For Christmas in 1978 my parents gave me my first record player. I'm not talking about some plastic kiddy contraption; this was a legit, grown-up turntable that came with AM and FM radio, as well as wood paneled speakers. It was life altering and about time; after all, I was already nine years old and had long been expressing the need for music in my life by hijacking our living room stereo and playing Mom's Aerosmith and Daddy's Three Dog Night 8-tracks. So, considering my obvious love of rock music, I'm not entirely sure why they decided to give me Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits (double LP!) as my first album, but I'm so glad they did.
Barry's music opened up a whole new world for me. Throughout four sides of vinyl he told exhilarating tales about aging showgirls and gun-fighting lovers in "Copacabana"; about surviving the ups and downs on the old west side in "New York City Rhythm"; and the importance of letting it SHINE-SHINE-SHINE! all around the world in "Daybreak". Seriously, Sesame Street's got nothing on Barry when it comes to life lessons. But, as I continue my story regarding The Nice Guy and how he rescued me from the isolation of my accidental love anorexia, the song "Ready to Take a Chance Again" seems most appropriate here:
You remind me I live in a shell
Safe from the past and doing okay
But not very well
No jolts no surprises no crisis arises
My life goes along as it should
It's all very nice but not very good...
And I'm ready to take a chance again...
And I thought I was ready, but in reality I wasn't healed; I was an undiagnosed Love Addict who spanned the spectrum between Addict and Avoidant, and in this particular relationship I was the latter.
According to Pia Mellody in Facing Love Addiction:
A Love Addict might be abandoned by a Love Avoidant, then say "Well, nuts to this. I'm never going to get that hooked on anybody again." So this person meets a [codependent partner] and becomes the Love Avoidant in control.
I don't love [The Nice Guy] and I feel guilty about it. I like spending time with him and we're good friends but I'm afraid that he's gotten way ahead of me even though we've discussed [how I feel and that I'm not in love]. I'm starting to really want to be single again.
When I read this 20 years after writing the entry, my initial reaction was an eye-roll and shaming thoughts consisting of "I sound like such a victim. A spoiled brat. Why did I let that go on for so long?" In other words, I had very little empathy for myself; that is until I went further back in my journal and realized WHY I didn't end it.
When Mom called yesterday and told me [that she and Dad had unexpectedly separated], I wanted to tell everyone, even strangers, that my parents have split up. Not because it's their business, but because that's what I would do if the world were coming to an end. But I know this is too personal to share. I didn't even want to tell [The Nice Guy], and once I did tell him, I didn't want to discuss it anymore.
So, yes, The Nice Guy was codependent and I an untreated Love Addict which naturally created an unhealthy dynamic that was already hard to leave; but now that my foundation had been rocked - the foundation that I took for granted because it had always been there - I used our co-addicted relationship like a lifeboat and The Nice Guy was my anchor. I needed him to save me from floating off to sea.
Trying to figure out so many things is tiring. I shouldn't feel so guilty about wanting to sleep-or drink*. I don't know how I feel or should feel about my parents. It seems like pictures in a slide show or home movie without any words or sound - just flickering images that you can reverse and play again...I don't know who I'm supposed to be.
*Shortly before this entry, The Nice Guy had surprised me while I was in NYC on business. I was wrapping up a job at a magazine based there and feeling lost. I was already, at this early point in my career, disliking the industry but feeling stuck in it; with his help, I was taking some time off to figure out my next step. When he joined me in New York, we dined and shopped and drank. I remember traveling home after that whirlwind weekend feeling hungover and sad. At the top of an escalator at JFK Airport I walked into a bookstore; on the front display table was Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp. I bought it and devoured every word on the plane back to LA. Back then, at 28 years old, I had no conscious thoughts of my drinking as a problem; but Caroline Knapp's story resonated deep into my bones, probably because my relationship with alcohol was an issue long before my drinking became one.
I don't want [my parents] to see me have any emotion so I don't let them know how I feel. I guess this is depression ala Jodi - not wanting to say that I'm hurting because I want to be strong but then holing up in my house [and avoiding everyone]...I wish it could be like in soap operas and old movies when the world starts to spin, and then I'd faint and wake up in a hospital with a concussion or amnesia and the doctors would be around me staying "the stress was too much for her - she needs her rest"...
This may sound quite dramatic to outsiders, but it's actually an example of how I tend to minimize my needs and feelings then mask the pain with humor. In 1997, I had no idea how to ask for help, and I wanted everyone to believe that I was A-OKAY; I saw my value as being “the one who is there for others”, who could needlessly handle anything. In the meantime, my love avoidance kicked into high gear and I secretly went on a few dates with another man. Little did I know that my disloyalty was actually a form of acting out in order to distract myself from the emotional issues that needed my attention, as well as an effort to inject my life with a little addict-like energy; this behavior led me far away from my values, and I attempted to normalize it to myself.
I haven't done anything bad...dinner, drinks, a movie. But I have that guilty, gross feeling like when I was in fifth grade and mom said "no going with boys" and I did it anyway - a boy asked me to 'go with him' and I said "Yes" and the same day he wrote me a mushy love letter and I couldn't read all of it because I felt so bad* - I didn't even like him that much (at all).
*The note was two pages long and full of adorations like 'You're so beautiful' and 'I've always had a crush on you'; I was SO UNCOMFORTABLE that I tore it up and flushed it down the toilet in the girls' room and never spoke to the poor kid again. If I could've set that notebook paper on fire without getting into trouble I would've done that instead, just to make sure it never surfaced again. To put it in 1981 terms: It totally grossed me out.
Pia Mellody: A major goal for the Love Avoidant is to keep intensity within the relationship to a minimum, because relationship intensity feels very draining, is frightening, and threatens to be overwhelming. They avoid intimacy by focusing on something outside the relationship...[By doing this], Love Avoidants create too much distance from [the partner]. [The intensity] of focus outside the relationship gives Love Avoidants a sense of energy, of being involved in life; they don't feel such energy within the relationship because they keep it at a low intensity.
Broke up with [The Nice Guy] on Thursday and all weekend I felt pretty alone. He's been my best friend for over a year. He's the one that I call to do anything ...the only one...So, I spent all weekend with me. That's okay...I feel lousy yet good. I just expected things to go on - for me to go on - like usual or even better than usual. But it hit me Friday afternoon that he was the one person that I confided in and made plans with...I was dependent on him - but differently than with [The Emotional Manipulator].
I don't remember the actual breakup conversation, maybe because we'd been having some version of it for months, so the end was probably pretty anticlimactic. I do recall that my guilt had finally gotten the best of me, and I was somehow able to listen to the little voice that said ‘Stop doing things that make you feel like shit'. So I ended it. And the other guy, the one I was sneaking around with? After three dates I stopped returning his calls; the guilt and shame were too much for me. Plus, he was coming on way too strong and it totally grossed me out. That is until four months later when it didn't, and we started a relationship that would lead to the night at the beach house and my next love-addicted spiral.
Thank you for reading ~ Jodi
There will be no commitment and no confessions
and no little secrets to keep;
No little children or houses with roses
just the End of the world and me.
'Cause all has been gone and all has been done,
and there's nothing left for us to say;
But we could be together as they blow it all away,
and we can share in every moment as it breaks.
So call me now it's alright, it's just the end of the world...
From "Preaching the End of the World", by Chris Cornell