me
are you an artist? a poet?
a musician? a sensitive soul?
maybe you can help me
I think I love you or do I see
a lovely reflection of my
still-lost self in you?
* * *
The wren perches on the rim of an old brown beer bottle dug up during garage construction. It bends down, peers into the empty bottle, looks for something. What?
I can’t help thinking about a saying I learned in a 12-step program years ago: Don’t keep looking for water in dry wells.
Seeing the wren peer into the empty beer bottle brought back painful memories. I see myself looking for love, affection, affirmation and approval from men. Artists, musicians, writers, dreamers….highly intelligent, gifted, articulate. Beautiful eyes and beautiful smiles. Best of all, they notice me and enjoy spending time with me.
There weren’t that many. But to my thirsty soul, they were intoxicating. I thought they were exactly what I’d been longing for all my life.
I’m in my 40s, working with my psychotherapist. I’m also writing a book. It connects selected childhood stories with my professional life as a woman and theologian functioning in a man’s world. I want to clarify my relationships with men who made a difference in my life. Some for good, some for ill.
I decided to make a list. I came up with 30 men, including a few boys from childhood. I studied the list, looking for patterns in my relationships with these men. They were all over the map. It wasn’t pretty. It was a confused and confusing picture of dynamics I didn’t begin to understand.
Over time, working with my therapist, I began to get it. This facet of my life was trying to tell me something. I needed to look at it instead of burying all or parts of it.
Ironically, I discovered that the love I’d been searching for was already present. Not in any of these men or even primarily in my family. It was in me! The thought of loving myself was alien. It seemed selfish and silly, if not wrong.
Yet for years I had carried inside of me an 8-year old girl who was dying for love, affection, affirmation and approval. The kind only I could give her because only I understood firsthand her pain and fears.
I have no memories of Mother holding me on her lap, hugging me and telling me how much she loves me and how special I am to her. I have hundreds of memories of her caring for my daily physical needs and coaching me in household tasks. When I think about her history with her mother, I understand why she couldn’t give me what I needed. Her mother hadn’t given it to her.
I also have too many memories of my father violating my body, spirit, emotions, soul and mind before I left home for college. Yet I desperately needed his approval in order to stay out of trouble. In my small world, he held the key to my existence if not to my happiness. It seemed he had the power to ruin my life.
Somewhere along the line, men became the most likely answer to my search. Women, including my three sisters, were important in my life, but they couldn’t stop my father’s beatings. They were busy trying to stay out of their own trouble with him.
As a teenager I wasn’t an overt rebel when it came to men. Instead, I became an expert at ‘falling in love’ with certain kinds of men and making up scenarios and dreams about them in my mind. Back then it seemed these starvation rations were the only banquet in town.
In fact, these weren’t starvation rations. The dynamics of my ‘falling in love’ with men held the key to what I needed to discover in myself–an artist, writer, musician, even a poet! My job in therapy was to look deeply and honestly at my history with them.
It seems I fell in love with bits and pieces of my artistic, intelligent self that I didn’t recognize in me, yet saw clearly in them. I neglected my personal development in favor of these men with their artistic and intelligent endeavors. After all, they held the key to my happiness, didn’t they? They would thank me someday. Or pledge their eternal love.
Maybe this sounds crazy, but for me it was a turning point. Not simply in my attitudes toward myself, but in my attitudes and behaviors toward men. I didn’t need that old beer bottle anymore. I already had more than enough resources if I was willing to change my ways.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 November 2014
Hi, Elouise, You write like you are me although I have never done the part of looking to see if there are patterns. But all you wrote about love and what you got from your mother and father would fit perfectly into the story of my life, except for the physical beatings.
Hi, Anne. Thanks so much for your comment and for making the personal connection.