Beautiful Words, pt. 12

I’m going to be writing a few posts about Hunger by Roxane Gay. I knew this book would be about bodies and food, what I didn’t expect (and really, I should have known better) was that this book would also be about worthiness and relationships. Today’s post will be focused on that. About the role that shame plays in isolating us. And about how human connection is the key to coming back.

Sometimes, it freaks me out when someone else puts pen to paper and gets at the core of my being. But after that first reaction, I get flooded by warmth, I realize I am not alone, I am not crazy, I am not a freak, I am human. That happened to me several times in this book. I read and I thought I might be reading my own journal. And so I made note of the places where I wasn’t alone. These are them.

That’s a powerful thing, knowing you can reveal yourself to someone.”

Part of the reason relationships and friendships can be so difficult for me is because there is a part of me that thinks that I have to get things just right. I have to say the right things and do the right things or I won’t be liked or loved anymore. It’s stressful, so then I engage in an elaborate attempt at being the best friend or girlfriend and get further and further away from who I really am, someone with a good heart, but also someone who may not always get things right. I find myself apologizing for things I shouldn’t be apologizing for, things that I am not at all sorry for. I find myself apologizing for who I am.”

I don’t do fear very well. I try to push people I love away. I worry that I’m not allowed human weakness, that this makes me not good enough.”

When I broke my ankle, love was no longer an abstraction.”

When I worry I’m not strong, I become very invested in appearing invulnerable, unbreakable, stone-cold, a fortress, self-sustaining. I worry that I need to keep up this appearance even when I cannot.”

I Am Loved

A few weeks ago, after a so-so therapy session, I thought about how I rarely believe people when they tell me that they love me.

I decided that maybe, along with reminding myself that I am worthy of love, I should also work on remembering that I’m already loved by at least a handful of people.

Being myself, I couldn’t just leave it at that. I wanted to gain some understanding of this kind-of-epiphany. I’ve spent a lot of the last year thinking that I didn’t believe that they loved me because I didn’t feel worthy of love. But I wondered if there was something more. So I turned to the internet.

One idea that really drew me in talked about the “…need to observe, judge, and categorize human behavior as love.” He goes on to say “…there must be a lot of folks that love you, but you may have to learn that everybody manifests it in different ways.” He calls it a “…disconnect between observation and perception of love.”

Basically, we expect love to look a certain way and if someone doesn’t meet those expectations, it is easy for us to believe that that person doesn’t love us (even if they tell us that they do). After all, we’ve been taught that actions are more important than words (just look at the title of this blog).

This, unsurprisingly, made me think of The 5 Love Languages. So I went and took their quiz. I think the last time I did it was about a year ago, during my last relationship. I was mostly curious to see what they had to say about our love language in relation to the love languages of those who love us.

They say “You may have scored certain ones of the love languages more highly than others, but do not dismiss those other languages as insignificant…Your friends and loved ones may express love in those ways, and it will be beneficial for you to understand this about them.”

So I’m going to challenge myself to expand my idea of what love looks like. To realize that different people show love in different ways. To remember that I can tell people what way works best for me, and I shouldn’t discount what ways come naturally to them.

 

Fearless Friday: Non-Monogamy

One of the times I felt completely and utterly alone in my life was the week Peter and I decided to try an open relationship.

It was about a year into our relationship when he raised the question, and it caught me completely off guard. It wasn’t something I had ever even considered, and neither of us had ever been in an open relationship.

My first reaction was one of resistance, I was sure he was manipulating me, trying to get me to concede to his cheating on me, to be an active participant in it. But it also piqued my interest. I kept coming back to it on my own. Kept asking questions. Kept going online.

After a few days of conversation and consideration and research, we came together and agreed to our set of rules about being open, and we were off.

This all happened only a couple of months before we separated, and to be honest, I had no desire to partake personally. I knew by that point in my life that casual sex was not for me. Peter only partook once and while I found hearing the details of his tryst was a turn on for me, he didn’t seem to take to it at that point.

All in all, I considered this a successful experiment in that we each learned things about ourselves and each other.

And still, having had no one to talk to about the experience, I felt a pang of loneliness and isolation. I felt very other.

There were a few friends that I eventually told, after the fact mostly. And even then, I was hyperaware of most of their reactions of shock and what sometimes felt to me like repulsion (story, I know). Even the couple of friends I told who didn’t respond with shock couldn’t fully empathize, they had never been in an open relationship, had never experienced what I had.

A few weeks ago, this all changed. I was meeting with some friends for out monthly body positive book club (which for the most part has become a monthly conversation about not-books). It was just me and another woman for a while when she opened up to me, in a slightly bashful way, about how her current relationship is non-monogamous. Internally I leapt with joy.

We ended up having a long conversation about non-monogamy and about telling others about non-monogamous relationships. It even seeped heavily into our “book club” discussion. I suddenly didn’t feel like the “freak” I had believed myself to be for so long. Until that moment I had been completely alone with my experience, and in that moment, that moment of connection and sharing, I suddenly felt, in seeing and understanding and hearing another, seen and understood and heard.

I am so grateful for the variety of people I spend my life with nowadays. I am so grateful that that woman had the courage to tell me about her relationship when she had no way of knowing about our shared experience. Maybe I can take this as a lesson to be more open, maybe more of my friends have experienced non-monogamy than I know and the shame of talking about sex and relationships has stopped me from learning that.

For now, instead of all the maybes, I’ll bask in the glory of human connection. It truly is a beautiful thing.