Philanthro-me: Part 4 (Ages 20-38)
“Giving as a Last Resort”
It was in my first college class that I met the man I would spend the next two decades with. His principles and ambition were matched only by his charm. I held my prince in such high regard, and didn’t completely understand what he saw of value in me. Despite some “stress fractures” during our two year courtship, we decided to move in together. After a couple more rocky years, we decided to split up.
Six months later on the eve of my 24th birthday, I felt deeply lonely. The only options I saw from that familiar darkness were to either crawl back to my prince (if he would still have me) or kill myself. I bought a bottle of sleeping pills, and as I sat there in bed staring at them, I imagined the toll it would take on my mother. She had already suffered the loss of two of her five children: could I really be so heartless as to add to her pain? I set down the pills and picked up the phone to see if my prince was interested in giving our relationship another shot.
I asked him to marry me, to which he said yes. I never imagined our marriage would even last five years before he would leave me for someone else. This seemed reasonable in return for a reprieve from my darkest alternative. The marriage was turbulent from the beginning, with hurt feelings on both sides regarding our troubled courtship. Two years into the marriage we found out we were pregnant.
Looking back now, I can see that my energy had shifted at that point. I withdrew from the arguments with my spouse and went about my life on some sort of “auto pilot”. I was terrified of having a helpless being utterly dependent on me to provide safeness, inspiration, and love. I felt unworthy of such a role, but there was no way around the fact that I was going to be a mother. After our first daughter was born, I set about giving her what I felt I could, while simultaneously trying to keep some emotional distance so the infant wouldn’t mistakenly believe I was someone worth loving or depending on.
Suffice it to say that the following ten years of marriage and motherhood were a blur of codependent dysfunction at its finest. My spouse’s unhappiness, coupled with my self-loathing and the birth of our second child, resulted in the tragically toxic societal cliché of outward achievement masking empty despair.
During my second two decades of life, I would give my hand, in hopes of gaining a reprieve. I would give all I had, in hopes of beating the odds. I would give a backwards form of love, in hopes of protecting those I loved most from the illusion that I was worth loving.
(to be continued . . . )