Angel in My Life: Opening

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

March 31st, 2009 • Living with Chronic PainPrint Print

This post is a continuation of  ”Angel in My Life: Processing

I am on the phone with my soul mate and best friend of 17 years, Frani, discussing my confusion about Allen. She reminds me that in her 20s, she saw life as a string of adventures. To her regret now, she did not then recognize the importance of engaging in and building relationships, no matter how phenomenal the connection.

I remember that period well — her constant disappearance, her instability, my never-ending frustration, our incessant fights. I stuck it through.  And it was worth it. It was so worth it.

I begin to cry.  It has been a long time since I have engaged that deeply and fought that hard for a relationship.  Even my friendship with Frani has been on cruise mode for years. 

Chronic pain has profoundly affected how I relate to people. For starters, it has left me with a limited energy bank.  I can’t spend it on the ups and downs of personal drama. So I let go of things.  Sidestep things.  Don’t engage as deeply. Cut people out.

In addition, the repeated trauma, pain, and suffering I have endured at the hands of “healthcare” practitioners has led me to the deep practice of acceptance. I used to fight whichever system was pissing me off at any given moment.  And, feisty punk-ass that I was, win.

But fighting the medical system ultimately kept my energies focused on negativity and exacerbated my pain. So I learned to conserve my energy, pick my battles, and dedicate my mind, body, and spirit to that which was positive and healing.

Perhaps related to my experience with pain as well (specifically, the limitations and resulting personality shift I went through), I also came to feel that people are who they are, and we can’t change them. They not only make different choices but also have a set of chemical predispositions and limitations that determine how much they can engage.  In other words, all of those heart-to-hearts may be for naught. 

Over the years, furthermore, I experienced a relationship narrative similar to that of other sassy, powerful, unapologetic, self-actualized, outspoken, wild, outlier type women: Men start off smitten by our juiciness; fully engage mind, body, and soul; then run like hell. What initially excites them ultimately intimidates them. And it is heartbreaking every time.

I don’t have the energy for heartbreak. What’s more, I’ve come to decide ideologically that if a man is worthy of my time and attention, he can work for it. This move has felt like a healthy step: Stop putting myself out there, stop doing the work, stop extending myself, until the man has proven himself.

The problem is, this approach makes me passive. That passivity in turn makes my romantic life incongruent with the rest of my life, which I pursue with zest and steely determination — attitudes that  ultimately provide me with the ammo I need to manifest my dreams.

In addition, what if someone needs to be in relationship, in order to grow in certain ways? What if a person needs an injection of understanding, compassion, time, and patience, in order to blossom into the person s/he is meant to be? If Frani and I had met at a time that I approach relationships as I do now, I would have ditched her immediately.  Both of us would have lost incredible opportunities for growth, healing, and transformation.

And isn’t love uneven, more often than not? Doesn’t it usually work out that one person is more present at the beginning, then the other catches up, and the dance continues?

The problem with this model, of course, is social perception: In my teens and 20s, I was so confident that I didn’t bat an eyelash at seeming rejection. Boys and later men, however, saw my persistence not as a source of strength, but as a source of weakness. They therefore responded with less interest, not more.

To paraphrase Carrie Bradshaw on “Sex and the City,” as she pelts Aidan’s apartment window with pebbles, “When a man goes all out, it’s seen as romantic. When a woman goes all out, it’s seen as desperate.”

Gender roles, emotional pain, limited energy, cynicism…

As I cry on the phone with Frani, I decide that nothing is more important that the heart. My heart, I come to understand, has been frozen, guarded. But something about Allen, our connection, the magical rainy day, and the space I’m at in my life all collude to warm and open my heart again.

Story continues with Angel in My Life: Grounding.”

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