Sunday, June 26, 2011

Audrey's Army

Audrey Hepburn once said that she was born with an enormous need for affection and a terrible need to give it. I don't know the quote's context. I don't know whether she saw that as a positive or negative attribute. The word "terrible" suggests that she saw it as a flaw. And it is, especially in a world that may not provide that affection or welcome your "gift" of affection.

It seems disastrous to have an army of Audrey Hepburns out there seeking out affection and trying to strong-arm others into taking it. Hepburn said she was born that way. I buy that to a certain extent. After all, if you walk up to any hospital nursery, there will be some babies red-faced and screaming to be held, fed, changed. But you will also find the peace-faced babies fast asleep.

I believe its more nurture than nature. I believe our families establish how affectionate we'll be, how needy we'll be, how confident or insecure we'll be. Perhaps the families establish the mindset by example, or perhaps we choose to operate in polar opposites to what we witness growing up. Some have mothers who've married multiple times, and the children of those mothers decide marriage is to be avoided. Others have mothers who, beyond finding someone to conceive a child with, seem doomed to be single their entire lives. The child of that mother decides to chase love tirelessly.

Once we've left the nest and have gained independence, I would say that friends and lovers, past and present determine the extent to which we need affection or the measuring cup from which we pour (or dribble) affection on others.

We refer to those who need little and dribble out affection to others as independent. And usually we admire those people who have their emotions more in check than those who wear hearts on sleeves, those who can't keep their emotional germs to themselves.

Singer, Ani DiFranco, theorized, "People need something or someone to fasten themselves to in order to reassure themselves that they are real." I'm scared by the word, "fasten," and I'm worried about the word, "reassure." The first word carries with it the connotation of a singular action rather than a shared action. A leech fastens itself to a host, while the host would prefer leechlessness.

Then "reassure." Of course it means the person is not sure him or herself. The person has not arrived at a conclusion, is puzzled, is in the dark. I think I do what she's talking about, and that is only made clear when I am alone. When alone, I have the distinct feeling that I am ghostly, transparent, not of this world, invisible.

To be clear, that is not the opposite of independent, as some might quickly conclude. Co-dependent? No. I simply think one light shines better and brighter when another light joins it. That why we have two headlights on our car. Yes, we can see with one, but it's a clearer and safer drive with two.

Ani DiFranco talks about forming attachments so we feel real, which isn't that different from Margaret Mead, who said, "One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don't come home at night."
I know every day people go about their lives alone: brushing their teeth, making their own breakfast, going to work, coming home from work, eating dinner, sleeping, shitting, masturbating, etc. Yes, it can all be done alone, and some welcome and cultivate that solitary life.

I'm not a fool. I know being alone is easier. There's certainly no drama, no sorting out of feelings, no negotiating, no examining one's own behavior, no trying to please someone, having to care about another's needs. In fact, there's barely a footprint. I don't want that. I want to care about others and celebrate their existence and let them know they matter and would be missed if gone from the world.

I don't want to be one of those people you read about on the news. You know the ones. The neighbors rarely saw the person. The person kept to herself. Then the cloying smell came, and they alerted the authorities. I don't want my life to go unnoticed by others.

Leo Buscaglia said, "We need others. We need others to love and we need to be loved by them. There is no doubt that without it, we too, like the infant left alone, would cease to grow, cease to develop, choose madness and even death."

When alone for large periods of time, I feel that--I feel stagnant, stunted. I feel like I wither. It's not that I neglect my development when alone. I read, I write, I make art. But the passion and emotion and thought process that goes into those outlets is stopped in its tracks. I want to share what I've read. I want to engage in the sort of relationships and life adventures that make me want to write. With art, I want someone who admires how hard I work, who appreciates the end product, even if he doesn't fully understand the method behind my madness, who encourages my artistic growth, and someone who is equally passionate about his own art, whatever that may be.

I can eat alone, but I love cooking for others and being cooked for. I can move my body on my own, but how sweet is it to share the air on Mica Mountain or to point out a landmark on a hike to someone else? Sexually, I can please myself, but it's the difference between a firefly and a bolt of lightening. One can accomplish the big O, but I cannot hold my hand, cannot massage my back, cannot spoon myself, cannot kiss myself 3 times before I go to sleep.

To be clear, I HAD that. And once one has that, being alone is devastating.

There are no medals of honor or commendations for wanting to be loved or giving out love. There are usually only scars and sometimes casualties. So why do it? A friend told me, "It will burn and hurt like a motherfucker, and then you will feel shitty and tinny for awhile, and then you will be okay. Hold fast." How funny is it that he could just as easily be talking about walking on hot coals or getting a tattoo or having a child, but instead he is talking about heartbreak?

Again, so why do it? Why sign on for another tour of duty? Why march purposefully through territory fraught with landmines and booby traps?

Actually, the metaphor isn't right, is it? Love isn't war. And there shouldn't be marching but spontaneity or serendipity--realizing that what you may find is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for. It happened once upon a time (a.k.a July 11, 2010). I didn't seek it out, but there it was: bright as tie dyes flapping in the summer sun. Love was unmistakeable. My world was tie dye bright for one year, and now it's not. And the Audrey in me is half-heartedly wishing she was colorblind because the absence of brightness now brings a harvest of tears, sleeplessness, and a mind mired in memories.


  1. Oh Wendy! That's an awful lot of words to say: "People need people". We are a herd animal, and although some can live contentedly as hermits, that is by specific choice, and so easier to bear. For most of the rest of us we are uncomfortable if we are truly alone, so it boils down to a matter of sharing. We all need someone to share our existence with; it is the sharing that confirms who, what and where we are. Hope the chance comes for you to meaningfully share again. Don't give up!

  2. Wendy,
    " I didn't seek it out, but there it was"
    Of all the losses that is the worse forme.