I've written here before about my longing for family. That is no secret.
It's one thing to write something down, as if in the act of exposure and vulnerability through writing it is suddenly healed, as if the insight is the healing.
But that is not so. Last week, I met a very sweet family. It was one of those moments where you cannot explain it, but you felt it. I felt love in this house. I just KNEW that this was a house of love, of family, of arguments and fussing over dinner and glasses of wine after the kids are in bed and missing each other and birthdays and long hopeful talks and short irritated glances and the ever-present bedrock of glowing warmth, of devoted hearts, of myriad simple kindnesses braided into constant memory. Everyone welcome, everyone safe, everyone cared for.
Then earlier this week, a colleague showed me calendars students had made. In the calendars she showed me, the children had drawn pictures of their families, their intact families. Seeing those sweet second-grade crayon pictures of families was bittersweet. These children were having a happy life. They were experiencing the world as good and whole in the height of their innocence. I silently prayed they would always remember their innocence, and then I went home and cried.
This grieving and desire for a loving family of my own haunts me, haunts what I wanted for all of my children. Sometimes, I have compensated by loving too loudly, by shouting love when I also needed to be whispering it, letting it fill the room like a warm perfume, a sweetness of air, a knowing gleaned from atmosphere.
Compensation or not, this longing will haunt me for a long time. In reality, I can no longer look to that picture of a perfect, intact family, for that is just not how my life has gone. I have to distill this longing to its essence, over and over again, find out what it means. I keep coming back to love.
I thought love looked a certain way, performed a certain way. I thought love was a dance of what you do, what you give, how well you mastered the steps, how well you followed the rules, how much you guessed what is expected, how well you avoided treading on landmines; being perfect and proper and giving till you drop. I could never keep a perfect house. But I could keep a perfect spirit, a compliant spirit, a sincerely-trying spirit, and that eventually became a severely broken spirit, a taken-for-granted spirit.
None of that bullshit is love. None of that obsequious housewife routine, I'll-take-care-of-everything routine, I'll-do-whatever-you-say ritual is love. It is a coping mechanism for not being heard or having no reciprocity or not being treated like a human being, but it is not love. It wants to be love so badly, wants to have love. Yet no one can make themselves perfect enough to gain their mate's love, nor should they. It was, for me, a way to distract myself from the obvious lack of love that was happening in my house. You can't heal that by performance, cooking, cleaning, or acquiescing. If no love is there in a person, then no love is there, and we who sincerely love can't do a damned thing about those who don't.
The perfection of love is what it is. You can't gild it with a clean house, and you can't fake it with a sharp mind. You can't put prescribed social elements in place and call it love. You can't enact a shallow charade and call it love. Love will not show up during a fit of pretense. Love is too real to fool with fakery.
Love simply IS, and will act with all empathy and humility and generosity and humanity and presence just to be with you.
This is yet another layer of healing and it's awesome. It means now I know, now I can bring myself to what is real. Unpretentious Love: I welcome you, I embrace you, I strip you away of preconceived notions. I am here, filled and hopeful.