This is another love song post, but this one contains NO silliness.
When I was a little girl people usually called me shy until I opened my mouth, and then, pretty often, I instantly became ‘loud’ and ‘mean.’ My mom likes to tell a story about me correcting my kindergarten teacher when, on the first day of school, she tried a shortened, ‘cutesified’ version of my first name calling the roll.
“My name is NOT Jenny.”
My teacher felt it was necessary to tell my mother that I corrected her. According to Mom, her exact words were, ‘Such a big voice from such a little girl.’ I remember my kindergarten teacher. She was a sweet looking, grandmotherly type of lady, and while she didn’t actually use the words, ‘Your daughter is super rude and loud and awful,’ it kind of IS what she meant. I know this because of the tone and frequency with which my mom repeats this story.
Every single time I can remember expressing a need or desire or social or personal boundary to another person (family member, friend, classmate, teacher, coworker, neighbor, date, whoever), other than J, they’ve expressed noticeable displeasure with me personally, and with whatever my need, desire, or boundary was. Every time. I know this is partially because I’m generally kind and quiet and tolerant and forgiving and agreeable, but when my limits are breached, I put up a pretty impenetrable defensive front, and many people mistake that for going on the offensive. Like war. I have a big voice for a little girl when I feel like my space has been invaded.
I am fighting a war all the time. Against social anxiety. I didn’t know that’s what ‘how I am’ was called as a kid or even a young adult, but I’ve had it my entire life. The fact that I’ll go hard and all out for the people I care about…that that’s *naturally* what I do…and that is only very rarely reciprocated to me contributes heavily to this. I know not everyone even has the ability to do that, much less the desire, so there’s not much I can do about my lack of reciprocation problem. It’s made love of any variety hard for me and hard on me for my whole life. To me, a lot of the time, love feels like war.
I’ve heard I have really high (unrealistic) expectations of other people. (Because I want that reciprocation…I’m willing to do all this stuff for other people, and I want them to go that hard for me back, but they nearly always don’t or won’t or can’t). I’m also told that I can be intimidating and aggressive and intense and scary (and maybe even hard to love) when I impose my own boundaries. I’m pretty self-aware, so I own that those things, at least sometimes, are true. And they’ve formed a weird self image and adequately fed moderate to severe social anxiety. Also, I get pretty emotional and worried (and mean) when I’m distressed, and that pushes folks away, especially during hard times. I know this. I work on it, but I know this about myself, and I don’t expect people to put up with emotion that makes them uncomfortable on my behalf. People still let me down a lot, though.
But not J. Never J. He’s NEVER, in 15 years, let me down. And I’m pretty easy to disappoint, what with the unrealistic expectations of other people and all. He doesn’t say much, but in the times when someone else has triggered me to feel disappointed and sad, he says something like this:
‘Mr./Ms. X didn’t ____ like you needed/wanted/thought they would? *I’ll* do it.’
And he always DOES.
With J, love doesn’t ever feel like war. Not against him anyway. He doesn’t FIGHT with me, he fights WITH me. I know how lucky I am to have an amazing man that I can count on without question. He’s pretty rad. I know how lucky I am that he’s still toughing it out with me after all these years. So today’s love song is Gavin Degraw’s Soldier.
Neither J nor I have ever been in the military, but this song is how J loves me. It’s how it feels to have J love me through social anxiety. And it’s the song I was thinking of when I wrote Matt and Grace’s story in Growth.
For those of you who are faithful readers of my work, if you’ve ever wondered which fictional romantic hero is the MOST like J…it’s Matt.