I’ve been going to a writing group about loss. I wrote this at the third meeting. But it was a clumsy scramble, and brought up contradictions that I didn’t have time to explore. I want to explore the whole process of dismantling a negative belief.
The prompt was “What is gone? And what remains?” and I wrote: “What is gone is the feeling of being loved. I only felt it once when Dana hugged me in the kitchen of my house in Brunswick. He flung his arms around me and said “I love you so much.” I felt like I had come into a warm room from a cold snowy long trek alone through a freezing desert.”
But there were a number of experiences that led up to my being able to feel loved. I used to think to myself “Nobody ever loved me and nobody ever will.” It was true that I never felt loved by my parents. But I didn’t know that. What I wanted was a boyfriend, and what I meant by “love” was that the boyfriend would love me. Unknown to myself I believed that if I had a boyfriend I would feel OK about myself, it would “prove that I deserve to live.”
It wasn’t until I was 30 that I said out loud in the presence of a friend: “Nobody ever loved me and nobody ever will.” At the time I meant “no man has ever loved me.” That was my very narrow belief about “love.” But my friend Trudy said “What about me? I love you!” I didn’t feel loved, it conflicted so totally with that old belief. But the scientist in me created a page “Evidence to disprove the hypothesis that Jenny is unlovable,” and began a list. 1. Trudy loves me. When I said the same thing in front of my friend Ron, he said “What about me? I love you.” So I added 2. Ron loves me. But I didn’t feel it. I added names of people I knew loved me. I recited them to myself on a regular basis. I stopped saying “Nobody ever loved me and nobody ever will.” It was after that, that I met Dana, married him, moved to Franconia. But gradually our lives went in different directions. When we finally divorced, I thought we would stay friends but he cut me right out of his life. That hurt more than the divorce. I began to realize that he was not the person I thought he was. Once the memory of that hug in the kitchen could reawaken the warm feeling, but that had finally disappeared.
Writing and thinking about it brought back the memory of my friend Rose Marie, another friend I met while I lived in Brunswick. She would often say “Oh I love you!” after I had done some stupid little Jenny thing, something small but that was very individual. It surprised me so much, and her tone of voice was one I had never heard before, it sounded like she was enjoying me being me. I think it somehow cut through all my negative stuff about being loved. It was my first inkling that I didn’t have to do something spectacular to be loved.
A number of years after the divorce, in the same year, two friends flung their arms around me and said “I love you so much.” I remember thinking at the time that it was the direct antidote to that loss of feeling so warm and welcomed.