Ain't that enough?
I turned your dreams into lightning
Ain't that enough?
I held the world back for you
Ain't that enough?
I loved you past the point of dyin'
Ain't that enough
--- Melissa Etheridge
No one who loves you will ever require that you annihilate yourself to prove your love.
I need you to repeat that to yourself until you believe it.
We live in a culture that feeds us narratives, from the time we are small, that equate love with self-sacrifice. If we truly love someone, if we truly love some, there is nothing we won't give them. Nothing we won't do for them. Nothing we won't give up for them. We learn pratically from the cradle that love is on some level about pain, that real love, passionate love, is filled with equal parts agony and ecstasy. That part of loving is fighting with and for the person that has our heart. That we endure bad times, no matter how bad, because the good times are so good. That part of romantic love, if it be truly love, is drama and suffering and sleepless nights.
This is all a lie, and it's a set up.
Because it convinces us -- and especially women and femmes, though no one is immune -- that we don't have the right to put the brakes on, to say NO, to set a boundary. Because who would object to what are clearly the signs of deep, passionate love? Who in their right mind would relinquish passion for safety, would give up our chance at a fairytale ending just because things get a little scary?
And then by the time we think we might, just might, have the right to say NO, things have gotten so scary that we're scared to say NO. We're too scared of what might happen, of what people might say, of how we will survive. And so we don't say NO, even if we also stop saying YES.
And it is in this way that we start losing pieces of ourselves, little by little. We become smaller. And the smaller we become, the smaller we are expected to make ourselves. If you loved me you would. We internalize it. If we really loved him, we would. We would fold up all the dreams we have that don't fit with his vision of what a wife should be, put them in lavender, try not think about them. We would hold our tongues and keep our opinions behind our teeth, if we feared for a moment they might upset him. We would stay silent or, even better, smile and laugh when he makes a joke at our expense, all the time shrinking deeper and deeper inside ourselves, determined to take up as little space as possible. We would learn to accept that what we are being given, what we are being told is love, is the best we will ever get. We would be grateful for the attention, for the security. We would be grateful that it isn't worse.
The thing about it is that it's so fucking insidious. We are not stupid. We've taken the classes, read the articles on dating violence in Cosmo, watched the Oprah episodes. We know the red flags. But that's not how real life works most of the time. No. Rather, we find ourselves chipped away, little by little, piece by piece. We give ourselves away, and we convince ourselves are doing it for love. We convince ourselves that if we were just enough, if we were just enough
-- enough of what, we never seem to say -- that we'll get our fairytale ending, our fade out kiss, our happily ever after.
Here's the secret: We'll never be enough. Not because we are inherently lacking or intrisincally flawed. But because no one is enough, can be enough, to fill up the gaping hole in a man like that.
It's the same old trolley problem. You remember the one from philosophy class, right? Only in this case, the crowd of folks unknowingly awaiting death on the first track? That's everything you think you know. It's him. It's the life you've built together. It's everything he told you you should be, if only you loved him. It's everything you've convinced yourself you should be. And the person strapped to the side track is you.
You can either have your illusions, or you can have yourself.
But you can't have both.
The cost of having his approval, of having the illusion?
It's allowing that speeding trolley to run you over, to destroy you.
And to save yourself? You have to let that illusion crash and burn. You have to be willing to let it all die in a fireball. You have to be willing to love yourself enough to let the you you thought you were supposed to be die.
You have to be willing to let your ideas about what love is, what they told you love is, become ash on the wind.
You will be convinced, as you let that trolley speed right through the center of the life you built, that you will die. You will want to die.
But you will not die.
You will get up off the track, miraculously freed.
Because all that, burning and smoking down the track?
That wasn't love.
Because love doesn't require you to submit to your own destruction.
Because love doesn't ask you to make yourself less than you are just to ensure someone else's comfort.
Because love doesn't require you to set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm.
I know you don't believe me right now.
But you will. When you need to, you will.