Have I ever told you about the time when my youngest was in preschool, yes preschool, and developed this crush on a boy in her class? Is that young for crushing? Well if it is, it runs in the family, because I can remember my first crush at the same age and his name was Steve. I used to dance around in my basement swooning like a wilting flower and telling my bestie that I was going to marry Steve, and then one day she told him, just like tapped him on the shoulder while I sat by, trying to keep my focus on the teacher while all of the blood in my itty bitty body rushed to my cheeks and painted them into rosy apples, and it seemed to bring all my crushing to an abrupt halt, because, well what do you do when you’re like a 5 year old? Wait for him to ask you on a date? Sit by the phone? I ran into Steve some twenty years later at a Calgary pub, at a law related function, because we had just both finished law school, it turns out. I knew it was him, crazily enough, but he was busy running into someone from junior high and they were like all “Wow, we know each other from way back” and I wasn’t going to just steal her thunder by saying, “Ya, well I know him from actual Kindergarten”, so I remained quiet and then in a move that may have seemed creepy stalkerish or cheerfully nostalgic (to this day I am unsure), I went home and dug out my grade one class picture and circled our smiling faces plump with innocence and sent him a fax of it with a greeting. I mean it was pretty cool, I thought, that we had both just finished law school, but also, between you and I, I was a romantic and even though Steve might have grown up to be a complete jerk-o-rama, how was I to know, I couldn’t help thinking what a cute story it would be if I was to end up living happily ever after with the boy I said I would marry when I was like five! Steve said “Cool”, and politely thanked me, but did NOT ask me out or pursue any further communication with me. He probably married the junior high chick and they’re probably telling a cute story about their reunion and how they both ended up in law school together, and now they have a his and her practice and somebody’s gonna read this blog and sitcom my brilliant idea (please send royalties) but not so romantic in my life, boy did he miss out.
Which brings me to back to my daughter’s first crush, whose name was Joel, which she couldn’t quite pronounce properly, so she called him “Jewel”. I found this absolutely endearing and kind of a little magical because he was a little like a jewel to her, shiny and colourful and alluring. Anyhow, the preschool was at the Talisman Center, which used to be Lindsay Park and may now be called something else in this strange day of naming shit as advertising, but then it was Talisman and it took a lot of work to train myself to call it that, and I loved it as a preschool because I could work out or go for a run while Tess was being looked after by the sweetest instructors with all kinds of wondrous play stations and epic snacks brought by high achieving moms, and well funded crafts for days. My daughter actually LIKED it there, and let me tell you, she had STRONG opinions as to whom she was willing to have replace me for a hot five minutes on any given day, which is sweet but also challenging when you are a mom, and you have recently signed up to be tired and busy forever. Talisman had lovely cafeteria, and since Jewel’s mom and I hit it off we would oft times find ourselves grabbing a Jugo Juice or lunch with the children in the cafeteria after preschool let out. The munchkins could visit or run around the adjacent entrance way while we calculated the ratio between our need for peace and the social acceptability of four year olds jumping public stairs or swinging on railings, until one of us would cave and summon the voice of propriety to call them back. You know the voice that says I totally support this harmless activity you are engaged in but fear the judgment of strangers and therefore will attempt to sound surprised and stern to discover your unruly antics. I suspected that Tess liked Jewel “more than a friend” by the way she would get wide eyed and focused when he was in the vicinity, and by the way she would ask about him, and by her enthusiasm to stay for lunch as often as possible. The things we do for love.
On this one particular fated day, preschool let out like jail break and the mini inmates were running amok in front of the correctional facility when I spotted Tess watching Jewel sprinting laps of the hallway, and I viscerally felt what I can only call her romantic distress. “Sweetie, do you want me to ask his mom if we can go for lunch today?” I asked my tiny, pretty, lovelorn redhead. And she said words that struck me, deep, friends. Deep. Etched into my maternal memory. “But Mommy” her voice twisted with confusion and despair, “I want him to want to have lunch with me”.
Because isn’t that just it?!
And because you’re supposed to get a few more years in of being the hero who can solve all of the problems for your wee ones.
I wasn’t ready friends.
It socked me in the mummy tummy.
Because what then? I am gonna sit around with her over smoothies, analyzing her crush’s every move? Wow, like, oh my gawd, like, I can totally tell he’s into you by the way sips his Mango Madness! Jinkies, did you see how he threw his empty cup in the recycling bin on your side of the table!?
Or like the tough love bestie who is all snapping a zee, If he doesn’t call you by Wednesday for Sunday you block him and delete him before you can tie your shoelace, little bitch, and if you know anyone in intelligence, we’re gonna e-death that rat-bastard. The last thing we need is you getting all sappy after too many Mini-go’s and spilling the beans to Jennie the gossip, or doodling his face into your scribbler.
I want you to want me. Cheap Trick said it. My daughter said it. What does it mean? Why do we want to sing along in such a loud voice to that particular lyric?
I want you to want me says “I am scared of not being liked in return, for reasons”.
Now, obviously there are logical rational reasons for wanting to be liked, loved, cared about. When I was tricked into hiking up a huge mountain and then had a meltdown due to abject fear of falling (see my blog Of mountains and molehills), I like to call that a RATIONAL fear, because, well like umm, if I fell down the mountain I would have died. I mean rational without getting into the spiritual nitty gritty of what it means to die and all. Our rational fear of rejection happens;
- Because we don’t want to feel lonely.
- Because it feels good to share with another person.
- Because romantic love feels sucky and shitty when it is unrequited.
- Because romantic love can be a wonderful basis for partnership.
Now, reasons know each other. They hang. They share secrets. Vulnerability scares us because it may lead to rejection. Rejection scares us because it may lead to hurt. Hurt scares us because it may lead to loneliness. Loneliness scares us because it may lead to sadness. She swallowed the T-Rex to swallow the fly, I guess she’ll die. Oops.
But where the REVERSE MAGIC happens, where the real problem starts, which is what so many of my beloveds struggle with, is when the “Less than” Monster gets into bed with Want, and there are not enough filters on your devices to protect us from this gruesome pop-up folks.
When we WANT someone who can refuse our want we feel vulnerable. There is emotional risk involved, and that is scary. It’s scary when we’re told no, and we have to feel some feelings and work through them and redirect ourselves. But when we want something and it is refused, AND the voice of “Less Than” jumps in, we feel powerless. And we will fight and flight to the death to avoid feeling powerless.
The Less Than Monster (aka Ego) adds to the possibility of the object of your interest not being interested, the IDEA that;
- It is your fault.
- Something is wrong with you.
- You are unlovable.
- You don’t deserve to be happy.
- You are foolish.
- You are ruinous.
- You are bad.
- You are embarrassing.
- You are not (attractive, smart, cool, accomplished, skinny, muscled, fit, funny, brave, or sexy) enough.
And this plays into the whole emotional miseducation deal that I chat about often, which tells us we are the dumbest dummies in dumbsville to let ourselves feel feelings in the first place.
And creates SHAME.
The LOVECHILD of Want and The Less Than Monster is a little creature I like to call the Relationship Power Dynamic and it grows in the womb of Shame.
It is why so many of my beloveds come to see me with the following ailments: I don’t want to seem needy. I don’t want to seem desperate. I don’t want them to have the upper hand. I don’t want to be the one sitting around pining. I don’t wanna want more. I’m not going to be the fool. I have been played. I’m not gonna be played. I have a wall. I have a North Wall. I bought all the walls on Hollywood Boulevard. I put hotels on my walls. I am a runner. I am a blocker-deleter.
It is why so many not crazy folks, do super crazy things.
Sometimes it’s true — we do have unmet needs that creep into our relationship dynamic. What!??? You, me and every other person who was not born the Terminator. And we need a bit of help and support to figure out the what’s what of what we need from ourselves versus what we ain’t getting from Betty or Bob. But we don’t solve for THAT by shutting down or turning off the need, which just makes it grow. We actually have to resolve it. As soon as we engage in the power dynamic which is what happens when we try to suppress our want, we lose our personal power.
POWER ‘OVER’ IS NOT POWER AT ALL.
Both sides of a power dynamic experience powerlessness. Both hurt.
One says you decide my worth.
The other says I decide yours.
And the only way to have personal power is to divest yourself of the power game entirely and let yourself risk.
Brace yourself I am going to let you in on an ancient secret, not involving the cultural appropriation of spiritual wisdom into a laundry soap commercial: You actually want to want the person you are married to, shacking up with, or carrying on a hipper more modern version of life-sharing with. You can’t conquer the threat of them not wanting you in return, or equally, by controlling and metering out your love affection and desire. All that is going to get you is TIRED, and SAD, and LONELY. Because you can’t be constantly withholding love and affection and be happy, or feel loved.
The end result of winning the power dynamic in a relationship, looks a lot like Charlie Sheen circa #winning. Coked out and angry.
There was a movie sometime back “Dangerous Liaisons” which told a great story of that kind of “win”. If memory serves John Malkovich and Glen Close battle out to the emotional death in an all is fair in love style. Everyone suffers.
I mean sure, there’s no harm in talking trash every once in a while. Especially while you’re processing a hurt. Say all the things with your bro’s and your besties about how you’re gonna show ‘em. But don’t CHOOSE your relationships this way, and each time you make a move, or a phone call or play your hand, you’re making a choice that adds up to a relationship.
The only way to find love, is to choose love.
Damn I go deep.
You mean, Erin, that finding love has to feel like jogging through a cactus filled desert having left your skin at home? Screw you, Erin.
No, it doesn’t Susan.
Because all of us can solve for LESS-THAN-COMPLEX-SYNDROME-ITUS.
We can solve for FEELINGS-ARE-FROM-THE-DEVIL-ITUS.
We can solve for NEED.
So that we don’t experience “rejection” which can play out as anything from I’m not attracted to you, to I am not ready, to a thousand and one other disconnects, as a measure of our worth.
We can kick the monster out of bed for eating crackers (Although mini Kit Kats and I am making room. JK. About the monster, not the Kit Kats, which are actually their own love language in my book).
So little Tess, and little Erin, and little Friend, it’s okay to let Jewel and Steve and Betty and Bob know you like ‘em. Because you are likeable and deserving of all the goodies in your treat bag, whether you wind up with a Jewel or a Steve, a Mars or Kit Kat. Everything we do we do to FEEL…good, better, loved. You can’t trick your way out of it. You don’t really want to. And neither do they.
It’s the name of the game.
— Love Erin.
P.S. I have a cure for Less-than-itus. And for Unmet-need-itus. Hit me up if you need some game changing support. BYOKK.
P.P.S. One of the kindest things you can do for me is to share my writing. If you enjoyed today’s Monday Musing and know someone else who would please forward it to a friend.
P.P.P.S. You can also follow me on Instagram, for real time updates, funnies and photos!