I’ve thought a lot about how love is particular: how it exists, like writing, in the details. You love someone not because they embody some platonic ideal of “friend” or “partner” or “parent” or “sibling” or “Chipotle server who gives you an extra scoop of chicken.” You love them because they are this specific human being, singular in the plurality of their peculiarity (sorry).
There was this one person—I had to suppress a smile every time they said the word “jam.” They always used it in the sense that I was least expecting and it was so adorable I could not cope. But I didn’t want to say anything because what if they stopped doing it!
Oh my God, I sound like a romcom: “Your hair. Your smile. That faraway look in your eyes when I try to talk to you about Blake on ‘Bachelor in Paradise’—HE LOOKS LIKE A WALKING BROOM OKAY I SAID IT.”
When someone notices details about me, it can feel like love—either that or they’re trying to Half-Asian-White-Female me, you never know.
[AWKWARD TRANSITION HERE]
I’ve recently started coming to terms with a pattern of emotional abuse in childhood involving shame and control about specific, everyday things. Do you wanna know what it feels like, as an adult, to realize that you have very strong feelings about how to load a fucking dishwasher, feelings that suggest that if you do it wrong WE ARE ALL GONNA DIE??
I think one reason abuse is the opposite of love is because it erases the particular. When you think about the cycle of abuse, it’s not based on the person being abused, who they are or what they’re doing or not doing. It’s about this engrained pattern that keeps getting repeated over and over again by the abuser, often with different people or in different situations.
But the thing is—it feels specific. It feels like it’s about you. I’m bad. I’m wrong. There’s something uniquely flawed about me that means I will never load the dishwasher correctly and therefore never be good enough or worthy of love.
It’s this perfectionism that holds on so tightly, thinking, this time, it will be different. I will finally get this right.
And when you inevitably encounter another person or entity who tells you, “You would be better/happy/successful/accepted/healed, if you only ______,” it feels like another shot at redemption.
And that’s what sucks about trauma too—you lose the particular. Instead of responding to this particular person or situation as distinct and different from all the other people and situations in your life, you end up projecting onto them patterns from the past that might have nothing to do with the present.
But that’s okay. That’s where I am now, trying to be okay. Yeah, maybe my coping strategies were/are imperfect, maybe I have irrationally torrid feelings about dishwashers, but my survival strategies got me out of a jam.
And now, maybe I can stop just coping.
Maybe now, I can be free.