It must have started with my mother, you think to yourself. All those times I had to bail her out in my childhood. You were always doing that weren’t you?
She needed everything.
Everything including all your hopes and your dreams and your wishes on a star.
“My daughter is an artist,” she’d say. “Take a look at this.”
You were the entertainment factor at her parties. You were nothing more than an object to her that made her look like a good mother when she didn’t have that capacity. Loving you was not foremost in her mind.
Maybe this is why you chose the name Valentine for yourself.
That is what you have been in this lifetime. A heart.
People saw it coming.
“There are givers and takers in this life,” she says to you. “You should always help those in need.”
All throughout your childhood you hear tales of other children who are starving all over the world and how lucky you are to have five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot and something to eat that Angelica has fixed for you. You sit at the children’s table in the kitchen. The adults take the dining room.
You live in a Spanish house designed by the people who worked on the Hearst Castle. It has a central courtyard and this is where your baby brother will be born. You’re just five.
You’re just five and Daddy has taken hundreds of glossy stills, all black and white and 8×10 and now you have to look at them and piece it all back together like some kind of puzzle.
She dresses you like a little doll, all haute couture at that age. She makes all the choices.
She will be doing that for years.
Just like the man you are about to leave has.
Husbandry hasn’t been his forte.
Perhaps thievery has.
This dawns on you slowly while you are on the road. In your car you sit and drink coffee and put the top down. The soft ocean breeze caresses your face, and the clouds pile up over the mountains into cumulus drifts because it’s hot and getting hotter into the last throes of an Indian summer.
You start thinking about money for the first time in your life because in your life you always worked for it.
You always were the one with the surplus to spend on everyone.
That was your role.
You were like your grandfather, at the head of the table writing out the hundred dollar checks that passed through your childhood all the time.
By nine your mother will be making you call Grandpa for more. More and more and more money. She even raids your little pig bank. She broke it just to get inside.
She makes you go out to the car where Daddy is and say that she needs child support. She tells you she can’t face him herself.
Maybe this is how you grew your spine, and your ability to never ask for any help with anything. You just did it all yourself. Like that story of the Little Red Hen or The Little Engine that Could. That did everything. It’s a Capricornian trait. Especially for a Third House sun like yours is.
This has been your mythos, you realize.
“I think I can.”
Mountains you have climbed, problems you have tackled.
His closet is full of clothes and presents that you brought him over the years. You had missed the lesson of the little red hen. In the end she ate the bread herself and didn’t share.
That was never you. You wanted dozens at the table because you love to cook for people.
You start tallying up the years you have given and given and given to him until your heart exhausted itself. Maybe you were trying to put nice things into a void.
Like all the gorgeously colored fruits you brought home. Fat strawberries bursting at their seams they were so large.
He can’t spend a cent on you can he?
The thought dawns that he is a miser. Worse than a miser. He used you.
He used up your heart and your life and your dreams and he got to do that for 24 years.
You just kept on bringing him everything. Everything, everything, everything.
“How could I possibly have been this stupid?” you ask yourself…
Sitting in your car with the top down and your coffee and the clouds and the sea and the afternoon light of it all illuminating everything.
You’re thinking about that closet stuffed full of clothes that you brought to him. You can see it in your mind’s eye. He doesn’t even know how selfish he is, or has been. He doesn’t even realize what he did to your heart that tried its best to love him all those years.
He’s incapable of love, you realize.
He has driven you out, finally, from the rose covered cottage that was supposed to be your abode.
You have run screaming freedom into the night which embraced you.
It was safer outside than in a place where his non-love could finish you off forever.
You ask yourself, why?
Why would anyone be so cruel to another?
You’ve been gone and you see something clearly.
The clouds open and your heart floats skyward, open, happy, pure.
Whatever he has robbed from you was only temporary.
The sun shines, the birds sing, you hear the train blow by.
Life in all its immediacy opens like a door or a mystery or a space you can slip through.
Whatever kingdom he thought he had you trapped in is eroding minute by minute as the entire universe sends good things towards you.
You can see them, like signs…
* * *
“Thief of hearts” — copyright 2009 by Valentine Bonnaire — all rights reserved.
*authors note — here are two links to the children’s books I referenced! It is pretty amazing when you see how the books you read in childhood set up a personal mythology for yourself. Actually, that would be an interesting vehicle for a Narrative Therapist to use with clients who were stuck. One technique we use is writing the story forward in terms of rewriting one’s personal myth. The Little Red Hen and The Little Engine that Could…