Love Drug

Love is so hard. Being in love is hard. Loving is hard. There is only one thing worse than being in love and being loved, and that is not being in love and not being loved.

I have often joked that I fall in love too easily. I’ve joked that my criteria is simple; a pulse and male. I have a very romantic, very optimistic, very accepting and, based on some past experiences, a far too trusting and tolerant heart. I love being in love. I love being loved. As a result, I’ve made some poor choices along the way. I am also a very tenacious and committed person, so, in some of those poor choices, they’ve been long lasting poor choices.

As a result of finding myself in relationships, in love, with people who have lied to me and cheated on me and betrayed me and abused me and neglected me and, perhaps worst, taken me for granted, I’ve developed a lack of confidence in love, a general suspicion of my lover, and an overwhelming sense of foreboding doom in relationships. But, still, I fall in love like a boulder nudged from a cliff. Wham.

I am the first to acknowledge my own weaknesses, and, as a student of happiness, to explore the path to overcoming them. Every road should be a path towards further happiness, towards our personal bliss.

Being lied to, cheated on, betrayed, abused, neglected, and taken for granted are terrible, terrible experiences. But, I’ll argue, so is being in love and, for whatever reason, being insecure in that love, being suspicious, and having a sense of foreboding doom. In fact, all of that, I think is far worse than that which we are worried about.

If we are in love and someone lies, cheats, betrays, neglects, or takes us for granted, it is easy enough to recognize that and walk away. Run away. It is not worth staying and, no, things will not change. Remember, you cannot change anyone but yourself. Period. End of story. Run away. This I’ve learned to do. Eventually. We can sit on the bench on the sidelines for a moment, catch our breath, wait for the pain to subside just enough, and get back in the game. We can. If you don’t think you can, think again.

If we are in love, and all is really well, but we spend our time, our thoughts, our energy, in insecurity, in suspicion, with a sense of foreboding doom, everything is poisoned, whether in a perfect relationship, a really good relationship, or one we should be running away from. Life, in insecurity, of any sort, of any proportion, is hell, the worst kind of hell.

For some, love is blind; they are in relationships that are obviously riddled with lying, cheating, betrayal, et al, and they stay, seemingly blissfully. For me, love is hallucination, I see things, or think I see things, bad things, that don’t exist. Every comment, every text, every social media post has some secret, underlying meaning and it most certainly isn’t good. This is my mind left unchecked. Patterns have been set in the past and those habits are just that; habits.

Habits, good and bad, can be developed, and, likewise, can be overridden. The key here is to recognize that which should be overridden and replace it with that which should be developed. This can be done with a bit of thought, recognition, and discipline.

To replace insecurity, suspicion, and a sense of foreboding doom with calm, secure, confidence is no easy matter, but it can be done. Insecurity and suspicion, in love, as in many other things, is poison. Insecurity and suspicion are very powerful, very negative emotions. Negative emotions have power, very negative power. Negativity; I’m certain you’ve spent some time with very negative people and their negativity probably made that time feel uncomfortable, strained, and unnatural. Negative energy can be felt, almost tangibly, like a pair of rain soaked jeans; wet, cold, miserable, heavy, and constricting. Negative energy in love is doom, it becomes the catalyst for that which we most fear, the foreboding doom, the end of love, either with or without the rest of the nasty bits; lying, cheating, betrayal, abuse, and neglect.

What we need to know about love, above all else, is that it, like everything else in life, like life itself, is temporary. For the rare few, love lasts a lifetime, for some, a couple of dates, and for most of us, something in between. We can’t force love, it is either there or it isn’t. True, love changes over time, which some misinterpret as loss of love. It isn’t always going to be butterflies and uncontrollable lust, but it is still love. Love, true love, cannot be planned, it cannot be faked. That’s why “loving” for money, beauty, or status rarely is real, there are two hearts, there are two minds, and there are two souls, and unless they all are as compatible as the net worth, the plastic surgery, or the country club membership, it can’t be real.

So, when we find real love, poisoning it with our insecurities, with our suspicion, with the overwhelming feeling of foreboding doom, it is pure tragedy. Whether fleeting or enduring, real love is magical. Enjoy it. Bask in it. Savor it. Do everything you can to acknowledge it, to sustain it, to enjoy it, each and every moment. Remaining confident and secure in that love is the first and most important ingredient to lasting magic. Love will last for as long as it is meant to and love will only ever be present in the moment.

So, perhaps real, magical, love is more likely to endure if both parties are able to just live in the moment. The insecurity, the suspicion, the overwhelming sense of foreboding lives in one of two places; the past or the future. We are either projecting our past experiences onto our present situation, or we fear those negative experiences may occur at some point in the future. Am I right? Of course! Love can only be in the present, and unless those negative insecurities we worry about are also in the present, they aren’t real and they have no place in love.

When those negative feelings begin to arise, stop. Stop. Stop. Take a breath, hold it, exhale slowly and ask yourself; right now, this very moment, am I okay, are we okay, are any of those bad things happening right before my eyes, right now? Likely, no. Is there any irrefutable, tangible evidence that any of those bad things happened in the immediate past? Likely, no. If not, then let it go, let all the negativity go and just relax into the moment, with the person you loved twenty seconds ago before that negativity ripped the reins from your hands! Look at them, squeeze their hand, smile, and remember all those great reasons you’re so in love with them.

Being confident in love is the best love drug, no prescription, no copay required. Learning to feel secure in a good, healthy relationship is intoxicating. Being able to experience that love, with confidence, is divinity. Confidence; the number one love drug.

Powerful

Powerful! Look at the word – powerful. It is full of power. Are you? Empower yourself. Be full of power!

Don’t let anyone “make you” feel something.

My kids “make me” feel tired
My mom “makes me” feel guilty
My husband “makes me” frustrated
My boyfriend “makes me” happy
My life “makes me” sad

Whether a good feeling or a bad feeling, they are your feelings and no one else is actually capable of “making you” feel anything. You are completely in charge of your feelings and how the actions or words of others cause you to react. Realize that and half the battle is won. I’m never going to say it’s easy, I struggle with this issue constantly and have to consciously listen to how I talk to myself and correct my thoughts, and words, to reflect the truth. The truth is, for all of us, we, alone, have to power to choose to be tired, or not, to be guilty, or not, to be frustrated, or not, to be happy, or not, to be hurt, or not. Attributing someone else with the responsibility of inflicting those feelings onto us is depriving us of the power to take control and ownership of those feelings and change them. For the better.

It is human nature to react to the actions and words of those around us, to let those words and actions define our moods, our responses, our feelings. To make matters worse, the closer someone is to you, the more reactive you tend to be to their words or actions So much of our lives is impacted by our moods and our feelings, that by letting others “make” us feel or react as a result gives the other person complete power over us. We lose ourselves in not being in control of our feelings.

When we allow someone else to dictate our feelings by reacting to their words or actions, intentional or not, it is often said, “we let someone get our goat”. This is an old saying that I recently heard the explanation for. Whether urban legend, or not, the explanation I heard is as follows: racehorses, being very high strung and excitable, often have companion animals to keep them calm. This is particularly beneficial before a big race. Often, a suitable companion animal for a horse is a goat. Before a race, some less than savory racehorse owners would steal their closest competitor’s horse’s goat, hoping the horse would be so out of sorts at the loss of his or her companion, they would be unable to perform well in the race. That being the story, don’t ever let anyone get your goat. Whether intentional, or not, if the words or actions of someone close to you has you reacting, stop. You are in charge of your reactions and of your feelings. Take control. Do something positive, whether in your head, or physically, and maintain control over your feelings.

To do this, we really have to pay attention to the conversation that goes on in our heads. This is extremely beneficial in many areas we may be seeking to evolve in. But if you want a more cheerful, sunny, happy outlook on life, take control of your feelings and of your reactions. Listen to your internal conversation and correct yourself when you hear “so and so makes me feel so …” This will take significant practice, the sooner you begin, the better. Be diligent. As soon as you begin to gain mastery of this, you’ll find your general outlook and attitude are vastly improved.

Shit gets serious, though. The control we allow people to exert over us goes way beyond just the feelings and reactions we have to their words and behavior. This goes beyond feeling grumpy because your significant other left the toilet seat up. In a lot of relationships, especially family relationships; parents, children, siblings, spouses, one party exerts power over the other willfully and knowingly by prompting a predictable, desired reaction. Manipulation. In other extremes, one party exerts their control over the other party through deliberate and malicious acts of violence, abuse, whether verbal or physical, and neglect. Humans are far more savage than we give them credit for. Out of fear of greater harm, out of fear of abandonment or loneliness, or for lack of knowing what else to do, we often allow this to continue until we become unrecognizable as our former selves. Or worse. But, we need to know, we have the ability, at any point in time, always, and without question, to regain control. We are powerful. All of us. And equally.

I have a friend I’ve known since high school, so, for over three decades. She was beautiful, vibrant, popular, and usually the life of the party. She had a joie de vie I always admired. She was daring and wicked and fun. She was a couple of years older than me and I always looked up to her as someone I’d like to be more like, though my tendency was to be a bit quieter, I was, at that point in my life, never really the life of the party. I was at the party, no doubt, but never the life of the party. She had a string of men after high school, but one, in particular, she seemed to always come back to. He was loud, phony, but somehow destined for fairly good things. They eventually married and started a family. From the outside, they seemed a magazine cover sort of family; incredibly good-looking and quite successful. She was progressing well in her own career even without having gone to college. His career was solid and he made good money. As the years passed, though, she changed. Her self-confidence deteriorated. Her health was deteriorating. Her vibrancy and joie de vie were completely gone. He was abusive. He never laid a hand on her, his weapon of choice were words. He told her, daily, that she was ugly, that she was stupid, that she was worthless. Years of this and she believed every word. She couldn’t hold a job, and though she still had school-aged children, she turned to drinking. First it was just in the evenings after the children were tucked in. Then she began to sneak drinks earlier in the day. Before long she was drinking straight vodka beginning in the morning, just after dropping the kids off at school. Her alcoholism progressed to the point where she was hospitalized, near death. She recovered, thankfully, and her doctors told her that her liver was so damaged that a single drink could kill her. By this point in time, she was separated from her husband and battling for custody of her children. She was still lost, though, as an individual, and she did drink again. She was admitted to a rehabilitation program and made a long, grueling recovery, only to drink again. She is still alive, and is now sober, but only because of the incredible support her family is providing her. She is now divorced and her children are in the custody of other family members. Every day is a battle to regain her health, her strength, her self-respect, and her integrity. Her friends and family always fear she will relapse. She struggles to find the most basic of employment, and then to keep it. She still has many ongoing, chronic and incurable health issues. All because of the words of someone who vowed to love, honor and cherish her. Hateful, mean and untrue words. Sadly, and very hard to say, it is all her fault. She had no reason to believe those words, to let them destroy her, except that no one has ever taught us that we are in complete control of our own feelings, our own reactions, that we actually have all the power we need to prevent someone from hurting us and destroying our lives. Until now. I’m telling you, if no one else has, you are in control of your own feelings and your own reactions. Be strong, brandish your power. You have the power. You are your own superhero! Save yourself!

I have another friend, from college. And, thankfully, this is a far less tragic story. But, still, tragic, in an unsettling way. We were extremely close for a period of time. Again, she was fun and outgoing. I’m, to this day, not really sure if she was my sidekick, or if I was hers. It may have depended on the party, but we were at them all. I actually think I corrupted her and, despite what she’d lead you to believe, she was never quite as deviant as I. We parted ways at some point late in college, just weird personality differences girls have as we mature. Years later, though, we reconnected through an online high school forum. My mom had kept me filled in with her marriage and other newsworthy items in the newspaper, as had mutual friends. Not so very long ago, a few years now, I had the opportunity to work near where she was living at the time. We agreed to meet. After work, I made my way to her house for dinner. She always planned to marry for money, and had managed to follow through with her plan. In spite of her college education, she did not work, except for charitable causes, which I respect. And don’t. But that’s my issue. She, well I guess, technically, her husband, had a nice home in a very nice area. When I arrived, I was given the tour and she and I visited, joking and laughing and carrying on, just like old times. It was wonderful. The doorknob turned and the front door opened, there stood the husband; a tall distinguished, sneering, sort of aloof, arrogant man. I am incapable of hiding any thoughts, so I’m sure I had a raised eyebrow and a look of disgust on my face, but we were introduced and I made nice. We had stimulating conversation throughout hors d’oeuvers, once he found out I worked in a professional field. She said barely a word, “more peas?”, was about the extent of it. It was as if she’d been exorcised the moment that doorknob turned. After dinner, she and I were allowed to leave together, without an escort, for dessert, and she returned to her “normal” self, save for a moment of stress over the ten dollars dessert was going to cost. I offered to pay, to avoid any issue at home, but she refused.

A few months later, we met again. We were, by coincidence, going to be attending the same sports event. As soon as we met, we fell into familiar banter, antics and conversation. We were talking and laughing and considering plans for after the event. Then it happened. Her phone went off, she quickly answered, and her face went robotic. When she got off the phone she said “he” wanted to go to, and she name-dropped some very famous and expensive restaurant, for lunch. She turned and walked away without even looking back. My friend was a slave. She sold herself for status and a country club membership. Not much more than a bearer of children, children who would be properly educated at the best schools money could buy, coached in the appropriate sports, and even their college admissions essays would be the product of high priced, consultative services. She kept house, or hired the proper housekeepers, and she kept appearances. She paid to learn to cook and had dinner on the table the second the doorknob turned. The exorcism was complete. And tragic. To be exorcised of your very self, your soul, your being, your freedom, independence, autonomy, is a fate nearly as bad as verbal abuse. This, I am quite certain, is an incomplete story, there will be a manifestation, not to be a witch foretelling of evil, but I am fairly certain that something unsavory will manifest on one side of that relationship, or the other. And happiness and joy and self-fulfillment will not be the manifestation of which I speak.

I have told the story of my friend that suffered physical abuse at the hands of her husband. I have also told of her eventual and brave escape from that marriage. That she saw her power, reclaimed her power and wielded her power. She fled, leaving everything but her children behind. They lived in shelters for abused women for a time, until something better could be provided through assistance she researched, through assistance and support from her family and from her friends. She made it out alive, with her self-respect and her kids. She found her way to self-sufficiency, to independence, to success. Her abuser rots one imprisonment after another. And though this story, at first, seems a happy ending, it does not yet end. She now battles for her life from another abuser, cancer. And though she is certain, as am I, as are all of her supporters, that she will again prevail, because she is powerful, this does mark a setback. I can’t help but believe, cancer as mysterious as it is to us all, still, that years of abuse, of denying her own power over her own life, of relinquishing that power to a coward of a man, could possibly have had some contribution to her eventual weakness to disease. It is believed by many smarter than I, that a life of stress is a major contributor to an increased risk of cancer. Is not suffering, physically, painfully, at the hands of someone who vowed to love, honor and cherish you, stress? Is not thinking you are powerless against not only the attacks, but also the attacker, stress? Isn’t attempting to contribute to the household income and raising the children in as normal an environment, though actually a warzone, stress? She found the power once, she is finding the power again. An aggressive and seemingly unstoppable cancer has, at this point, halted in its tracks. She has the power. She always had the power. So do you. Use it now. Whether your attacker is a person you are committed to, or a disease that eats you alive, find your power, wield it, and regain your self.

My story is vanilla ice cream and rainbows by comparison, but I do have a story. Mine is a story neglect, abandonment, really, and worse of all, of loss of self. Eventually, a story of finding power. A story of regaining power, and then self. Mine is a story that does not present itself well in this article, in detail, the details I will save for a better time. But I am currently trying to put to a fair and legal death a long, miserable and terribly lonely marriage. It is possible to be abandoned by someone who is still physically present, and it is no less painful, it is perhaps even more painful and cruel, than someone who actually, physically leaves. My marriage was to a man of addictions; before we met, the typical addictions of foolish and misguided youth, then as an adult, and in my presence, food, television, the internet. Benign though they may sound, they are as self-destructive, if not more so, than any other addiction. A relationship that began with hope and promise and the poison of expectations, it was loveless almost from the start. Oh, the words were spoken, ad nauseum, but words are empty when actions don’t follow. After years of cohabitation, marriage was agreed upon like an informal business dealing. There was no proposal, to speak of, more of a summit meeting around a wobbly, oversized and hideously ugly dining table. And me a hopeless romantic, a believer in one true love, in enduring passion and joy. The wedding night was one of me pleading for consummation from an unwilling, unenthusiastic, and un-enamored groom, and this set the tone for the next twenty some years. We were not lovers, nor husband and wife, as much we were really just “business partners” of a sense, and, eventually, sort of a real estate investment trust. For as long as we both could argue our stake in the business end of the bargain, and the real estate continued to stair step up to the ultimate conquest, a forty-acre ranch home, I managed to endure the unimaginable loneliness, the loss of self, of self-respect, and self-esteem. I was second to whatever fifty channels of cable television had to offer, to news talk radio, and to the Drudge Report on the Internet, then to an ill-fated, impotent and flaccid “day-trading” scheme that he could never actually consummate. Again. And still. I compromised my career, working only part time, in order to raise our children, acting as both mother and father for most of their youth. I was the only female Boy Scout leader in a Catholic troop, for Christ’s sake! He was a reluctant participant in their upbringing and employed yelling, criticism and hurtful name-calling as strategies to exert his dominance, to demand respect, as “father and husband”. Respect, always, is earned, not assumed, and never required. Mostly, he sat in his chair, eyes glued to one screen or another, yelling obscenities or cruel names at us if we dared demand his attention for a moment. When the economic crisis unfolded, and truths were withheld that resulted in the eventual loss of everything we owned, I bowed out. I found the power to bow out. And the moment I set myself free, finally, I found myself, a strong, independent, self-sufficient, driven and powerful woman. The power had been there, growing, all the while. In earning my half of everything we’d built, and lost. In raising the kids as both mother and father, in fulfilling their promise of college with not a dime to my name and no assets to leverage, in enduring the slander and outlandish accusations of a man who cannot understand being left, not because of another man, but because he is not worthy of my love. I found within myself a power so indescribably pure, so indescribably potent, that I know, without a doubt in my mind, I can do anything. I have overcome my challenges; I have rebuilt my life and have since found that one, true, pure and enduring love, passion and joy. The power continues to build and I want to use it to help those, who feel powerless, to become powerful. To find their own power from within. To evolve.

I am not alone in the possession of this super-power. It lives within all of us. Sadly, in the trial that life can be, we let it sink deep within us, and it is often near extinguishment, buried in our bowels. Let whatever trials or triumphs life affords you, ignite that power. Nurture that power and let it possess you, do not let anyone exorcise it from you, it is yours, alone. Use it to find your voice, to find your destiny, to find your peace and solace in this challenging world. Your power will help you evolve into the whole and deserving person you are, capable of anything you desire. You are all power-ful. Take it, it’s yours.