By Tommy Winfrey
San Quentin State Prison
The subject of love has been coming up for me lately, and yesterday in a SQUIRES meeting it came up again. SQUIRES is a program I am involved in where I mentor youth in San Quentin State Prison. Most of the young men that I talk to in SQUIRES come from unstable homes where the feeling of love is hard to find. A parent is usually absent and this is enough to create a gap in their lives. I was sharing my experience of growing up in a household where I had no doubt my mother loved me, and yet in return, my love for her felt unfulfilled. But a friend who was there and knows me pretty well asked, if I knew my mother loved me, why do I say I never felt loved?
At the time of this question I really didn’t know the answer, but I said, “Probably because I could see my mother’s actions and realize that she would do anything for me. However, she has never really been affectionate so maybe that was the reason I never felt loved.” I also said, “I knew rationally I was loved, but emotions are not always rational.” This conversation has left me thinking, why have I always felt I was missing love in my life?
I have come up with some answers to this question. First, I believe in the past I have taken my mother’s love for granted. Thinking she must be obligated to love me because she gave birth to me. The young men at SQUIRES have taught me this is not always the case in life, and that I owe my mother an apology for this. I am truly sorry Mom, I will never take your love for granted again. Secondly, I believe my father’s alcoholism created an uncertainty in my life growing up. As a result I began to question my feelings and others as well. Thirdly, and this may be the biggest reason, I never loved myself so I never believed others could love me as well.
I have never been lacking in my ability to care about others, and this might be an over compensation for not loving myself. Of course I have had problems in expressing my love, but if I love you, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for you. This means I have placed myself in peril too often in the past for the benefit of others. Something I would have never done if I had loved myself. Additionally, I have always been my toughest critic in life, and that little voice inside me just doesn’t know when to shut off. For a long time , I would do drugs to silence this voice, but I now realize that drugs only make things worse.
So, I have come to the conclusion that I need to love myself. I believe I have already begun this process, but I could get better at it. In the past, I believed that someone was going to come along and love me so much I would be magically healed. Now I believe the person I was waiting for was me. I still care for others deeply, but I believe it is more healthy, because my love is more justified. I am not loving the wrong people. I am loving fewer people, but the right ones. They say love can be fickle, but I believe love is all powerful.
All communications between inmates and external channels are facilitated by approved volunteers since inmates do not have access to the internet. This is part of The Last Mile San Quentin. Twitter: @TLM