“Well it’s all right, even when push comes to shove
Well it’s all right, if you got someone to love”
End of the Line (Traveling Wilburys)
Our lives are riddled with maxims, adages, and sayings. One I heard often after divorce: “You can’t love others if you don’t love yourself.” For an impatient person who knew all too well that ‘life is short” this type of thinking didn’t really work. I did find that the new alone time (when the kids went to their dads) as necessary time to explore thoughts and feelings. However, after divorcing a narcissist the one thing I craved was feeling connected and cared for.
A few years back, I stumbled upon a blog that finally substantiated my beliefs about love. Entitled “You CAN Love Someone Else, Even If You Don’t Love Yourself” Scott Stabile makes the argument that “It’s a lot harder to love and forgive and accept ourselves than it is to do with others, especially those we care about the most.” And then it hit me: My divorce didn’t change me: I had always been hard on myself and I always did a hell of a lot better job of caring for and protecting others.
Further, I was always suspect of how most people equate having self-love with being whole, being nearly perfect. The fact of the matter is that I love all of me-the good and the bad and that is exactly what I want from my partner.
Finally, I was comforted by Stabile’s statement on moving on: “If you’re feeling ready to love someone, then love someone. You don’t need fixing first. If that person loves you back, beautiful. If not, then you’ll have to move on until you’re inspired to love another someone.” This is exactly what I have been doing for the last six years, but just recently I discovered exactly what Stabile meant by his claim: “There’s something to be said for the growth that comes from engaging in loving relationships—with friends, family, lovers, whomever. This is where we practice love and forgiveness and acceptance. This is where we do a lot of the work. And it’s in others we can see where we have more work to do, and where we’re kicking some serious spiritual ass.”
Real estate professionals routinely advise: “location, location, location.”
Although I was never a fan of a long distance relationship, I never expected finding love only two doors down. The beginning was awkward, painful, l lacked physical attraction. At 5’7 with skinny legs and arms, I was sorely disappointed: my type was someone over 6 ft. with plenty of muscle.
Secondly, money was an issue. I had dated several men who made less money than I did; this never bothered me, but it eventually did bother them. Unemployed with an appetite for shopping and Chinese meant tension later in a potential relationship. Politically we couldn’t be more different: I am a liberal and my love…well appeared to be a Republican by name, despite admittedly benefitting from social programs, loving and supporting all people no matter race, sexual orientation, and class, and gender equity.
I no longer see myself through the eyes of my ex or anyone who doesn’t see what I have to offer. I see myself through Pam and know whatever time we get, I can say: “Louise, no matter what happens, I’m glad I came with you.”
Still, I found a Trump Make America Great Again sign in the garage.
Finally, the claims of being a lover of music and sports seemed false: (the grand piano in the front room had a thick layer of dust and the basketball court in the backyard was left quiet and dark all summer.)
The one area we seemed to be quite similar in was parenting. I decided long ago that dating other single parents made sense to me. Being a single parent is tough and I longed to have a partner to share the joys and burdens with.
But most of all: I love children and believe “it takes a village to raise a child. It became VERY clear that my neighbor shared my sentiment. Troy-my neighbor’s youngest- spent more time at my house than his own. Although my sons enjoyed their new friend, I worried what kind of parent he must have. And after a few quick meetings at my doorstep claiming tardiness to an appointment, I sensed that there was something more going on.
What started as parents bonding over stories of failures and mishaps became something much more.
I learned that this was not a case of “I’m too busy being an executive” but rather a case of “I’m getting chemo once a week.”
And then it was all over: I couldn’t wait to spend more time with this person. I learned how my neighbor suffered through an abusive awful first marriage left to raise a little baby girl alone; I learned how my neighbor lost a brother to brain cancer; I learned that my neighbor had a daughter who stole, did drugs, turned to prostitution and finally gave birth to a child that my neighbor would promptly adopt once the baby was taken by DCFS.
My person, despite beating cancer kept it interesting; a heart attack came next while we both were enjoying a long weekend in Chicago. I raced to the hospital angry and fearful: asking myself: “couldn’t we just have one relaxing weekend?” No, we could not: because this broken heart meant my broken heart.
I didn’t meet my romantic love last year, but I sure as hell met someone I will love all of my life.
I met my best friend, and she has cancer again. I don’t know what to do with my anger. This was going to be our year. And this isn’t your run of the mill cancer; no, she has mesothelioma. I spent the last two weeks doing research, crying, and then doing more research. I found doctors, lawyers, and websites, but not one of these findings gave me anything but sleepless nights and meaningless days.
I thought I was devastated when my parents died when my ex left, but this diagnosis most likely surpasses those events. The thing is that Pam, unlike the men I have known, knows me and I can’t do without her. She knows I try to have a tough demeanor, but that underneath I am a real softy. She knows I care so much for others that I fail to take care of myself. She knows my fears and worries about being a good mom. She knows the depth of my empathy and does her best to make ME feel better and by no small miracle: she always did.
A year prior we affectionately named our breasts: Thelma and Louise. Despite all of our differences, we both share an intimate knowledge of what it is REALLY like to be well endowed on top with little to nothing on bottom. From ill-fitting shirts to horribly placed buttons, fashion is always tougher for us. Second comes the unwanted attention in the workplace and out: people notice big boobs.
Finally, they get in the way: active, athletic, and adventurous women like us have little to no time to put up with the backaches and the bullshit. But what I failed to notice is that we ARE the 21st-century version: She’s my Louise and I am her Thelma.
Pam has become one of my most awesome champions and also one of my trusted mentors.
Despite all of our differences, we share our desire to tell the truth. Our friendship is based on the type of truth few women share openly with one another. Like what it’s like to be a woman who is an educated professional, but whose career has to come second to being a full time single mom; a woman who married a violent, cheating man and knew the shame that came when we considered staying; a woman who had to watch her child be neglected time and time again by a man who would never be a father; a woman who tried to overcome the painful silence of an empty house worrying what bar or woman her child would be spending the evening with; a woman who has known death too intimately and a woman who has faced illness and despair time and time again; a woman who sees her life as one heartache after another that she often asks her best friend: “You’re not gonna give up on me, are ya?” (Thelma to Louise).
I learned a decade too late how often people fall for a con, a fraud. I was naïve. I didn’t understand the manipulation that goes into all too many of our marriages. And until I met Pam, I thought I was a fool who deserved to struggle for marrying an asshole. But after hours upon hours of sharing stories, l realized that my story wasn’t unique. I was one of the many who didn’t know my worth and so after a few years of Pam therapy, I realize that what Louise says to Thelma; “You get what you settle for” is exactly what she was telling me.
Women (and men) often get taken advantage of especially if they are an “emotional caretaker’.
This term coined by Psychology Today describes those who are kind, generous, reliable people. These caring souls are also those who would rather feel hurt, angry, or depressed than allow the person they care for to have those feelings.
According to Margalis Fjelstad Ph.D., LMFT highly self-oriented and selfish individuals seek out these caretakers. Why? It’s simple: a caretaker personality is enticing to an emotional manipulator because they are willing to give and give some more. And in the beginning the relationship appears complete—there is one person who loves to give and one person who loves to receive. This arrangement means the caretaker feels worthy and necessary and they soon form a bond. Unfortunately, the only bond the receiver has is with getting their own way. While the caretaker secretly hopes things will balance out, in the long run, they never do.
We readily recognize that most of us are inherently different, so it only makes sense that people’s values and beliefs about giving and caring would be different. Once we recognize that no matter what we do, our partner will not become like us, we can also end their reign of holding us emotionally hostage. What the manipulator knows is that our skill set is for caring; it is not for combat. We don’t set boundaries, stand up for ourselves, or fight for resolution. And so until there is a refusal to be at the mercy of a partner whose goal is to get what they want, no matter who it hurts, we will continue to lose our self-worth, and gain hopelessness.
Pam says she wants me married before she croaks. I tell her good because that gives her a good 40 more years. She tells me to start looking in the obituaries for a good widower. I remind her she cancelled her newspaper subscription that I stole every morning to read. Our laughter not only sustains us, but we thrive.
We plot out road trips to Meso specialists around the country and dream up schemes of me meeting a doctor who saves her life and mine.
We talk and shop and eat good food and laugh until we cry, and then I cry because I don’t want this to end. And then I cry more because I know just what Thelma feels, “I don’t remember ever feeling this awake. You know what I mean? Everything looks different.”
Pam tells me to stop crying; she tells me crying makes us ugly. I claim that it isn’t the crying but the not sleeping, making me so ugly. She scolds me for both, reminding me that my task is to find true love before she dies. I remind her I ended up with my ex when I thought I found true love. And with serious eyes and a hand on my arm she says: “There’s one thing you oughta understand by now, Thelma, it’s not your fault.”
I do believe my best friend will be ok. I don’t know how, but I have absolutely decided that she will do what few to none have done and beat this disease. I also absolutely believe in myself. I no longer see myself through the eyes of my ex or anyone who doesn’t see what I have to offer. I see myself through Pam and know whatever time we get, I can say: “Louise, no matter what happens, I’m glad I came with you.”
“End of the Line” by the Traveling Wilburys
Well it’s all right, even when push comes to shove
Well it’s all right, if you got someone to love