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Category Archives: Hopeless Devotion

You

I have been listening to Holly Cole sing “I Want You (You You)” in her gravelly alto voice, and contemplating the extraordinary power of the word and concept known as You.

I believe that You is in fact a God, a God worshipped by single women like myself.

I am a HUGE devotee of this deity. I guess you could call me a Youist.

The practice of You-worship can be broken down into several stages.

During the first phase of Devotion, You is revered ardently with breathless blogging, chatting online, OMGing with BFFs, browsing dating sites, watching chick flicks, singing along with Josh Grobin, and reading romance novels.

Devotees of You Believe the Following:

You exist
You are out there somewhere
You will find me
You will love me
You will heal me
You are what has been missing from my life
You will be like Mommy and Daddy Only Much Better and
You Will Love Me Better Than They Did
You will love me as much as my dog Chumbles
You will purr louder, paw me and rub up against me more than Adelaide the cat
You are not inside me no matter what those new age authors say
You are someone other than me, someone who will complete me
You are not a figment of my imagination even when I am off my meds
You will make up for everything I ever lost, every hurt I ever felt, including when my first goldfish died
You look better than all the best looking NBA NFL and Movie Stars crossbred with People’s Sexiest Men Alive
You will worship Me Too

During the second phase of Devotion, worshippers progress to Relationship, in which You is expected to merge with The Love Object, through an intricate, infuriating, confounding but sometimes miraculously successful ritual known as Courtship.

Nobody knows why Courtship succeeds or fails.

The rite of Courtship happens first and ideally during the Tender Young Adult Years. It also occurs, generally with a much lower success rate, in Middle Adulthood after divorce or in response to the Loud Ticking of the Biological Clock.

Courtship is an attempt to uncover and worship all of You’s traits in an actual human lover. When the rite is completed successfully by both Love Objects, there is great joy, perhaps even marriage, and much Congratulating and Mazeltoving throughout the community.

When Courtship fails, which happens with tragic frequency among older Youists who are often too jaded, exhausted, damaged, wounded, addicted, cynical or mentally ill to keep faith during the arduous process, the result can threaten emotional and physical health.

Often it is necessary for devotees to abandon You worship altogether and switch religious faiths to other cults. Ones that appear to be especially popular include: Spinning and Stepping, Real Estate (traditional but still very strong), Children and Grandchildren, Purse Dogs, Dollhouses, Reality Shows, Fifteen Minute Celebrities, Eating and Dieting, Online Shopping, Facebook, Twitter, and the perennially popular Myself Moi y Yo.

Next: Life After You…The Cult of Me

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2011 in Essays, Hopeless Devotion

 

Waiting For My Prince

As a Valentine’s Day gift to my readers, I have compiled a list of song titles that represent the most common and dangerous myths about love. I hope you will find this useful and refer to it as often as needed:

Some Day My Prince Will Come:

It took me half a lifetime to realize that HRH was never going to show up and the only attractive man I would ever see on a horse would be the guy in the Old Spice ads. Here’s how it really goes: You wait for the Prince and while you are checking your cell phone for texts and scanning your online dating service for the millionth time, some other dude shows up and he’s not bad so you end up with him.

Here’s the good news: the more time you spend with your commoner, the more Princely he seems, and if you don’t break up, you will probably fall in love with him and get to dress up like a Princess for your wedding.

I’m Just A Girl Who Can’t Say No:

I went through a phase of thinking I was a Yes woman. It turned out I was just drinking too much. So I gave up drinking and the floozie fled. Here’s the truth: I wasn’t that girl. You aren’t that girl. Nobody is that way all the time. If you have tendencies in that direction, you need to learn the word NO and use it early and often. Fun Fact: There is a fantastic website that teaches you how to say No in 520 languages. Fabulous for the single female on the road. I recommend it:

http://users.elite.net/runner/jennifers/no.htm

I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair:

If only it were easy  and quick to scrub your head clean of a troubled love affair. To me banishing thoughts of a beloved from one’s brain is much more like removing head lice than simply shampooing. It takes repeated treatments, combing every strand, looking for the beastly biting critters and often discovering that in spite of all your efforts the lice still cling to your hair. Unless you want to shave your head, there is no easy option for losing them. You just have to repeat the treatment until the last one is gone.

I’ll know When My Love Comes Along:

Oh how I wish this were true! If only I could say to you that I had never made a bad romantic choice. Alas, some of us can really pick ’em. Not once but again and again and again. Where did I get my taste in men? Is it true, as one of my exes suspected, that I have LSD running in my veins? Perhaps it was my childhood reading list: Nancy Drew, Oz Books, Archie Comics and Joke Anthologies? Maybe I can trace my tragic flaw to a toy collection heavy on Barbie dolls and Trolls. Whatever doomed me, I have found it to be true that we do learn from painful choices and over time get better at spotting romantic potential (or at least lacing up our running shoes).

People Who Need People:

I’m not even going there. Needing people is just a bad idea. It’s where all the trouble starts. I will admit that a lot of relationships are fueled at least in part by need but it’s a dangerous emotion. You have to handle it very carefully, peeps.

I Only Have Eyes For You:

As credulous as I am, I never believed this one until a man who later broke my heart told me endlessly that it was so. After he dumped me, he went on to court another woman with the exact same eyes, and moves, he used on me (and I’m pretty sure he used the same phrasebook of mosts, bests and onlys).

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2011 in Essays, Hopeless Devotion

 

If Loving You Is Wrong…I Don’t Want to Be Wrong

I am astonished by the number of years I spent chasing after people who could care less about me. Not just hopeless love affairs, but also friendships or professional connections with people whose response to me was rejecting, cold, competitive, controlling, diminishing, defeating, cruel, or even outright abusive. If there is one thing I have learned from endless hours of field experience with fatal relationships it is that there is nothing worse, to rephrase a famous Groucho Marx saying, than wanting to be a member of a club that doesn’t want me. Here are a few useful corollaries: Never pursue anyone to the point of frustration or breathlessness. Give your energy to people that love and care about you. Look for open doors, open hearts, open arms.

This does not mean that you will want to or be able to respond to every offer from every friendly face. What it means is that when pursuing friendship or love it is essential to choose from among people who are positive, loving and easy to be with and forget the rest.

When you think about it, it is truly rather absurd to want friendship or romance with someone who rejects you again and again. And yet this practice is so common that it is a staple of popular song, movies, theater, literature. Shakespeare’s Midsummer’s Night’s Dream elevates this conundrum to a farcical extreme. Billie Holiday lays it out in song after blue song: “Unrequited love’s a bore, and I’ve got it pretty bad, but for someone you adore, it’s a pleasure to be sad.”

Loving an impossible person is at the heart of the neurotic condition known as codependency. It is a familiar sad story to the spouses and lovers and children of alcoholics and drug addicts. In its extreme, it can manifest as the perilous even fatal love of an abusive or violent person.

I have been in love with more than one alcoholic, and loved more than one emotionally or verbally abusive person. I have spent years in therapy examining why I chased after, and held onto, so many rejecting boyfriends and friends in general.

The reason for this pathology is usually rooted in patterns set in motion during childhood. Exposure to a remote, unavailable or abusive parent or caregiver is all it takes for a child to learn that love is something you have to work for and that love comes with a heavy dose of neglect, abuse, hurt and rage.

Alas, this was a message that I carried away from my own childhood, due to an unfortunate choice of a caregiver who for a number of years kept me in an atmosphere of punishment and terror, which regrettably escaped the notice of my good natured but busy parents. By the time this unfortunate phase ended, I had become chronically anxious and insecure and my paradigm of love was very twisted indeed.

One of the miracles of midlife, however, is that one finally feels entitled to shed bad patterns and shrug off dysfunction. For some reason there is an inner voice that encourages us to move away at last from childhood programming and childhood hurts. How astounding, in one’s fifties, to be tiptoeing away from one’s childhood as if one at any minute could get a spanking or be sent to one’s room. The good news is: Mommy and Daddy aren’t in charge. They might not even be alive. You are an adult and have been one for several decades and you truly can with no risk walk away from any  cruel and punishing things you have tolerated for half a lifetime.

Moreover, you don’t have to wait as long as I did.

I believe the legal age of adulthood is 18, and by 21 there is no doubt that you are entitled to drive your own bus. So get moving and don’t look back until you reach the door to the club that wants you, the lover who is not wrong but right.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2010 in Essays, Hopeless Devotion

 

Hopelessly Devoted

I am so grateful to the person who searched for “hopelessly devoted” on this blog. It’s an important topic. Thank you for prompting me to explore it.

I have spent years of my life in hopeless devotion. I would not wish it on anyone.

If you are hopelessly devoted, I pray that you will find the support and strength you need to let go. I hope I can help you get started by sharing a few thoughts.

Let’s begin by considering the word “hopeless.” The absence of hope is the bottom of the emotional spectrum. It is one notch or two away from “deeply depressed” and a close cousin to “suicidal.”

Hopelessly devoted is essentially a synonym for a love that has no hope. True, healthy love is overflowing with hope. Hopelessly devoted also implies a passion that is either unrequited or unequal. Who needs that?

Devotion is essential to a healthy relationship. The deep surrender and discipline of devotion, when mutual, is certainly a goal that any two people in an intimate relationship would want to reach. But not when it is hopeless or one-sided.

How do we get into the unhappy state of hopeless devotion? And how can we get out of it?

I used to think of hopelessly devoted as being an obsession with an unattainable love object who leads you on and then dumps you. While he moves on, you remain attached to him. In this scenario, the hopeless and helpless devotee is victimized by the object of her obsessive love.

After years of exploring my own ill-fated infatuations, however, I have come to look at it in a different way.

Being devoted to someone who is not devoted to you is, indeed, hopeless. But you are not a helpless victim in the situation. I have learned, through therapy and research, that remaining in love with a rejecting suitor is a matter of choice, not of submitting to someone else’s will. I now know that if I hang onto a futile infatuation, it is because I want a hopeless situation.

Want a hopeless situation?  Yes I do. It is my fear of intimacy that makes me hang on to someone who does not care about me. That sounds horribly self-destructive, and it is. The good news is that I can change my own thinking and behavior.

To move from hopeless to hopeful devotion, we need to open ourselves up to someone who will actually return affection. This is a frightening prospect for those of us who crave but also fear intimacy.

Fear of intimacy can come from various sorts of early traumatic experiences with love. For someone used to working hard for affection and not getting much in return, a hopeless devotion can be a way, as Freud explained, to try to fix the past by repeating it.

But as students of Freud’s “repetition compulsion” theory know, repeating a hurtful pattern does not solve the problem. Nor does it cure a fear of intimacy.

How to move past this dilemma? It starts by learning to open your mind to people who are capable of returning your affection. You have to move “caring and loving” to the top of your list of desirable qualities. It is frightening at first. Sweet and affectionate people can be scary to those who fear intimacy and are not used to being loved in a healthy way. It’s ok to reach out to a therapist or support group for help in doing this. You need to learn to resist the magnetism of the unresponsive lover and to move in the direction of someone who can join you in your devotion and in the love you truly want and deserve.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2010 in Essays, Hopeless Devotion