Friday, November 13, 2015

Attachment

I've been thinking a lot lately, and that's always dangerous. I will readily admit I spend way too much time in my head thinking about the past, imagining the future, and generally torturing myself with what ifs and why didn't Is. I like to plan because I hate surprises. I'm not good at all in living in the moment. And when I am living in the moment, my head is a mess.

I've always known that I had some issues... but it wasn't until recently, when all the shit went down with my apartment, and my carefully constructed facade of having it all together crumbled, that it was pointed out to me to that I was a mess and needed to work through my issues and get emotionally healthy. It was said with love and compassion, but it sent me into a death spiral of fear and angst. Did I mention that I don't handle criticism well either? We're talking a Chicken Little-on-the-brink-of-nuclear-holocaust-type reaction.

But upon further reflection, I decided I'd better buck up.  This was an opportunity to cleanse myself emotionally and start this new phase of my life stronger and in a better place. So I am trying to figure it all out...

I wish I could blame my divorce for all my troubles. Divorce is traumatic, soul shocking, and is deeply, profoundly painful on every level. Even though I initiated the divorce, I did so only after years of despair and unhappiness. But if I'm being honest with myself, it is not the wellspring of my trauma, soul shock, or emotional pain. The marriage and subsequent divorce just roto-tilled what I'd kept buried for the last 13 years right up to the surface again.

My early years weren't for the faint of heart. My mother tells stories about how my dad, when I'd cry as an infant, would throw me like a football into my crib. If he came home from work and wanted my mom's undivided attention, when I was two, and basically a baby, he'd make me stand in the corner of the room with my nose in the crack between the two walls. Even now, I can distinctly feel the cold of the plaster against my nose.

I tell these stories dispassionately. They happened in the past. So long ago they shouldn't even matter anymore.

But inside my otherwise intelligent, rational, mature, not-crazy-at-all mind, lurks that two year old self, whose father was both the love of her life, and the world's most inexplicable monster. The one who she woke up to snuggle every morning, who would lift her high in the air and let her touch the ceiling, who would be her personal horsey and trot her around the living room, but also the cold-hearted father whose love for her stopped without explanation, who'd hurl her away, cast her aside, or force her to deny her own needs on a whim. I still feel afraid when I think about those days--all those emotions still live in my heart. The fear, the confusion, the guilt and the not knowing what I did to make him not want me around.

I wish I could say that those days didn't effect me in the long run. But, unfortunately, they did. Add to that my only-childhood and a world of adults who frequently told me to go play and leave them alone, and a parade of men through my life that came and went with alarming regularity, and the message I received throughout my formative years was Nothing is permanent and no one wants to be around you for long.

So I turned into a chronically charming people pleaser, who would rather walk across hot coals and glass shards than create the slightest amount of conflict. I was probably a naturally easy-going, sweet, and sensitive person, but the fear of everyone I cared about rejecting me turned me into a neurotically needy monster. If you're saying to yourself "That doesn't sound like the Brittany I know" it's because I hid it well. I knew it wasn't healthy to be that way, so I went for the opposite extreme and just shut down. Especially throughout my tumultuously emotional teenage years, it was safer to be aloof, disinterested, and introverted. 

But if I love you, I can't not care. And if I give an inch the emotion takes a mile. I warn you about myself, and I try to explain, in words, the constant low grade pain my heart feels. How, for me, being in love creates anxiety. Every single second of the day  I torture myself worrying that any change in my love's behavior is a sign his feelings for me have changed, that a break up is imminent, that I've done or said something wrong, that somehow I'm not good enough. They he thought he loved me, but realized he was wrong. I crave constant reassurance. Reassurance only makes me crazier. The more often I'm reassured, the more often I need to hear it. I also expect my love to want time away from me and I expect to be alone a lot, and when I am alone (because rational me knows time apart is healthy) it feels like rejection. Without the constant feed of affirmation, I freak out and worry why I'm no longer hearing it. It's a horrible spiral of ridiculousness that rational me tries desperately to shake off. She's usually only partially successful. I know it's not rational, so I stuff it down and ignore it, keep myself busy, submit to my partner's needs because my needs don't make any sense. I know that the constant, wide, gnawing un-fillable emptiness in my heart is always going to be there. There is absolutely nothing any one person can do, or say, that will ever make it go away, especially when my fears and insecurities grow out of my own warped apocalyptic imagination

I understand quite clearly now that if I want to have a happy second life, I need to find some way to silence these fears. Rational me knows that people come and go. Feelings ebb and flow. It's not only ok. It's part of life. My head is completely up to speed on these points. It's my heart that isn't so swift on the uptake. Central to Buddhism is the idea that 'attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.’ Attachment issues are clearly the root of my suffering. And the obvious solution is to stop trying to feed the beast. Stop trying to acquire love, and just exist within in. Be grateful for each loving touch, each loving word, each moment together, as it is happening, without trying to make sense of it, quantify it, categorize it, and continually search for an unending supply of it. The constant pursuit of love is exhausting. By cutting off the supply to my emotional angst, I can starve it to death. 






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