The Pain of Attached Love
By: Andee Scarantino
(4 min read)
It’s hard for me to experience attached love.
I’m not speaking of the deep, inter-connected love we all are underneath our star-dusted form, but rather, that uniquely human love that can only be felt in the world that manifests.
Attached love, like the way eyelashes feel on your cheek in the morning; that soft moment that can only be experienced in a human body. Laughing with someone else. Cooking dinner. Sitting on opposite ends of a sofa with someone so comfortable, you can settle into the thickness of your human essence and simply be.
All of it hurts me.
It’s said that to love is pure bravery, and for so long, I didn’t believe it. That was because I’d never loved purely. I’d just take bite size samples, committing to no one, surrendering to nothing.
I even kept family and friends at arm’s length.
I tucked myself away in a trauma response of intense isolation for many years because of the fear I had. I allowed attachment of my whole heart to only two people, and I knew to lose either would cripple me.
I would matter-of-factly state that when either of them died, I likely would as well, and anyone else who died I could “surely live without.”
To this day, I remain unprepared for the departures of those two people (one being my mother.) I try not to think of it any more than I think of my own death, which I hope will happen in a Kenny Roger’s “Gambler” fashion.
My partner sees the way love causes me this great pain.
As we hold one another and we smile, laugh, kiss, I fight this fear of attaching myself too deeply, constantly playing “redirect” from the thoughts of the burn that’ll I’ll be left with when we eventually part company; like the sting of raw flesh meeting the air after a burn or scrape.
For many years, I wouldn’t even entertain romantic love or intimacy unless that someone had a partner they never intended to leave.
I’m not proud of those times, but I’ve made my peace with them.
It wasn’t until this year that I realized my apprehension to love is not because I’m hard, but rather, because I am soft.
A few weeks ago, my mother, brother and I went to an amusement park called “Knoebels” in Elysburg, Pennsylvania. It’s smack dab in the middle of a rural area, and it’s America’s largest free admission park. They have paid rides, food, and attractions, but to enter the park and walk through it is completely
Free of charge.
It was known as “Knoebels Grove” when it opened in the 1920’s. In some ways, it looks like a grove! There are plenty of trees amongst the rides.
When we went on this spinning ride, the “Paratroopers,” I said to my mom “it looks like our feet are going to hit those trees!”
“We’ve been worried our feet are going to hit those trees for 20 years!” she said.
My family has been going to Knoebels since my brothers and I were very young. No matter the circumstance, every one of us could find joy in the simple pleasures it brought. The rides, now 30 years after I started going, have the same names. Everything looks exactly as it was. It’s one of those places that time simply allowed to be.
When we decided to take a trip back to Knoebels in August, my mom, brother, and I were easily the oldest people in the park that didn’t accompany small children.
We were the children.
We rode the Scrambler and the Swings, and I noticed that the feeling inside of me hadn’t changed since I was a child. Being with my brother, now 31, was just like being with him when he was five and needed to be held tightly.
As we sat for lunch and ate our usual fresh-cut French fries, I still remembered the one year I went to the park with someone else’s family, and how irritated I got at the blasphemy when they suggested we buy fries at any other stand. (Didn’t they know those other stands served frozen fries?)
I felt transported back to this innocence of youth, and then, the sadness crept in. Sadness, that all of us were flying through this human experience, aging, being toppled out of control through the years of unpredictability.
People go to places like Knoebels because they stand so firm against time.
We anchor deeply as humans to the nostalgia of places that have the courage to remain unchanged. They remain unchanged so we can linger in joy and comfort, dismissing to recognize that all attachment ends in suffering.
I remind myself to “be here now,” but sometimes, the beauty of it is almost too much for me.
I can’t help but psychologically “travel” to the non-existent future, to a time where what is, won’t be.
Love is the most courageous of the emotions.
I don’t mean the purity of the interconnectedness and the serene peace of the void we’ll return to, but rather, the attached human love that has accompanied me from the moment of my birth; the human love that I will lose someday, an elderly woman orphaned, childless, hoping to be relevant, hoping no longer that anyone would desire my body, but simply notice it.
As I sat in the recliner on the evening that we went to the park this last time, I allowed the emotion to simply flow. Tears streamed down my face. Attached love is so beautiful.
My mother saw me and immediately worried.
“Why are you crying!?” she asked.
“I’m just moving energy,” I said, and smiled.
“Oh!” she said, relieved. “You’re on the path. You move energy.”
It was meant to be funny.
She didn’t know what “on the path” meant a year ago, and she doesn’t quite embody the words. She says them lovingly because I do.
It’s clear that my “path” has quite a bit of road ahead, but I’m fine with it. The human experience, especially love, is sacred in all ways.
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