“…I don’t think I know me as well as I thought I did.”
-“I Don’t Think I Know Me” by Eddie From Ohio
For nearly twenty years, I’ve loved this song. But only in the past few has it become uncomfortably obvious that it’s all too true.
No, I didn’t plow into a buffet line. But there have been other things I’ve willfully just gone ahead and done that really…what the hell was I doing? There’ve been reasons. There always are. Love. Money. Attention. Affection. Security.
That first one…and that last one…
Man. It seems I’ve made many decisions based on those two things. Much of my writing and thinking recently have been examining how and why I’ve done what I’ve done for love. A Chorus Line‘s “What I Did For Love” sums it up nicely: Won’t regret, can’t forget what I did for love.
But there is another word up there that’s motivated me more sometimes. And led me down far darker paths.
It’s amazing what we’ll give up in when it comes to security, isn’t it? Just look at headlines and the current political climate in the US since 2001. It surely goes back further, but in my life, I witnessed a great shift in perspective post 9/11. People became obsessed with “security”. I put it in quotations because…well…it’s an illusion. I first came to this realization back in college, shortly after the attacks. Students were getting ugly, saying callous things like “we should just bomb those countries off the map” and defending against any dissent by retorting with, “if you don’t like it, get the hell outta my country.” The founding fathers would be so proud.
Rather, they’d be horrified of that type of intolerance. And of the liberties we’ve given up in the name of security. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
It seems he knew that “security” was very seductive and seldom worth what you gave up for it.
An illusion. A goddamned illusion. Some people sleep better at night knowing that their doors are locked, their kids are in their beds, and tomorrow, they’ll get up and go to work. Nothing really can prepare you for a heart attack. Or a teenager who gets it into his/her head that s/he’s bored and wants to take the family car without a driver’s license and winds up in a ditch. Or that some mad man might shoot up your place of work or your kid’s school. So we make laws designed to make people feel like someone else is protecting us. “Won’t someone please think of the children” is one of the most disgusting versions of this. Everything has to have soft corners, be nice and not upsetting. God forbid children get hurt, or have to deal with disappointment. Everyone’s a winner. Which means in many ways, we all lose.
All an illusion. I figured this out in college, some 12 years ago. How had I not understood how it applied to other types of security I was seeking?
I loved being married. I wanted it so badly. To feel the ring(s) on my finger(s). To know that I had someone(s) there who had my back, who loved me unconditionally, who wanted to raise a family together, who would be faithful and supportive, who would grow with me into old age. Security.
But the rings and the vows don’t guarantee that over time, people won’t fall out of love with you. I can’t make someone be faithful. Or love me the way I had so hoped they would. Or support me. Or raise a family. Or grow old with me. No one can -make- anyone else do that (not without shady influence, anyway, and really, who wants that? Well, not me, at least).
Sweet baby Jesus, how I wanted to believe I could change…anything…everything…myself. I could learn to like things that horrified me. I could turn a blind eye (sometimes even heart) to things that hurt me. I could ignore the intuition, the unease, the desperate longing for more, sometimes for anything. So often, I did. Too often. So much so that when it ended, there was honestly some relief.
However, when another opportunity for that security I so desperately wanted presented itself, I all-too-swiftly abandoned some of these dawning realizations, that relief and what it had meant. Focusing only on the good and willing the bad to go away again, I thought it would be enough. I thought -I- could be enough. Enough to cobble together a type of family that I never had. Security that I dreamed about, where I wouldn’t have to lie awake at night in a state of perpetual anxiety. I wouldn’t be plagued with the crippling fear of being left yet again, as I had been so many times. Someone(s) wholly excited on a regular basis to be with me. To be honest with me. To love me. To trust and who trusted me.
A friend recently said, “you need…better love.” It’s true. I do. But I have no idea how to look for it now. I’m no longer certain that I want to get married. What’s the point? It doesn’t, in and of itself, mean forever. It doesn’t mean faithfulness. It doesn’t mean honesty. Hell, it doesn’t even mean Iove. And it certainly doesn’t mean security.
Which means I’m back to the drawing board. Figuring things out from the ground up. Because clearly, I don’t think I know me as well as I thought I did.