I AM NOT SORRY FOR LOVING OUT LOUD.
It is said that to love another person is to see the face of God. It is also said that in loving another, we hold up a mirror to ourselves. What we love and want most in others motivates us to move closer. What we resent most in ourselves is what drives us apart from those we’ve grown closest to.
My closest relationships showed me the pain that can come from the vulnerability of wanting friendship and love. Those very same relationships gave me a window into the darkest parts of others, and then myself. Because of that, I will no longer apologize for loving with a heart that sees with optimistic eyes and a healing intention.
I was a very lonely child. Most of my childhood I remember feeling very isolated with few friends, and I wasn’t allowed to hang out or go over people's homes because my parents were very strict. My social identifiers were smarty-pants, bookworm, and teacher’s pet. I may not have had friends, but at least I had a place among my peers.
When my family moved to another town and me to a new school, the academic focus was very different than my old school. Every subject I excelled at previously was now mediocre and I even found myself in remedial classes for math. I was a nerd with no identity. Two months into my new school, two girls who had initially befriended me, shoved grass in my face and mouth, then later tried to set my waist length hair on fire during a candlelight ceremony for an older grade’s graduation.
That October was the first time I thought about ending my life. It is amazing what you believe about yourself when you feel that you are unwanted. I was only 12 years old and I wanted to die.
My adolescence proved to be scale of balancing. I so desperately wanted to be a good kid but why did being good make me this miserable?
I found myself being drawn to very loud, rather grating, and ballsy type “Mean Girls” clones of the Heathers. Three of them, in succession. They were broken, pseudo-alpha females. I say broken because each of these girls had a core of wounding that their brassiness tried to cover up.
What I initially saw in them was a devil-may-care attitude, an attitude I so desperately wanted to adopt, because I found myself so profoundly hurt by everything. But in reality, all of that attitude, the manipulations and, in many cases, flat out abuse, was what I really got the brunt of.
For instance, the first girl introduced me to the fine art of the narcissistic and manipulative teenage girl brain. She ridiculed me for every aspect of enthusiastic nerdiness I displayed. “Dipshit” was one of her nicer terms of endearment for me.
After her was a girl who, under the guise of hanging out in a group setting, dropped me off at the house of a random guy friend of hers, then promptly left saying, “I’ll be right back, I’m just going to pick up my boyfriend.” In the days before cell phones, she left me at the house of a perfect stranger. She never came back that night. Luckily, the guy didn’t turn out to be a creep and drove me home. The following day revealed that she had no intention of coming back for me, and later confessed that she hoped that her guy friend would have taken my frigid virginity.
The last girl had a wicked jealous streak and hair trigger temper. She stranded me and another friend at a pool hall on Route 23 at 2 am with two guys we just met. She was mad that they flirting with us and didn’t want to talk to her. So she drove off.
Outwardly, these girls displayed dynamic and ballsy personalities that I wish I had. Internally, each struggled with their own self loathing: one born with a facial deformation that surgery could not fix, the other whose virginity was stolen in her childhood, and the last, the only child of parents who emotionally neglected her.
In all of those friendships, I stayed for two reasons. The first, I didn’t believe I deserved better treatment, I was just happy I had friends. The other reason were their very wounds. I wanted to help them heal but an empty vessel cannot fill that which is resistant and eventually I had enough. Each of those instances above were my breaking points.
When I turned 20, I felt I learned my lessons and vowed to be the person I needed me to be. I didn’t want a repeat of any of those toxic relationships and started making quality friends, creating bonds with people from a place based in common ground and the love of the arts, and no longer from a place of fear. But at age 23, I still had much to learn.
Transference is a real phenomenon. After a number of romantic interludes gone awry, my broken-hearted self slid into a relationship with someone who, in his love, promised to “help me” and fix me. The first few years, he did just that. He helped nurse me through a nervous breakdown I had at 23, that left me with stress induced anorexia, which had less to do with weight as it did with trying to maintain some element of control.
Over the course of years, I grew stronger and no longer needed him to “fix me”. He feared for his for relevancy and the dynamic slowly shifted towards one that tapped into deep seeded insecurities and played upon my fears. That’s when the manipulations began. Little at first, then louder and more insidious as time went on. From regularly critiquing my body weight and my singing, making jokes of my entire ethnic background, minimizing the things I loved to do, or making me the butt of his jokes while giving others permission to do the same. He would then turn around and say I was too sensitive and that I needed to toughen up. Every time I objected or fought back ended with him threatening to kick me out or leave, manipulating my fears of abandonment and rejection and never accepting responsibility for his behavior. Nine years of the same cycle yielded no further growth.
I stayed with him as long as I did because there was love. Our inner children who felt so lonely, isolated, and neglected for so long finally had a partner. In our relationship, those children had playtime and some measure of comfort. Until one day, we had to grow up, but only one of us wanted to.
Bottom line, love doesn’t make you hurt. Love doesn’t tear you down. I know this now.
No longer do I apologize or side step that I am different, I feel differently and I feel what others feel long before they realize themselves. I do not apologize for loving with my whole being, at times cautious, but wholly and even in face of imminent ugliness because I see what lies beneath. Sometimes I play the Devil’s Advocate to my own detriment, but no longer do I ingest another’s emotional undigestibles. We play out in each other the very internal aspects that need most to grow. We play them out, but only we can grasp, own, and solve our internal puzzles.
I will always love optimistically.
I will always love idealistically.
I will always love others as I see them and know them as they really are.
And one day, I will learn to love myself as I love others.
I love out loud. For that, I will never apologize.
Lily Late Bloomer Aka Abby-Normal Aka The Nerdball Queen Aka The Freckled
Really known as,
Ariel N Gudry
About the photo:
In childhood, playgrounds are the first battle grounds where our true mettle is tested. We learn who we are within our peer group and first try our hand at fitting in. It is where we learn our true character.
To be an adult, to sit on the playground at Brookdale Park in Bloomfield, New Jersey and move with a stronger body and more knowledgeable spirit gives me the will to move in life with firmer footsteps. As a child, the playground was my place of solitary peace and group torment. Now, it is the site of my spirit’s victory. On the playground, I am free.