Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The new leaf

I had an epiphany over the weekend.

(as a huge Joyce fan, I absolutely love having epiphanies. When I was in high school, try as I might, I could not understand the concept of an epiphany, aside from the early January holiday, so now I revel in them when I have them.)

This past weekend I visited friends with two kids. The one-year-old boy is always smiling and laughing, and loves to be held and cuddled, and loves to get raspberries on his belly. He always acts happy to see you, and he totally responds to the affection he is offered. The other child, a four-year-old girl, is really strong-willed and incredibly smart, but she's also a little prickly and not at all cuddly. She will almost never give a hug or a kiss, or tell you she loves you. Although I adore her and am constantly amazed at her brilliance and hysterical sense of humor (so young to be so witty!), I have to admit that her brother is more effortlessly lovable.

Playing with the two of them this weekend, I remembered an NPR story I heard a while back, about mothers who felt guilty because they were afraid that they loved one child more than another. One mother in the story described her two children basically the same way as the two kids I was with -- one was strong-willed and independent, and the other was cuddly and affectionate. And the mother admitted that it's just easier to love the cuddly one, because he's the one who loves you back.

THEN, I remembered something my first love said to me so many years ago, in a love letter that I still have. "O Maggie it is so hard to love you, but I do..." See, when I was in high school and college, I was very affectionate and outgoing. But after college, people were really critical of me for being that way, and unlike when I was younger, I responded to that criticism, and changed my behavior. Then, in New York, it seemed that everyone plays it so cool, and they laugh at you like you're a sucker if you show your heart. Even worse, a woman is derided for being desperate or scheming and clawing if she shows any interest at all,and that just made my blood boil. But instead of fighting that attitude, I went to extremes to avoid ever being accused of it (which did no good anyway).

So I closed up my heart, and now if I'm interested in someone, I don't know how to show it, and instead I back WAY OFF. I show more interest and love to people I barely know than to people I care about, for fear of being "too much" or "too intense" -- all because of what others have tried to teach me.

Now I am going to work very hard to open my heart back up and be loving, and in turn, loveable, again. I am trying to turn off the censor, and instead of thinking about how to behave (hmm, maybe I was calculating after all, but not in the way they meant), I will just act from the heart and show what I feel.

I started last night, and it was SO much better. I felt like myself for the first time in ages and I had a wonderful time. I caught myself a couple of times, like the moment I wanted to kiss A. on the cheek for no apparent reason and I hesitated, but then I did it, and then later I did it again without even thinking about it. Baby steps, I know, but this can only lead to good things.

I may have made similar proclamations before. I've known for a while that I was closed off, and wanted to change, but I didn't feel it. It was only a cerebral awareness, not in my gut. That's the whole point of an epiphany -- it hits you on a different level. And maybe the new city will help with the new attitude as well. I can only hope so, and try.

Wish me luck.

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