I was 28 when I met you. I was in a hurry. I was so young and yet I felt as if I’d already had two separate lives and you were the beginning of the third. I survived an abusive and neglected childhood, sexual abuse, sexual violence, abandonment, relationship failures, unwed motherhood, homelessness, two different colleges and a deep and unyielding sense of aloneness mixed with hope for change. I felt responsible for the world. I felt responsible for fixing each and every mistake I ever witnessed in my parents’ relational patterns. I felt responsible for making sure that any and every person in my little girl’s life was as close to Jesus “perfect” as humanly possible. I was convinced that was the only way I could possibly break the generational curses in our family and offer my daughter something more. I was convinced I was right and petrified I’d fail.
You were quiet and sweet and unassuming. You were happy with who you were and you looked at me like I was a beautiful work of Gods hand. You let me lead while you gently tried to convince me I was safe with you. I loved you immediately. You scared me to death. You didn’t have any of the worldly achievements I thought anyone I was with HAD to have for us to be successful. The kindness and goodness you DID have made me believe that if I fixed you (yes I know) that we’d be fine. You just had to meet my ever rising expectations for who you were supposed to be.
With my love (I absolutely did love you) I l slowly but surely began re-making you to fit the image in my mind. The more I asked the more you gave. The more I cried the more you caved. The more I demanded the more you tied yourself in knots to suit me. I pushed you so hard that I backed you into a corner. I asked you to achieve goals that were not only unnecessary they were impossible. Rather than disappoint me you lied. You told me what I wanted to hear. You could have pushed back, hurt me and told the truth. You could have stood up for yourself and rightfully demanded that I either accept you as you were or let you walk away. You didn’t. You let me bully you. You responded to my demands with a sheepish apology first and then later lies and lies and more lies.
Once the lies were discovered I was utterly crushed. I also suddenly had an overwhelming sense of comfort with you. I told you how angry I was and then I begged you to take me to bed. I begged you to stay with me for two more weeks. You were crestfallen and confused If I was furious why did I want you to stay. If I was hurt and angry why did I want you more? All perfectly reasonable questions. particularly for someone who has spent life watching healthy loving relationships. I had no answers then.
I’m 42 and I have them now. I set us up for failure. I refused to accept you as you were and just see if we could make a life. I demanded that you become someone else while insisting that I was just encouraging you to do what was best. I didn’t let you determine your own path. You let me steamroll you. I realize I’m a formidable force when I use all the tools of dysfunction that I’ve gathered in my life. I had no real idea the damage I was doing. Yes, I was wounded by the lies. Yes, they broke my heart. They also were soul deep familiar to me. I knew how to react to THAT kind of relationship to THAT kind of behavior. For me, that’s the only love I’d ever seen. I knew how to play that part and now that you were playing the part of the lying bastard I knew how to play the part of the ever-loving, ever suffering martyr.
We went round and round for 12 years. Trying and failing, loving and crying, ending and beginning. Round and round and round until one day you cried, uncle. You said enough. You couldn’t do it anymore and you were gone. No discussion, no argument, no tears, no bargaining: gone. GONE. I was stunned. I never expected you to leave for good. I never expected you to protect yourself. I never expected to be someone you needed protection from.
I honestly didn’t know what happened to lead up to the abrupt exit. It took me a while and then one day I found the answer. It was NOT anything I ever expected. I found a book for adult children of narcissistic parents. I began reading it to try to find some recovery from what I went through as a child and quickly discovered that I had created the same suffering in the people I love the most. *I* had many narcissistic behaviors and habits. I was manipulative, judgmental, irrational and unrelentingly impossible to please. I had pushed you (and others) to the absolute limit. I pushed you out of my life so you could save your own. Talk about a kick in the gut. I couldn’t breathe. In my memory, every conversation, every fight, every breakup and makeup ran through my head with a magnifying glass squarely on my narcissistic behavior and your desperately confused response and attempt to please me. Immediately after it all ran through my mind I ran to the bathroom as it all flew up and out in a fit of vomiting. My stomach just could not handle what my head and heart were finally piecing together.
Since that day I have studied and worked to change my thought patterns and my behavior. I went to each of my most deeply loved relationships and owned my abusive behavior and asked forgiveness and how I could make it right. The only one left to make amends to was you. I reached for you and you weren’t there. I called to you and was answered with silence. I finally resorted to desperate tactics and begged you to answer me and thank God you did. I recounted the last few enlightening moths. I apologized for abuse I dished out. I asked how I could make it right. In true form. You graciously and sweetly accepted my apology, granted forgiveness and even praised me for having the courage to do the right thing. All the love I have for you immediately flooded every single cell in my body.
I told you how I felt. I asked how you felt. I discovered you had moved on. My abuse had wounded you to the point of closing your heart to any feelings other than a loving friendship with me. Again, all the air was sucked out of my lungs. Hot, guilty tears streamed down my cheeks as I steadied my voice so that my selfish hopes did not burden you further. I laughed with you and we talked off and on for a little less than an hour. As we ended our chat I asked for one more chance. Just one more. You asked me to give you a couple of weeks to see how you might feel. I’ve done that.
Now, after a month of silence and heart-wrenching waiting, I’ve hand sewn a quilt as an offering of love and hope. As I sit here it is somewhere in Chicago waiting for the next leg of the trip before it lands in Scotland on your doorstep. My heart is in that box. Wrapped in the folds of that blanket, prayers sewn with every stitch of thread. Love made manifest in patterns and fabric. The two weeks have come and gone and your silence remains. My offering, my heart, and my hopes for our future are somewhere in a warehouse in Chicago. Me? I’m (more patiently than I have in my lifetime thus far) waiting for word. I’m waiting for that box to reach your doorstep. I’m waiting for that offering to wrap you in the willingness to let hope win over fear. I’m praying with every cell in my body and soul that God’s will is us and that your heart will allow you to take one more leap of faith. I realize that the entire prospect of changing every single part of your life on the promise that another person will love, honor and keep you until death we do part is deeply frightening. I’m scared too. The only thought that scares me more is a future without you in it. So, I’ll wait. I’ll pray, I’ll stay busy and distracted as much as possible to make the time go faster. My heart will sit wrapped in that box in Chicago until the day that it reaches your hands. When it does, open it carefully, my heart is fragile. The only safe place it’s ever known is your hands.