Friday, December 07, 2012

The First Four-Hundred Word Question*

"For one human being to love another: that's perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation." --Rainer Maria Rilke
Growing up in a microcosm of anger and fighting, in an age of rising divorce on the tail end of socially accepted promiscuity, like many people, I didn't learn to love in a healthy way.  It took abusive relationship after relationship for me to realize and accept I was offering my body, mind and soul to men who seemed like they could protect me, make me feel loved and worthy, in spite of their own serious issues.  
Now, lots of people give away their bodies because sex feels good.  And many people think of relationships in terms of pragmatic give and take.  But what I was doing was selling myself into slavery, and on some level, I knew it.  
I did things for these men I thought I loved romantically.  But they were things that counselors, spiritual leaders, lawyers and doctors should have been doing.  I took responsibility for my partners' problems again and again, and when the relationships failed, I blamed myself.  And because most of these men denied responsibility, they got off easy--I had already taken on the guilt, something I had been trained to do.  
It wasn't until I met David that I realized what honest, healthy, stable love felt like.  He could offer it because he had good role models--strong, hard working, committed parents married for over 50 years.  They produced a fantastic anomaly, to the point at which I have told David more than a few times, "Statistically, you shouldn't even exist."  
When I married David, I received not only the gift of him, but the gifts of parents: the years they spent nurturing four children and one another.  I feel they adopted me, accepted me as I am and loved me like I was one of them.  For that, I am overwhelmingly grateful.  
But I am left with questions.  How were David's parents able to do all this?  What glue held them together, even during challenging times?  And if we have grown up around dysfunction, selling ourselves to anyone who seems to offer what we think we need, what can we do to make sure our children don't turn into what I used to be?
*This entry is one in a series proposed by my pastor, Rev. Greg Ward of Bull Run Unitarian Universalists church.  I am grateful he suggested it.
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