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    Love Me Through Glass

            Placed in an incubator just moments after I was born, I got comfortable being looked at through glass. I got comfortable being loved through an invisible wall.
            From the first seconds of life, I learned how to love and be loved using walls. These walls were a fact of life for me from the very beginning. The barriers were in fact physical before they were metaphysical. I didn’t have to learn how to put them up. They were already there. It’s all I knew, right from the start.
            Because a person, especially a new born, needs love to live, I had to detect the love coming through the glass, or else I’d perish. So I immediately developed the ability to feel love and affection and connection right through the wall. And right after I developed this ability, because I was in there for three weeks, I got used to it. I got comfortable with experiencing love through a wall. So that’s how I did it.
            I’m still most comfortable being loved from afar. Being adored through some sort of wall. But now it’s a wall of my own creation. Or at least it has been. That’s all changing now. But it’s a work in process.
            I’ve noticed that what’s easiest for me is to be aware that someone is looking at me, maybe even talking about me, and letting it go at that. Being noticed and smiled at from across the room is a great feeling. It is most often an invitation to at least say hello, and maybe strike up a conversation. But I notice my reluctance to do so, and it makes sense. Because as long as all you can do is look at me, adore me from afar as it were, I’m comfortable. I’m safe. You don’t know me yet, so I’m still okay. I get to bask in the knowledge that you find me somewhat attractive, and that you’re curious about me. And all too often, that’s enough for me. Because after that, it starts to get unsafe. After that, a little of the wall has to come down so that we can talk. And that, believe it or not, can be very scary for me.
            In an intimate relationship, the wall is still there. It’s a lot thinner, and the glass is spotless and pretty transparent. But it’s a still a wall. Because I still feel the need to keep myself safe. I can’t let you all the way in. I never have. Even right after I was born.
            This is not a unique trait. In fact, it’s all too common. Now that I’m acutely aware of it, I see it everywhere. Not only in myself, but in others. But that’s the way it always is. Only when you become finely attuned to your own experience, your own pain, your own struggle, can you so deftly pick it up in your relationships with others. That’s one reason I believe that some of the best sports coaches were not necessarily the best players. They constantly experienced the struggle of their limitations, and therefore the pain of their professional existence, much more than their super-star counterparts. Therefore, when it comes time to coach, they are able to more readily relate to the struggles of the average player, who make the majority of the team. You can learn to massage egos, and stroke the bellies of the stand outs, a lot easier than you can learn to relate to the painful experience of the common reality.
            When I was released from the incubator chamber, the physical glass walls were soon replaced by emotional ones, but they still weren’t mine. I developed my own from mirroring what I saw, and instinctively knowing that I already knew how to construct them in order to protect myself. So I did. And I got better at it the older I got.
            I’ve chosen to unlearn this way of doing the love dance, a way that I was taught since my very first moments of life. I’m grateful that I’ve become so aware of this and that I’ve chosen to work at doing it differently. My walls are coming down now. With so many of us, the walls get bigger and thicker and stronger as we get older. We can become more closed off as we age, we therefore age quicker, and it makes the aging process far more difficult. Even cruel. I’m going the other way. I feel younger than I have since I was a teenager.
            Like an addict who hit his bottom, I started the slide after my dad died, and I hit the ground with a life shaking thud. After bouncing around on the bottom for a while, I realized that I was in love with a woman who just left me. And that’s when I started to climb out. After I finally faced myself and could not run from the pain anymore. That’s usually how it happens. We come up against ourselves after a trauma, like a death or a divorce or an accident or a series of heart breaking losses, and we start living. Or we start dying.
            But as I’ve said, it’s a work in process. If I were standing, half naked, on stage in a room with thousands of people all staring at me, I would be more comfortable than I would be if I had to approach one of those people and talk to them. Even if I knew that they were liking what they saw. I can often overcome the fear of approaching someone and striking up a conversation, and I’m a lot more at ease with myself than I used to be, but what I notice is that the fear is still there. The fear of not having a wall of glass through which to connect. A wall that’s been there since I was born. A wall that’s coming down.

    ©2009 Clint Piatelli. All Rights (and The Wall by Pink Floyd of Wrongs) Reserved.

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