Looking For Self-Love In All The Wrong Places

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When I was a young single mother, I remember wearing too much rouge and lipstick, high heels and black pinafores. I let my breasts hang unobstructed almost reaching out for love and companionship like so many other young girls.

Even under a bed of twinkling stars, no lover could fill the emptiness in my gut. I was a tormented angry soul unsure of my potential or myself. I was drunk from pain, burnt like wood, and rendered a couch potato. I didn’t know I was suffering from depression. I just thought I was unlucky in love and life, easily locked into addictions of alcohol, drugs and obesity. As I look back that swollen festering woman was not who I wanted to be. So, I wrote a lot of poetry:

Looking For Self-Love In All The Wrong Places - marionetteThere were grim encounters of attracting and repelling men I wrongly thought would complete me. It surprised me like my pops, most came and went without much regard to my needs. When I held back sex a reasonable time, men grew impatient complaining, it took too long to turn me on. When I gave in one-night stands, they said I was too easy to turn on. Then, there were those who said, I was more trouble than I was worth – period. Those might have been the healthiest of them all.  Many left me with an ecstasy that left me golden toasty for years. Others left me somewhere in between crazy and almost crazy with an unsuitable itch while weeping from room to room.

One decorated my life. After I lost him, I stopped looking for a man to fulfill my needs. There were still times when I liked to be the center of attention with my quick wit, flirting eyes and sexy body. I wished I had spent less time looking at myself in that dance-floor mirror. No matter how good I looked, my appearance never defined who I really was or who I wanted to be someday. Nobody knew I was lonely and sad. I was always the actress with my mind engaged in noisy internal dialogues, self-defeating habits and abusive behaviors. Many men were my temporary fix, you know, like comfort food. I wonder if I was their comfort food, too. There is a faint melody still beating in my chest for that young woman who loved to dance in the spotlight, and pretend she was special.

I was dumped by my fair share of men. I heard dozens of explanations I think it was because I didn’t really understand we couldn’t manipulate or control love. Each time I gave myself sexually, I hoped it would buy me more time and more loving. When it didn’t, I prayed to God, what was I to do now? Offering him bribes late at night while drifting into a fitful sleep, I would pray, “Dear Lord, if you bring him back to me, I promise I will do anything!” When I complained to mom, she always warned me. “Forget their flattering words, choosing them we lose ourselves.”  My unrequited lovers still visit me in dreams. My daughters have taken over where I left off despite my constant nagging. They are chasing men to fulfill their dreams instead of looking within. To be honest, I still yearn to turn back the click and rediscover the joy of guiding old lovers to my secret places, reminding them, I need only what you can give me to feel loved once more. Longing still stirs my marrow come night fall no matter how old I get. (Do we all lie lonely?)

Because being loved by others was not always as satisfying as I hoped, each loss watered my disease of depression until I could no longer hide my dysfunction. My face and hands began to swell and my wobbly legs no longer let me dance. My memory came and went, as did my chronic pain. My depression didn’t permit self-love or good self-esteem.  It wanted me to ask for nothing and expect nothing. It made me deaf to the needs of others; loving it when I was sad, sick and bored. I had not yet learned the joy of self-love. I was in my forties, when I finally turned to the magical intensive healing of Art Therapy when I was too ill to do anything else as often happens with creative souls yearning to be set free.

I was in the midst of an emotional and mental crisis brought on once, again, by another breakdown from depression. “Why me?” I cried, feeling the full weight of self-pity. After a long hospital stay, and a period of medication and counseling for depression, the nurses once again introduced me to pencils and crayons. They told me I had the time even if I didn’t have the will to go on. Angrily, I obliged them by filling pages with doodles and scribbling, which came natural to me. They always ended up torn to threads piled on the floor. Everybody laughed at me. At first, this just made me angrier. After a while, I began laughing, too, at the absurdity of acting like a child at forty. As for my renderings, I didn’t have to worry if they were bad as bad can be. No one really cared. I found a safe place to hide and heal.

I began liking expressing myself so much in the arts that when I got out of the hospital, I decided to take some writing and art courses. I began a decade of art intensive therapy. It wasn’t easy. I still had the pain to deal with and there was little money and lots of bills. I worried my poems might break in pieces at any moment when I hadn’t paid my electric bill. One day I was caught up in sadness, and the next I was manically throwing myself into creativity. Because I am a perfectionist, I thought my work was never good enough until I read that Henri Matisse, the famous painter, once confessed he, too, felt bad he never painted like everybody else. When he was too ill to sit up and paint, he had a piece of coal tied to a long stick, to enable him to draw on a piece of paper attached to the ceiling over his hospital bed. I guess we’re never too young or too old, or too ill to have the desire to create. John Russell, the art critic, observed, “There is in art a clairvoyance for which we have not yet found a name, and still less an explanation.” I found there was nothing like replacing my depression while keeping busy doing something I loved. I was surprised to find a fresher, less tormented self, as well as a newfound confidence I could not have prophesied.

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