Blue Valentine

I read a succinct and poignant blog post today that asked one simple question:

“What is the hardest thing you have ever done which, looking back, resulted in your own growth?”

Of course, the answer is my year without sex. I’ve spent my whole adult life entangled with one man or another, usually for the long-term and occasionally for only one night (well, twice). One night to ten years: these are the varying lengths of my trysts. Inside of those “relationships” I lost myself and I’m willing to bet the guys did, too. I simply could not imagine myself without a man so I never let myself be without one. The idea seemed inconceivable to me. Until I challenged myself to a year without them.

Now halfway through, I am discovering myself in a way I hadn’t realized I existed, who I am when I am not looking at myself through another person’s eyes, especially a man’s which are always (in my case) objectifying and sexualizing. As John Berger wrote in Ways of Seeing: “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” Away from men for a decent length of time, I am finally breaking free of that self-imposed object-ness.

I saw a movie today called Blue Valentine. An antidote to the happily-ever-after romances that tell us fulfillment lies in finding a life partner, the film traces the erosion of a relationship/marriage from its “love at first sight” beginning to a treacherous end. Having been part of a soulless marriage I could relate to the deviant fighting, sex, and reliance on alcohol these partners dissolve into.

When we have not dealt with the baggage of our past, when we look to another person to make us whole, when we see ourselves through their eyes, and try to please them in a way that does not please ourselves, we are doing both the man and ourselves a disservice.

I have never been in love although I’ve had several long-term relationships. I believe the reason for that is I have never loved myself. Being on my own these past six months, I have begun to see a way to love myself and care for myself, to be gentle with myself and treat myself with kindness. Now that I am beginning to do that perhaps there is a chance for me to love someone else. The irony is the longer I am on my own, the less I need the attention of another. I realize that I am enough.

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