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© 2019 by Denny Balish

  • Denny Balish

Love Like a River

Love isn’t always an easy topic for me. I wish it were, but I’d be lying to say otherwise. Love and I have had a tenuous relationship since the time I was very young. I knew loving was my true nature but somewhere along the way, love got lost.

My family was not the type where love flowed freely. No, it was more like a dammed-up river of molasses tying to make its way around gigantic boulders in the middle of winter. We had strict terms of engagement, which shifted constantly, created a confusing landscape with people vying for belonging’s foothold.

My parents did the best they could, given what they were handed. I believe their troubled relationship started long before I was born. Likely it started before they were even born, or their parents, or their parents’ parents, and so on and so forth, generation upon generation.

Many an ancestral ghost haunted the landscape of my youth.

In my quest for love, I became a master shape-shifter capable of morphing almost instantaneously into “the someone” I thought others wanted me to be. 

I figured if I tried hard enough for long enough; if I pushed aside my needs for the needs of another, if I tucked those needs away, deep down inside some secret underwater cave, I could become an acceptable human being; a person who was worthy of love and belonging.

I can tell you now, beyond a shadow of doubt, that this was one fast ticket to hell.

For sixty years (and counting), I have been making my way through life working diligently to take all that “ick” and all that loss, and all that hurt, all that anger, and shape-shift it into a life I can love—bit by tender bit.

It hasn’t always been easy. On the contrary, it’s been tough as hell, like chiseling through a granite mountainside with a penknife. Sweat dripping, curses flying, tears falling. I’d give up, walk away, stew awhile, then come back, and go at it again. Over and over, year after year until, eventually, I made my way through.

Healing is a peculiar thing. Once it takes hold, no matter how much resistance is present, it gains momentum like an undulant river in early spring, increasing its course as snow and ice melt under the warming sun. Its flowing waters rubbing smooth the rough edges of life.

I don’t know the mechanics of it, but I have heard it said that when we heal ourselves, we heal seven generations back and seven generations forward. I want to believe this to be true. I want to believe that the current of life is not linear but in fact fluid and timeless. I want to believe that no matter what we were handed, we still have a chance at love…right here, right now.

I can honestly say that this has been, without exception, the most difficult thing I have every done in my entire life…this returning to love. Yet like all things precious to the heart, it has been worth every ounce of effort…and then some.

I take solace in knowing that, despite many a rocky patch, I was able to overcome my family’s dark legacy and provide a loving home for my daughter. Perhaps, due to my undying efforts to heal myself—to love myself—my daughter has a fighting chance at a beautiful life. And maybe I do, too.

So this Valentine’s Day, dear reader, consider deeply what you love, then go after it like a raging river.