What does love mean? What does love feel like?
When I was a little girl, I loved my aunt, who was the only source of goodies in my life. She took me out for shopping and bought me cute outfits. She took me everywhere to show off her adorable little princess and told everybody how cute I was. I loved when she took me to a milk bar on weekends and we had pancakes and milkshakes like a mother and a daughter. They were fluffy and sweet with syrup.
I followed her everywhere like a duckling. I waited for her to come home and cried for her when she was late. When I ran to hug her, I smelled alcohol in her breath. She showered me with beautiful things. She gave me money to buy beautiful things. She even wanted to adopt me one time even though my parents had no reason to give me up.
She spoon-fed me sweets and snacks, regardless I wanted or not. She dangled pieces of snacks in front of my face. I automatically opened my mouth and ate whatever she fed me like a baby bird. She was amused and she still tells me how cute I was. She still tries to spoon-feed me. She is 94 and I am 60.
She licked my face because she loved me so much. It was yucky and I didn’t like it. When I said no, she proposed to trade licking with goodie. If I let her lick my face, she would give me a candy.
Quid pro quo.
That was love I knew. Love meant stomaching boundary violation from people who gave me something because they “loved” me. And I had to accept it regardless I want or not because if I didn’t I could lose love.
As you might guess, I had eating problems. When I felt unlovable, I filled the empty “stomach” with food, binge eating junks. I always felt an insatiable hunger no food could fill and once physical stomach was full, I felt more unlovable and nauseous, and I forced my self to throw up. (She could have fed me veges at least. I wonder why nobody binges on veges…) I still have difficulty to tell if I’m hungry physically or emotionally and feel anxious on the perceived prospect of going hungry. The Covid-19 grocery situation was nerve wrecking.
I always loved plants. I asked my aunt to buy me a rose bush. It was a red rose. I loved her (the rose). I was a disturbed and rebellious teenager and didn’t talk to my parents, but I went to talk to her every morning. She was the only one who heard me. My aunt was building her house in the property next to our house and one morning I found my rose plant was crashed under construction materials. I hated her for that and cried and screamed that I would burn her house down. It was the moment I learned that what I loved and cared for could be destroyed or taken away at a whim. I learned that nobody cared how I felt. Witnessing me in a murderous rage, my aunt replanted the rose bush somewhere safer. I didn’t care about the rose after that. My heart was crashed. My heart stopped talking to the rose. The rose bush was me.
My aunt sill “loves” me in her way. She doesn’t see me or hear me. She still sees a little princess. Every time I visit Japan I spend some time with her as a physical form on which she could project her little girl. It has been my role and I still play it because she is 94 and it is just several days a year.
After my father passed, I’ve learned that my aunt had an affair with a married man (in 1950s in Japan!) and had a daughter, and that the man and his infertile wife adopted the baby girl. I realized that I had been a stand-in for her daughter. Entire town knew about the scandal and still she showed me around as if I were her own daughter, in a matching outfit with her. I remember people asked her if I was her daughter. I am sure they knew I was not and still they asked, alluding to her illegitimate daughter.
I don’t feel love toward her. I feel I owe her quasi-daughterly care. Nobody loves her. She is highly narcissistic and very caustic woman and I am the only one she “loves.”
BTW I just noticed I still react the same way when I am threatened to lose something I love. I have this urge to destroy or walk away from the very thing I cared about so much, shutting down. I don’t do that anymore, but I am aware that it’s still in me.
Yesterday I found somebody cut and stole a sunflower from the park garden I took care of. It happens often. Some people are assholes. I felt the old rage bubbling up from my stomach and wanted to pull all the sunflowers from the garden, so that nobody would take my love away from me.