You can’t awaken someone who is pretending to be asleep. You also cannot have reciprocated love with someone who is only pretending to feel.
Throughout my life, I’ve often found myself wishing that I were a robot, so that I wouldn’t have emotions—I was always impressed by Data in the regard. That wasn’t possible, but I created a facsimile of it, wherein I blocked off letting myself feel connected to other people as much as was possible. In doing so, I was able to avoid pain, but the cost was great—I could never really feel love. I couldn’t have meaningful friendships. I did this over and over again, and it was a disaster. People know when you’re not really connecting with them. I often received complaints along the lines of, “You’ve told me so much, but I really don’t know you.”
I’m sure that people were weirded out. It had to have been the uncanny valley of relationships. Worse yet, though, was my horrific attempts to keep these mannequin-like relationships alive, treating them as if they were dead bits of computer code, rather than the interactions of souls.
And, while you can pull it off for a time and exist in an anodyne state, eventually the walls fall, and when they do, their collapse is awesome. The grief is not being hurt by the other person, but the utter pain of realizing how many pages of your life you’ve wasted. It’s in shredding your own hopes, and it takes all the little pains that you could ever have felt, lumps them up, and slams them into you with a crippling tidal wave of grief.
And it encourages you to try it again. Maybe you’ll make it through this time. In some ways, it’s like a drug addiction. You get a benefit for a time, but after a bender, you’re utterly crushed. And yet you go and try it again.
That was how I used to run things. Never learning. Running from anything painful. Running, really, from the responsibility of having a relationship. Having dread at every phone call from a girlfriend. Having an intense fear that I wouldn’t be able to stumble forward anymore.
Recently, I decided to change things. To act differently. To be less neurotic through choosing different branches when making decisions. Dr. Jordan Peterson influenced me, saying,
“Treat yourself like you are someone you are responsible for helping.”
Man, that hit home. And embracing this change has been agonizing. So far, it’s been mostly internal; I can’t mention it easily out loud. But it is working. Because I’m being honest with myself, I’m able to choose those different decisions. I have intense pain, but also a newfound integrity. I can confront the grief and stare it in the face without wavering.
And being open with myself means that I can be open about getting help. A help that I have, through my decisions, been rejecting. You see, “the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” —Romans 8
I love you, and so does God.