Musings on Unconditional Love

Trigger Warning: This one meanders badly. I tried some editing, and moving things around, and I think I saved the flavour of the blog but was unable to make it more linear. I touch on abortion, mothers, and unconditional love. This might be triggering for anyone who a mother who resented them. I don't want to trigger any bad feelings or thoughts, so if you're one of the millions of us who had a mother who didn't want you, you may want to skip this one.

As always, if you're in need of someone to talk to, there is help out there! Please don't think you're all alone; you aren't.

You know, I wasn't going to write this one. I've been trying not to write too many intense things too close together. It seems to be hard on my mental health. But this blog keeps bouncing around in my head, trying to get out, so I guessed I needed to put fingers to keyboard, and get it down.

It stems from two different things I read-- two that don't go together in a way that most people would see, but for me they resonated off each other. One was a blog at HuffPo, "When Unconditional Love, Isn't", written by Mark Olmsted. The title of that one drew me in, quickly. I mean, I grew up in the US, I know the princess stories, and was inundated with that whole idea of unconditional love growing up. My mother always said, "I love you, unconditionally" when I'd done something she didn't like, or that was against some arbitrary rule... then she'd say, "But you know that was wrong/against the rules/against God."

I grew up thinking unconditional love was unattainable for children. I'd seen the way my Dad loved my mother, so I knew adults got that kind of love without strings-- I just thought kids didn't. Maybe it was that weird kind of "married people love" that made them want to be together, or maybe it had something to do with that "I married my best friend" thing I heard romanticised. I didn't know, I just knew that my mother didn't love me unconditionally. There were a lot of strings.

The second one I read last night, called "I wish my mother had aborted me". It's written under a pseudonym, and I can't blame the woman for hiding her identity. She's saying aloud something that a lot of us unwanted kids think: my mother would have been better off if she'd never had me.

This isn't to say that I wish I were dead. As Lyn Beisner so eloquently explained,

"An abortion would have absolutely been better for my mother. An abortion made it more likely that she would finish high school and get a college education. At college in the late 1960s, it seems likely that she would have found feminism or psychology or something that would have helped her overcome her childhood trauma and pick better partners. She would have been better prepared when she had children. If nothing else, getting an abortion would have saved her from plunging into poverty. She likely would have stayed in the same socioeconomic [sic] strata as her parents and grandparents who were professors. I wish she had aborted me because I love her and want what is best for her." [Emphasis added]

I am pro-choice. I support abortion, on demand, without apology. Literally. I've said that again and again. I never really articulate the idea that I support abortion in the abstract, too. Even if it's retroactive, and therefore impossible. What a freeing idea. At least it was for me.

I do love my mother. Very, very much. I can't say unconditionally, because I'm still learning what that means. But I love her. Flaws, hateful actions and all, I do love her. I choose to love the good mom I had some times as a kid, before her god became evil and vengeful, and ignore, wilfully look past, the hateful person she's become. I choose to love the mom in my memories, and some how that, weirdly, spills out into the real world and the mother that she is, today [which is to say a shitty one].

Knowing that my mother never really wanted me took years to come to grips with. I'd tried to be the perfect daughter, to always be loving and kind, and follow the rules-- even the weird, arbitrary ones that made no sense. I was accused of everything from being wishy-washy [the ultimate sin, in evangelical life-- it means you're not standing up for Jesus, and so you'll "fall for anything"... they're fucking stupid], to being demon possessed, to being a rebellious child-- and of course she'd always remind me that the Bible says that rebellious children should be put to death.*

I believe that the only child my mother birthed, that she wanted, was my brother. She turned 23 later that year, had been married for less than 5 years (he was born in the summer). But she wanted him, I  know she did. Everything she said, did and every way she acted as we grew up told me he was precious to her. He was her son! Her beloved son... the wanted child.

If my mother had aborted me, she probably wouldn't have married my Dad. She might have finished school, or not. She was desperate to move out on her own, to prove she was a grown-up, and could make her own decisions. She was your stereotypical rebellious teen ager. She smoked, drank and ran amok, so there are some doubts as to whether she'd have made something of herself without me around.

Dad would have been better off, too. He never would have been treated the way she treated him, and I'm positive he would have found a wonderful lady to marry, and spoil, and have kids with.

And I can't say I'd be better off. See, even though I believe in re-incarnation as part of my religious system, I can't say where I would have ended up. If I had been aborted before ensoulment** then I would merely have been reborn at a later time. That would have caused absolutely no disruption in my journey to enlightenment. I would have noticed nothing at all, I'd think. A moment of dark and then poof, back in the Between where I started.

But I do wonder, if she had aborted me, where she'd be. Would she know unconditional love? Would she love the children she went on to have unconditionally? Or would she be the same person she is today, with one less kid to torment with ideas of a retributive, angry god that wants to burn them in hell forever?

There's the part that's hard to say. My mother was not ready to be a mother. She was, and is, a terrible role-model. She hates being a mom, hated it with a passion when I was small, and so it's little wonder I raised myself. It wasn't the "oh, gods, I'm terrible with babies, I can't wait until they're bigger and I can actually talk to them!" It was very much a case of "I hate children with a passion, and yet I have some, right here, that I have to take care of... fuck". She's not the only one; there are millions of us: kids who weren't wanted. Part of it is religious, part societal, and part of it is the unique fucked-upedness that having a kid young can do to a person. No matter what part, though, it's shitty.

Back to the idea of unconditional love, though-- I'll circle back to the other topic, and hopefully wrap it up in a way that makes sense to someone besides me. I sought that out in my friendships and partners as I grew, and was disappointed at many turns. I thought, naively, that if I was willing to love, and give love, without strings then others would be, too... right? It stemmed from the ideas of christianity that I did absorb: love your neighbour as yourself. Well, damn, I can do that! I can love these people around me, even though I'm terrified of them, and try to be the most loving person I can be. I was capable of doing that, and still am, even in the midst of my worst anxiety attacks, or depressive episodes. Strangely enough, love has kept me from dropping off the deep end and into hospital many times. The love I gave, not the love I got. I'll explore that another day, maybe. It's something interesting to think about.

I loved my ex without conditions. I honestly, truly loved that man with everything I was capable of. It was slowly, over the course of years, the abuses, the neglect, the cruelty, the hateful way he talked to me, that the love died. It was as though he dripped herbicide on a rose bush: little by little the love I was capable of giving drained away. Today, there's a lot of negative feelings there, but mostly frustration and apathy. If he died, I can't say I would celebrate, but I would not be even a little bit sad. Terrible turn of events from loving someone that much, isn't it?

I know my Dad loved my mother without condition. He loved her sauciness, even her bull-headedness, even while he got exasperated with her, he loved her more than anyone, or anything in this life. It took about two years, full of an acrimonious divorce, lies from her about him, her cruelty to everyone around her, and a little bit of the magic of time before his love died. She had killed it by her actions, even though he tried desperately to save it.

I hope I love my kids without conditions or strings. I say hope, because I don't honestly know if it's possible to love anyone without some conditions. I think that it is, because I'm pretty sure, as feelings and thinking it through shows, that I love my kids and my husband without conditions. And if it's not possible, then I'll damned sure try to get as close to it as is possible.

Anyway, the kids: my children drive me to distraction! They're annoying, loud, snotty and irritating! They drive each other crazy, and me and Honey along with them! They're also smart, and funny, and talented and sweet. They're mannerly and amazing; awesome and brilliantly themselves. They ask hard questions, and think deeply-- as deeply as they can at 15, almost-13 and 8 anyway, and they're getting more and more questions and answers, thinking harder and harder about the world, and life and how things really are.

They are uniquely themselves, and that's what I love so much about them! I don't love my oldest in the same way I love my daughter-- they're two different people... but I love them with the same fierceness, and with all of me.

I want them to succeed; to be the generous, loving persons I know they can be. I want them to be happy in life, to stay out of trouble, or get into the right kind of trouble (ie. civil disobedience is OK, as opposed to prison for life for murder, which is not OK). If they end up mass murderers, rapists, embezzlers, Wall Street bankers, I'll still love them. I will be disappointed that they chose to act in ways that they know causes hurt, and harm, but I will love them. I won't support them in those choices, and if I had to, I'd bawl my way through testifying against them. Because I love them so much.  I'd never stop loving them. I don't know if I could. Doesn't mean I'd let them go genocidal and still welcome them home with open arms... they made these hypothetical choices, and need to suffer the consequences for them.

That's the crux of the thing, though, isn't it? Where do you tie the love you have for someone? Love kinda ties on, right? Or winds like a vine. So, where does it tie?

I don't tie my love to their obedience of me-- and it's a damned good thing-- I'm not raising authority worshipping little Brown Shirts. I don't tie it to religious ideals, or their doing what I want them to do with their lives. I don't expect to live my life through them-- they're not my second chance at anything. I don't resent them. I wonder if they shouldn't have picked a better mother, when they lined up for bodies to inhabit-- but I've talked about my imperfect parenting before.

I tied my love for them to the mere fact that they are my kids. Period. There's nothing they do to make them not my kids-- even if they disowned me too, they'd be my kids, and I'd love them to pieces. I know there are plenty of people who have kids who don't love them; I also know I chose differently, and choose to love them completely.

I also tie that love to their humanity. I love my kids because they're persons. Does that make any sense? I've tried to love people, because they're people. It's that "bare respect-minimum" thing: I respect you as a person, until you do something to raise or lower that. I love, or try to love, everyone in the same way-- even if it's just a compassionate kind of love, that little empathic jolt when you see someone suffer, or celebrate. But I do try, and I fail as often as I succeed. The more you know a person, though, the higher their humanity is, and of course, the more you love them.

You can't turn in your humanity card without doing something pretty heinous... so I guess my kids are stuck being loved-- no matter what.

Now, what I wouldn't do is claim to love them, while throwing away a huge part of who they are. This happened to me with my own mother, and I can't do that to someone else. It's what the above blog post was about. The writer discussed the chick-fil-a controversy*** and talked about how one gentleman wrote that his parents eating at that restaurant to "support the Cathy's free speech" was hurtful to him, because he's gay.

Well, yeah it was hateful to him! But his parents didn't see it that way until he explained. He claims his mother and he love each other unconditionally-- but I'm failing to see how that can be, as did Olmsted. How can you claim your parent loves you unconditionally when they hate your so-called lifestyle, or can't support you when the owner of a company supports second-classing you forever?! I don't see that as love, I see that as thinly veiled "love the sinner but hate the sin" shit... and that's what it is: Shit!

That is a phrase I loathe so much. I'd venture that I hate it, actually. Love the sinner, but hate the sin... only thrown at us queers, only at gay men, or lesbians, only trans persons, and those of us who are gender non-conforming. Only us.

I've never heard it thrown at someone like Newt Gingrich for his 3 wives, or Rush Limbaugh for his 4, or is it 5 now? Never heard it for someone who loves them some Red Lobster or bacon cheeseburgers. I've never heard any Pastor stand before his congregation in cotton only and rail against the sin of mixed fibres, adding that lovely caveat, "but I do so love you sinners in your mixed thread clothes". Never heard it about people working on Saturdays, either. Not once.

Selective love is something most of us are used to. We probably don't think about it that way, but we are.

Should we accept that, though?

Should we be willing to accept conditional love? Does that mean we'll meet those conditions willingly in order to stay lovable? Can we actually meet those conditions?

Or, realistically, can we love completely without condition? Should we?
I say Fuck Yeah!

And here I am back where I started: with abortion. If my mother had aborted me, I'd not be writing this, and I'm OK with that. I know I'm the tiniest cell in the body of the ever expanding universe, and I'm OK with that. I think it's pretty cool, actually. If I wasn't here, someone else might be, and that's OK too.

I don't think admitting that some times mothering isn't the best option is wrong. Some of us are mothers, and we don't always love it. Some days we hate it so hard! This doesn't mean we're all going to abuse our children, or that we hate our kids. It means we're human. Some of us place our children for adoption, because that's the best for them. Some of us parent, and that's best. Some of us terminate the pregnancy, because it's best. There is no one best.

Do I wish my mother had aborted me? I don't know. It gave me a lot to think about, though; reading that article made me realise that I wasn't the only person who had thought about it. And I have thought about it. I just never came to a conclusion. She probably would have ended up better off, and for that reason I can say, she should have aborted me. See, I love my mother, and when  you love someone, you want the best for them-- even if it's not the best for you.

This in no way means I'm suicidal, or wish I wasn't here. I like my life! It means that I know being here means I'm here-- not fate, not the Gods, not some special plan, or religious reason. Just a trick of biology. So, what am I going to do with it?  Like Beisner, while I'm here, I'll do my best to leave a positive impression, to help, to love and leave the world better than it was when I got here.

This means loving with everything I have, living in the best way, or be the best person I can be. It also means learning to accept love. That's something very hard for people raised without loving parents-- or one loving one, and one resentful one. For a long time I was completely unlovable. Or at least I thought I was. There was something wrong with me, so deep inside that I couldn't fix it, that made me unworthy of love. My mother didn't love me, my now-ex didn't love me, I mean, then no one would, right?

[Lucky for me, I've never doubted my Dad loving me. He worked so much when I was small, but I did know, and do know now, that he loves me. That helped, some... but not enough.]

Then I met my husband. And I met unconditional love. Crazy, but true. I had realised that whatever I thought was something wrong with me wasn't me, and had finally worked through those issues. It took awhile, but I had determined that I wasn't going to punish someone for the sins of my ex. It worked, too, because here I am!

My spouse is about the nicest guy you could meet. He's really funny, too, and smart as hell. Some times he's a know-it-all. Some times, I am too. He calls me on my shit. He supports me when I feel an episode coming on, and loves be even when I'm at my most unlovable.

Not once have I ever worried that he'd placed strings or conditions on loving me. I don't worry that if I'm not good enough, or happy enough, or anything enough he'll stop loving me. It's weird, yeah, but pretty freeing to know that indeed I am loved, just for myself-- the way it ought to be. And I love him back, in the same way.

I meander a lot when I think. Sampling this thought and that one, going back and forth, looking at all sides. It's a lot like working two Rubik's Cubes, a twist there, now a turn over here. I don't know why I do that, but it seems to be part of my compartmentalisation ability. It's helpful, too, when I'm looking at two things so absurdly connected, and yet completely disconnected as unconditional love and thinking about whether your mother should have aborted you.

I'm very sorry if you're wading through this and are confused! I wanted to get it out, and figured I'd share it, so maybe you can think about it too. I think we need to really look at abortion and whether or not it's the woman's best. Some times it really is, and she should be allowed to make that choice-- without "think of the baybehs!!" screamed at her. Some times not terminating ends in a kid who is resented their entire life-- and it sucks to be that kid. Thinking abstractly about what our mother would have been if we weren't here is a good exercise in empathy-- and for someone in my position, I need to be reminded to have empathy for her, too.

I think we also need to look at this thing called unconditional love... and actually practice it. Even if I don't like something my daughter has done, or said I don't un-love her. That'd be cruel, and really fucking stupid of me! But it happens, every day, to someone, some where.

There is no faerie tale, no price-charming, but there is unconditional love.

Unconditional love is, loving someone, because they are them.It's fucking beautiful! And the world needs more of it.

*Yes, she threatened me with death many times growing up. I didn't realise for many years that that was indeed was she was doing. I'd been brainwashed that any time the bible was brought into conversation it was the "Literal Word Of God!!" so that meant I had to listen to it. The passages in Exodus and  Leviticus were thrown at me over and over, and some times she'd toss me the bone of "But Jesus took care of that when he died for your sins, so we don't have to follow that part"... what a comfort to a scared kid with a harridan shouting at her, lemme tell you!

**The whole idea of ensoulment is a theological debate for the ages. The time it happens, the foetus becomes a person, but that time is unknown. Catholic and most christian theology held that it happens at "the quickening" or around the time the foetus could be felt moving, say 14-17 weeks. My beliefs are closer to that of Judaism, with a twist; my mythos holds that it is the first breath the infant takes. We believe the Goddess Herself blows the soul into the body with that first breath. No one knows when it is, if it even happens and for that reason I treat the idea of a soul as viability for abortion purposes... if the foetus can live on it's own, it's probably a person. If not, it is not.

*** No, chick-fil-a doesn't get the respect of capitol letters, first off. The controversy is their owner, Dan Cathy openly telling the Baptist Press that he supported anti-gay policies and sent assloads of money to anti-gay groups, including Focus on the Family. There were protests, boycotts and eat-ins; the latter by evangelicals homophobes. I have loved those chicken sandwiches for a long time, but stopped eating there about 2004 when I moved. A couple years later, I heard they sent money to a "pray away the gay" group and never went back. Recently, I did sent a letter to the company telling them that hate was not the kind of "biblical" value they should support, and that if they truly supported "biblical marriage" I expected them to come out in favour of polygamy, forcing rape victims to marry their rapist, slaves being forced to be brood mares, and of course the raped war bride. I know I wasn't the only one to send letters, and I also know I'm not the only one who didn't get a reply.


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