Frightening lessons in love : Jeanette Winterson

Unconditional love is what a child should expect from a parent even though it rarely works out that way.  I didn`t have that, and I was a very nervous watchful child.  I was a little thug too because nobody was going to beat me up or see me cry.  I couldn’t relax at home, couldn`t disappear into a humming space where I could be alone in the presence of the other.  With the Depressed Dead wandering around the kitchen, and mice masquerading as ectoplasm, and sudden fits of piano playing, and the sometime revolver, and relentless brooding mountain range of my mother, and the scary bedtimes – if Dad was on nights and she came to bed it meant all night with the light on reading about the End Time – and the Apocalypse itself was never far away, well, home wasn`t really a place where you could relax… Ask for reassurance and it would never come.  I never asked her if she loved me.  She loved me on those days when she was able to love.  I really believe that is the best she could do.

When love is unreliable and you are a child you assume that it is the nature of love – its quality – to be unreliable.  Children do not find fault with their parents until later.  In the beginning the love you get is the love that sets.

I did not know that love could have continuity.  I did not know that human love could be depended upon.  Mrs Winterson’s god was the God of the Old Testament and it may be that modelling yourself on a deity who demands absolute love from all of his children but thinks nothing of drowning them (Noah’s Ark), attempting to kill the ones who madden him (Moses), and letting Satan ruin the life of the most blameless of them all (Job), is bad love.

True, God reforms himself and improves thanks to his relationship with human beings, but Mrs Winterson was not an interactive type; she didn’t like human beings and she never did reform or improve (or repair????)  She was always striking me down, and then making a  cake to put things right, and very often after a lockout we`d walk down to the fish and chip shop the next night and sit outside on the bench eating from newspaper and watching people come and go.

For most of my life I have behaved in much the same way because that is what I learned about love.

Add to that my own wildness and intensity and love becomes pretty dangerous.  I never did drugs, I did love – the crazy, reckless kind, more damage than healing, more heartbreak than health.  And I fought and hit out and tried to put it right the next day.  And I went away without a word and didn’t care.

Love is vivid.  I never wanted the pale version.  Love is full strength. I never wanted the diluted version.  I never shied away from love`s hugeness but I had no idea that love could be as reliable as the sun.  The daily rising of love…

It was never too late to learn love.

But it is frightening.

Jeanette Winterson  

Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal

11 thoughts on “Frightening lessons in love : Jeanette Winterson

  1. Very, very good. I like how you talk about the metaphorical(though still holy) God of the OT. a lot of people I know would call me a blasphemer, but I personally think that a lot (by no means ALL) of what people said of God in the OLD Testament was tribal and primitive…other than the chronicles of David, not much about the Bible lines up historically until you get to the New Testament. I love how you contrasted the love of God compared to him making Satan beguile Job (a metaphorical, but still Holy, fairy tale if I ever heard one).

    1. I totally agree.. just to claify this is not my wriiting but from Jeanette Winterson. We need to be mindful of the myths and fairytales we `believe` they can be refuges and hiding place or reveal profound psychological truths. I am fascinated by it and this is why I posted this particular excerpt. Read Alice Miller on the myth of the serpent in the garden and what that tells us about not looking for our own truth or evidence and being judged as evil for it. Thanks so much for your comment. 🙂

    2. Also like her I was raised on the fearful God of the Old Testament and so were my sisters.. it exiles the embodied feminine as well and there is just so much of it that no longer suits our day and age. And yet these ideas still persist in many cultures.

      1. I agree…I’ve never liked the whole patriarchal thing of the OT…not to say I’m some great guy or whatever, I just really always felt like it was mostly ancient societies (and yes, even America for a long time, though I’m not really in any place to talk about it) that put women down and made men the stronger. Nowadays, though there’s talk of a lot of discrimination going on, I think most (RATIONAL) people would laugh at notions like that…it’s quite obvious that patriarchy is outdated and promitive…reminds me of cavemen lol.

      2. Yes agree its just a dying old order. Men are suffering just as much as women but often they dont know why and how. I think we were meant to reverence each other as equals and sacred it may sound a bit out there but I think that is why we are in such a mess. Its trying to heal but people make the wrong thing of it if they dont look subtly and more deeply into our dilemman… and yes, its evolutionary.

      3. I sound so PC and generic, but man, woman, Christian, Muslim, White, Black, Yellow…labels are so damn stupid. We are all the same species….most religions parallel each other perfectly (though I do believe that Jesus sums them up perfectly and historically), and whatever difference genders and races and classes have is very very minor. I’m amazed that people don’t realize that one single group of people isn’t any better or any worse than the other. It’s all the same, literally, in my opinion.

      4. Totally agree I think Jesus had so much to say about this….we are all equal so why create separation I think it all comes out of fear and superiority BS defence against vulnerablitty true humanity/connection… dare I say love??

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