When I look into a mirror, I sometimes wonder who’s staring back at me. I especially feel that way tonight.
This is what I look like tonight. I just got home. I’m exhausted. I’m sure I look tired. After I fed Lucy and the cats, I put my iPhone in front of my face to snap this photo. I wanted to see if I look as tired as I feel. And I think I do.
At first, I couldn’t figure out why I’m feeling so negative. Being tired isn’t anything unusual, but this feels different. I feel more like someone who’s been stuck at an airport for years waiting to catch a flight — and I’m always disappointed that it hasn’t arrived.
I started thinking about what a friend told me today. He just found out that he has to have some major surgery in a couple of weeks. If he doesn’t fix the serious problem doctors have found, he would very likely die within a few years. Plenty of people have surgery — and face life-threatening problems — every day. But my friend is the same age I am. Maybe that’s why this feels different.
It’s not that I feel old. I just feel stuck. I’m waiting and waiting for my life to begin. But I’ve lost my way. I’ve never felt so alone. And there’s a part of me which fears this will never change.
I understand enough psychology to come up with explanations for the way I feel. And I’m also realistic enough to understand that nobody else actually cares what someone else goes through.
The only reason someone cares what’s going on in another person’s life is if he or she loves that person or if there is something genuinely entertaining about the person’s life. I fall into that horrible middle ground — without anyone who really loves me but not able to provide the world enough of a freak show to make my malaise into popular entertainment.
And that leaves me wondering — not for the first time — exactly how I got here.
I’ve had women who’ve wanted to love me and be my partner, but I never seemed to be available when they were. I’ve pushed women away — several times — some of which I’ve later regretted. So it’s a bit silly to wonder why I’m alone.
Psychologists have told me that I’ve been so terrified that I would be abandoned that I’ve actually created abandonment for myself. I’ve pushed women away — women who actually wanted me — so I could “prove” to myself that I’m going to be abandoned. Or that’s what the experts say.
Yes, I know that my mother abandoned me. The adult side of me understands why she left — the abuse she couldn’t handle — but the wounded child in me still rages and cries, wondering why I wasn’t good enough. And even though my narcissistic father was always there — sometimes even in positive ways — there was always the feeling that I could never quite be good enough to earn his full approval.
Everything I’ve done as an adult to create the situation in which I find myself is something which I have voluntarily done. I can’t claim that someone else forced me to make the decisions I’ve made. But I started my life in psychological darkness and confusion — and it took me so long to dig out of that confusion that much of life had already passed me by.
The people I’ve wanted and needed seem to have passed me by, too. Sometimes, it’s been my fault. Other times, I’ve probably chosen women who had their own dysfunctions. What better way is there to prove that someone will abandon me than to love and desperately need someone who isn’t ever going to be able to love me? Isn’t that the crazy way our childhood programing works?
Do you remember a childhood book called “Are You My Mother?” It’s about a little bird who’s just been hatched, but his mother isn’t around. She’s out searching for food or something like that, not thinking it’s time for the bird to come out of his shell.
Most of the book is about this little bird desperately going around to a kitten, a hen, a dog and a cow — asking all of them whether one of them is his mother. He even thinks a huge steam shovel might be his mother toward the end. That part made a huge impression on me as a child. At the end, he finds his way back to his nest — and to his mother — where he gets to tell his loving mother all about his adventures.
I’m like that little bird in some respects. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I spent my early life wandering around the world and looking for the love and nurture that I should have received as a child. Children all around me who had received proper early love and development went on to the next stages of their lives, developing loves and lives that were sometimes healthy and sometimes disastrous.
I never found my way back to any semblance of a nest — or to the love and nurture that I needed. I’m long past the stage that I have any thought of finding a mother, but I do still need the love and acceptance that I’ve never found.
And that’s what makes it so incredibly hard to move forward in the ways I keep trying to. I can never change what I didn’t have as a child, but I don’t see how to live life successfully without finding the love and acceptance that I crave.
So I silently sit here in this awful mental space, doing the equivalent of what that baby bird did. I’m naively asking, “Are you the one who’s going to finally love me for good?” And when I don’t find that love — again — the old programming says, “See? There’s nobody who’s going to be there for you. You’re not worth it.”
If I had been aware of this when I was 20 or 30 years old, it would have seemed manageable. But to be at this stage of my life — when others have long since found the things they needed or else given up on life entirely — it makes me feel lost and alone.
And it makes me feel like damaged goods in a second-hand store. Something that nobody is going to want.
I won’t feel this way in the morning. At least, I won’t feel so strongly about it that I’ll want to tell the world about it. I’ll go back to smiling and joking and trying to charm the people I meet. I’ll hide the way I feel. And I’ll regret admitting all this tonight.
The playwright Arthur Miller once wrote, “The best work that anybody ever writes is the work that is on the verge of embarrassing him, always.” It will embarrass me to have admitted all this tomorrow, but that certainly doesn’t make it good work, even though I wish Miller were accurate in this regard.
It’s just something I need to share, because I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of not finding the love and understanding and acceptance I need. I’m tired of feeling so alone.
Tomorrow, I’ll go back to hiding it. But tonight, I’m desperate enough to cry out, “Are you the one who’s going to finally love me for good?”
I’m feeling so alone tonight. And I’m utterly exhausted by feeling alone.