The Sweetest Love of All
As Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe lay dying in his final days, he said, "“No one has ever properly understood me, I have never fully understood anyone; and no one understands anyone else.”
This was a man with many friends, loved ones, colleagues. His life appears rich and full. Goethe is considered one of the greatest literary figures to emerge from Germany in the past few hundred years. If such a complex, profound man could not understand those around him, can any of us really hope to be truly understood?
I found myself thinking about love this week and how important it is. Even if we cannot be truly understood, at least we can love. We can form bonds. We can feel less alone. Love brings with it a comforting sweetness. Love adds value to your life.
As the child of a narcissist, I've spent a lifetime building walls between me and the rest of the world. I knew that if you shared a moment of vulnerability or weakness that inevitably it would be used against you. I learned to live without access to love or support. I learned to protect myself from others at all times.
I moved halfway across the country to escape my narcissistic father. I married and discovered the overpowering love that one can feel for a child. I learned to reconsider my attitude toward love and loving.
Love made me vulnerable, but holding that delicate, fragile little girl in my arms opened up a world of feeling to me that I never dared to dream existed.
Slowly I began a personal transformation, learning how nourishing love can be. Balance is everything: spiritual, emotional and physical. Neglect one part of the whole and everything falls apart.
A life without love or connections is mere existence, plodding slowly toward the grave without passion; without joy.
My father seemed convinced that he was going to live to be 150 years old. His only passion for the last few years of his life was physical excellence. He took large numbers of dietary supplements (many times the recommended dosages). He spent the last year exercising for hours every day. He was muscled. He was lean. He may well have been in the best physical shape of his life, but cancer didn't care how many push ups he could do or how defined his abs were.
I've spent so much of my adult life staying as far from my father as I could. I realized that I didn't need that toxicity in my life yet news of his stage 4 cancer diagnosis left me reeling.
I've mourned the father-daughter relationship that I never had. I mourned the richness my life lacked for so long because of the traumas of my childhood. I am recovering but I am not recovered. I am learning to find balance in the elements in my life.
Since my father passed, I've been struggling. How do you mourn someone that never loved you; that broke the fundamental beginnings of your childhood? How do you grieve someone that rendered you emotionally numb for decades? How do you find closure for that emotional wound?
I look at the legacy he's left; the emotional fall out that so many of us are struggling with. I would love to be able to close this door on that chapter of my life, but it's never going to be that easy.
I've begun slowly opening my heart to the difficulties he must have faced. Is pity better than pain? How alone did he feel when he was dying? Did he regret the lack of emotional connections? Did he realize the truth of his life? How out of balance the whole of it was? Could he see that he'd put his time and energy into the wrong things?
I'm still processing. It might take decades for me to really make peace with the man that he was, but it did highlight for me the importance of balance in my own life.
Taking care of my physical form? Yes. Spending time on my spiritual path? Absolutely, but I can't neglect the emotional part of myself either.
I have four children who taught me that love was possible; who showed me how deep and rich emotional connections can be.
I've found a partner that supports and nurtures me. I've discovered the joy and richness that emotional connections bring to our lives.
Love and be loved. Let down the walls. Be vulnerable. Learn to feel and find the joy in those feelings. I love you and believe in you. We really are stronger and better together.