Monday, August 07, 2006

Arm's Length Love

Today Charles and I went shopping for a dress for his mother. Today felt like we have been together for 20 years. I am very tired after working 16 consecutive days with only 3 of them off. He seems very tired too, he is working double shifts at work, working on a paper he will present at a confrence in South Africa, and I think tired from the stress that is to come (he is leaving in less than a week for Kenya to do the research for his dissertation.)

He looks like he has put on a few pounds. That bothers me. It's not a sexiness thing as much as a health thing. I am thinking so seriously (well until this week) about my health and eating choices, so to see him make unhealthy ones gets my brain thinking about heart disease and strokes. It also bothers me because I wonder if the weight gain is a sign that he is seriously stressed.

What stood out to me in the last ten minutes is the true nature of my feelings for him, I admire him SOOOOO much, I think he is one of the sweetest people I have ever met, but I am still, after over 7 months, not completely relaxed in love. I know mentally that he is the best guy for me, ever. He compliments me intellectualy, he is so ambitious and trustworthy, he is incredibly patient with my shortcomings, and very importantly, he sees the person I am, he is able to grasp and understand (and even appreciate) the many aspects of me. But, my love for him is very mental. My heart is still very guarded, I still (although I don't let on) hold him at an arm's length.

Well, not completely, which explains very understandably why I do remain so guarded. Where he is going, his home village, has gangs of criminals with machetes, who have recently targeted a person returning from America, because they thought he had money. Kenya's government is being criticized right now because the security situation is not good. Charles told me that and it sparked an old irrational thought that I have just recently begun to let go of.

When I was a child I was the target of teasing. I was a very anxious and sensitive girl, and it affected me terribly. When I was almost nine, my mother was hit by a train while she was walking her dog. I moved in with my father and his girlfriend, and although I was depressed, I was keeping my head above water. Three years later my stepmother left my father, and in the process, me, but at least I still had my dad. But not for long, only a month or so after she left, he began drinking, first a tequila sunrise every night, but soon a bottle a night, him passed out on the porch with the door unlocked leaving his 12 year old daughter exposed. I spent the next few years focused on how to get my father back, I was alone in a house of squalor, with only his shell there to pay the bills. (Barely) passing my classes and pretending to have a normal life were tasks I would have to pull off alone, with no support from a parent. Only three years after my stepmother and father left me, my maternal grandmother died of cancer. I felt that she had not tried hard enough to fight it, and made the decision to not depend on people because when you love someone, it hurts so much when they leave you, maybe it would be easier to not love.

I also, having anxiety disorder, had my anxious feelings validated by all of these tragedies hitting my life. I had anxiously told my mom to not walk the dog on the train tracks, and she got killed by a train. I (correctly) knew that my father's use of tequila sunrises to relax was not a healthy thing, and I watched my prediction happen before my eyes. The anxiety disorder was strong, and so was the feeling that I was somehow cursed. If I love something, it will be taken away. That is just the way I feel. I have gotten so much better with this, Risperdal has helped, but it has lingered on and this Kenya thing has proved it.

If Charles was murdered in Kenya, that would have to be the end of me. I finally get a good man, I finally have the possibility of moving into the future, of caring about and more importantly TRUSTING someone. And he disappears too. Just the fact that I am entertaining this idea goes to show the level of my conditioning. I have allowed someone 10% into my heart, what would I do if he was taken from me? I am just beginning to recover, it would be such an extreme blow.

And then I also have the empathy pain, another reason why I love people at arm's length. When someone I love hurts, it hurts me too much to bear. If I hold them emotionally at arm's length I don't have to feel the empathy pain as much. Poor Charles can't even stay overnight in his home village. He might be being paranoid, he is a little bit about crime, (he witnessed a murder here in the US, he even had to testify!) Paranoid or not, his visit home is being tarnished by fear of danger to himself or his family, that is so completely unfair!

I love Charles intellectualy, but emotionally, like with just about everybody, I am rather detached. I am always ready to release and quickly move on. If my mother, stepmother, father, and grandmother all left me, then I need to be ready for the next blow, I have to keep myself upright, no one will catch me, so strong emotional attachments are a danger to my survival. It is incredible the amount I have been able to feel for Charles, if I can keep myself from ending it (and he can keep himself from being murdered) I assume over the years I will be able to let go a little more.

I am worried about myself in the next three months without him. I don't want to get depressed and I don't want my feelings to fade (as the path of least resistance) I have come so far in the last year. I love someone worthy at least, even if it is only at arm's length.

1 comment:

KansasSunflower said...

I am so sorry about your past!! It makes sense why you feel the way you do. It's interesting. I, too, have an anxiety disorder and had a troubled childhood. I never put the two together. I lost everyone I ever loved, too, but in a different way. If you love Charles, give it time - LOTS of time. I met Mark 9 years ago, and I constantly pushed him away, trying to get him to leave me, telling him I was going to leave HIM, but now that so much time has gone by and I've TRIED so hard to break up and he hasn't let me, I've learned how to love emotionally again. Yes, it's VERY scary. I STILL wonder what I would do if something happened to him and wouldn't it just be better if I ended it now instead of felt the pain later when it would just hurt more? I sometimes feel suffocated, as if he's holding me back, and then I wonder, from what?, and realize I'm back to my old tricks. Give it time if you want to learn to love's not easy, even after 9 years.