I read what I had first written to the group, and said something like “I have no idea what remains.” One of them said “What is not yet discovered,” which was a huge help. I remembered and added: Eve and LeeAnn saying “I love you so much.” It wasn’t until I had written the revised version that I remembered Rose Marie saying “Oh I love you.” What remains? I know there are at least 5 people who love me.
I know something else, even more important. I know that I can love. My mother taught me that I didn’t love her if I wouldn’t do what she wanted. I never understood what she wanted, so I wasn’t able to carry it out. I didn’t realize this until I rewrote the notes I kept on my last visit to Cincinnati before my father died. I extrapolated from that inability to understand that I didn’t care about anyone or anything if I wouldn’t do what they wanted or needed. So I’ve felt most of my life that I wasn’t a loving person.
Some of the things that have helped me most are: my husband teaching me that it was possible to care and not do anything for the person. So I would eventually be able to recognize that I did love somebody, even though I wouldn’t do what they wanted. On the other hand, sometimes I did something to help another person who I loved, but it was either too much of a sacrifice for me — what comes to mind is when I disconnected the solar power system hoping to help my tenant who was sensitive to electromagnetic fields. It didn’t help her at all that I could see, and it ended up being a mistake because we lost our backup power if the electricity went off, and it has turned out to be impossible to get it hooked back up again. The other thing I have done is to allow other people to exploit me because I cared about them.
Another thing that helped was Elizabeth Goudge. In The Scent of Water, she has one of the characters say “Love is not some nice thing that you feel, but some hard thing that you do.” I rarely feel loving. If someone tells me about their pain, I can feel my heart open immediately, and I usually give them a hug. Since I have started working with Erica, I have begun to understand the toxic effect of my mother’s inability to be happy, despite my attempts to please her. And I have started to feel my loving toward many people. This is what remains: knowing that I can love, which turns out to be more important and more satisfying than whether people love me.