“Our sensory organs love to lead us astray, and eyes are the most deceptive of all. We rely too heavily upon them. We believe that we see the world around us, and yet it is only the surface that we perceive. We must learn to divine the true nature of things, their substance, and the eyes are rather a hindrance than a help in that regard. They distract us. We love to be dazzled. A person who relies too heavily on his eyes neglects his other senses–and I mean more than his hearing or sense of smell. I’m talking about the organ within us for which we have no name. Let us call it the compass of the heart.” –Jan-Philipp Sendker
I have 20/20 vision, but I have been blinded by love. I have turned a deaf ear. I have allowed other organs–not always my heart–to lead me astray.
Many years ago, I fell for Christian because of a dream. Beforehand I had not even considered him attractive. In the dream, he had approached me, pushed me up against the lockers at the bookstore where we worked and smelled me. Not a “let me get a whiff of you” kind of sniff, but a “let me take the scent of you in from the top of your hair to the bottom of your you-know-where.” When I woke up, I could not get him out of my head. The dream had seemed so real, a relationship seemed like an inevitability, something that would happen beyond all reason. And it did.
Within two weeks we were a couple. I wanted to be with him all the time, but I didn’t want any of my friends to know we were together. He was my secret born out of a dream. He was passionate and jealous, creative and thoughtful. He wrote me letters and short stories. I wrote him a poem while I watched him sleeping. He was a mystery to me. What made him tick, what he thought, why he did what he did. I was dazzled.
We were out one night for drinks–a place we had been before–and the bartender was mildly flirtatious. Christopher grabbed a wine screw and threatened him. I was shocked and appalled, but a part of me wondered if maybe this was just something guys did. I went blind that day. I didn’t want to see how impossibly uncomfortable it made him to be with me in a group of people. I didn’t want to see how rude he was to my friends or how much he drank. How poorly he treated me.
A year later, my sight came back after a terrible fight that ended with him getting arrested. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and saw two distinct hand imprints around my neck. In that moment, I realized I wanted to be loved so badly, I had allowed someone to treat me badly. And if I didn’t want to ever be treated this way again, I would have to heal this place inside that was so broken, I no longer knew the difference between love and pain. If I didn’t want anyone to ever hurt me again, I had to stop treating myself like I was a lost cause.
So, I took up a cause. I started volunteering at the library for the blind by reading books and magazines on tape. Every week, I would sit in a little booth in front of a microphone while the wonderful woman who ran the program recorded me reading hunting and fishing magazines, personal essays from the Pacific Northwest’s literati, and fictionalized accounts of western heroes. While I would read I would imagine the listener–cut off from something they didn’t quite understand–swept up by their imaginations and no longer hindered by their physical handicap.
In truth, I was imagining me no longer handicapped by me. I wanted to be free of myself long enough to find a new way to inhabit my heart. I read out loud until I could hear what it was trying to say. Until I no longer took myself for granted. Until I was no longer afraid to be seen.
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker is a beautifully, tender love story about a young woman’s search for her missing father. When she travels to Burma, she discovers much more than she expected. As a member of From Left to Write, I received a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.
At the beginning of your post, I was struck by how similar our beginning were–but by the end, I was astonished by how differently it could end. I’m so glad that you woke up and got away. (My mother’s second marriage was much like what you described. My first black eye was from him when I was 7.) And I’m even more thankful that you’ve found a passion that helped to heal you!
Janin–I love that you found M after growing up in what sounds like a bit of turbulence yourself. Thank you for sharing that part of your life with me.
The blind leading the blind takes a new twist!! Love that you got your sight back and are seeing clearly again….
Wow. This is an amazingly raw post. I loved reading it. Thank you for sharing so honestly.
Thank you for sharing something so personal. I’m glad that you saw the signs and was able to leave the relationship.
Wonderful post. I know so many women, including myself, that had to find their heart before they could truly give their heart in real love. So pleased you were able to overcome this wounded spot in your life.
Thanks for sharing such a personal story – I am so glad you were able to get away from that relationship.
So many of us are “afraid to be seen” or afraid to be heard. So many of us are blind – or trapped in our own little snow globe of illusions…..
Thank you for opening your heart and sharing your vulnerability with the world. Telling the stories of our wounds signifies the return of the Heroine….returning home from her journey to share the wisdom she has learned….
Thank you so much for your kind words. It was a huge risk to write about this part of my life that happened in what sometimes seems like a lifetime ago. But when it flowed out of me I knew it would find whoever needed to read it.
And, just so we’re being honest, you kind of made my year calling me a Heroine. I’ll have to be careful to not let that one go to my head. : )
Very interesting post, thank you. While I was writing my book “The Art of Hearing Heartbeats” some people whom I told the story argued with me. They said: Love makes blind. (It is a proverb in German by the way)
I disagree. I think true love, as one of my characters in the says it, does the opposite. I guess everybody has to find out for him or herself how it works for him or her. That is live’s journey I assume….
Jan- Philipp Sendker
Thank you so much for reading my post and for sharing your thoughts with me. I loved your book. I was swept up in the magic of the love story you created between Tin Win and Mi Mi. When it comes to love, I think the proverbial blindness is only experienced during the infatuation stage. Once you’ve moved past that initial stage, love becomes the lens through which you not only see the beloved as clearly as possible, but also yourself flaws and all. But this is something you already know, it was so clear in the beautiful words you wrote in your book.
Here’s to the journey,
Wow. Just… wow. That post absolutely gave me the shivers. It’s amazing how easy it is to be sucked in and blinded like that. I’ve been in a relationship that was like that – but never physical, thank goodness. I am doing all I can for the wee ones to ensure they’re strong enough not to get sucked into something like this.
I LOVE that you’re volunteering at the library like this. I’d love to read on tape, but I would have no idea where to start.
Thanks so much for your kind words about my post and for sharing a small bit of your past with me. Even though this relationship ended many many years ago, I know in my heart that the lessons I learned have made me a much stronger and more loving person to myself, which in turn, brought much kinder people into my life.
Very powerful and passionate post. It is a shame that men so often do not know how to treat the women that they “love”. I think the problem is that you become an object of their love, a possession, not a rational thinking and loving being. I admire your courage for posting this and for having the strength of character to walk away from a very bad situation. Thank you for sharing this, and I hope other women will read this and have an awareness of the early signs of abuse.
Thank you for sharing your insights with me. I really appreciate your honesty.