The (Lack of) Loves of My Life

From the prompt in the

Today’s prompt is to write about the loves of my life. That seems a bit treacly. Doesn’t every writer write about their great loves at some point in their lives? For example, for me, that would be the love I have for my children. It is the most intense, unconditional, and mystifying love I’ve ever known. It’s simply inexplicable, impossible to put into words.
How about if I talk about the lack of loves of my life? The experiences I’ve had in my life that have shaped me due to the lack of love I received? If I’d been loved by my parents like I love my children, my whole entire life would have gone on a radically differently trajectory. I had multiple opportunities to be loved by a number of parental presences, namely my biological parents, which included my mom and dad, then my adopted dad, once my biological dad left the picture, followed by my stepmother, after my mother stepped out of the picture leaving me with my adopted dad and his new and very young and hopelessly unprepared wife. Once that fell apart, as we all knew it would, I was shipped off to my maternal grandmother, who, to be fair, did love me, but very conditionally. So from birth, I think it’s fair to say that I was unloved by my parents.
Alas, they would loudly disagree and that is their right to do so, but I know what it feels like to love and be loved, and I was absolutely unloved and certainly not prioritized by any of these people whose task it was to love me.
Growing up unloved is an extremely lonely existence. I didn’t know any different of course because I never experienced being loved to begin with. I suffered greatly from that lack of love and concern for my wellbeing and it manifested itself in many different ways, both mentally and physically. I had constant anxiety and brain chatter; I had stomach and digestive issues,; I acted out emotionally, especially during adolescence; I attempted to look for love in inappropriate places; eventually I tried to buy their love. But nothing ever really worked. It wasn’t until my mid-thirties, when I began to have children of my own that I came to grasp what I’d missed out on. I’d missed out on a lot of encouragement, a great many hugs, a tremendous amount of validation, recognition of my physical and mental ailments which could have been addressed at a much younger age, saving me years of heartache and pain in my adulthood of trying to heal. And I’ve had to accept that some things never heal. That’s been the toughest part of all.
I’ve been told, in words, that I was loved, but I’ve never seen or felt any proof of it. All I ever saw was reticence, giving up, walking away. I was too much trouble to put in the work. I was damaged goods. And my perception is my reality.
It’s often said that a parent has but one single job: to keep their child safe, I never, ever felt safe, I never knew where I would be living and with whom from one day to the next. I never knew if I would ever see a particular parent figure again once they abandoned me. It is a very sad childhood to live through and it’s not much fun as an adult either, I think all children crave love, attention, validation. I know I did. I know my kids do, and they get it from me every single day, even as they are well into their adult years.
Perhaps one of the saddest parts of this whole situation is that I never was able to cultivate any kind of love for my various parents. I don’t feel the love for them that I know my children feel for me. How I would cherish the feeling of loving someone my whole life who loved me back. That seems the loneliest feeling of all.

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