Last night, CNN aired a special on legendary Hollywood icon, Elizabeth Taylor. Along with references to her many films and philanthropic efforts, she was encouraged to recollect, and comment upon, the numerous men with whom she’d had affairs and had married.
When she reached Richard Burton, the nature of Ms. Taylor’s narrative changed. She could not stop favoring him and their time together with every conceivable compliment. Though they’d notoriously fought throughout both their marriages he’d been, hands down, the love of her life.
The last point, on the list of symptoms in codependent “relationships” with addicts.
To my mind and heart, it’s the killer.
The biggest stone in the road. The greatest force of resistance.
The devil’s favorite device.
Driving home from Ohio this afternoon, encountering construction and being forced to submit to reduced speed single lane, I had plenty of time to allow this phenomenon to percolate.
So much about failed attempts to establish mutual trust and nurture between myself and the afflicted had been relatively easy to discard: the brutal verbal abuse; the erratic mood ambiance; the gaslighting..; but, walking away from the precious moments – quiet, contemplative evenings; ravenously satisfying gourmet meals; gifts of warm clothing; and, sharing the love of an adorable dog….even the occasional, fruitful conversation, and memories of a physical passion that had always smoothed over everything else in its path…..all this brought the heartache.
Mathematicians are sometimes reviled for their lack of emotionality; but, tonight, I’m betting they have a much easier time compartmentalizing their feelings of longing up against the multiple factors working against what should otherwise nourish and sustain.
One gifted in the numbers might design a pie chart. You know, cutting the diagram of the proverbial dessert into various sized pieces, tabulating and then establishing percentage values for every offense – how many times hurtful words were weaponized; how many hours between good moods and tantrums; how many binges displaced intimacy; how many instances wherein memories of what actually happened were questioned, challenged, or reconstituted until reality warped…..and, lastly, assigning a small sliver of pie to complete the circle, representing euphoric recall.
For those of us not so blessed in the numerical equivalent department, the emotionally hopeful component balloons in our consciousness. Looming lasciviously, licking its lips lying in wait for us, euphoric recall lures us back into the lion’s den. And, no; the Biblical prophet Daniel is most definitely not going to appear to calm the beasts, though we are so SURE we think we see him…..
In one big gulp, euphoric recall swallows up every negative second of however many months or years we’ve devoted to exhaustive misery, leaving us bereft, devoid of any resolve to remain free. This not so little demon convinces us that the addict is truly worthy, a classically good person who wants desperately to both care and be loved. The translation is complete.
The only way we reach any realization to the contrary is to do the very thing we are convinced must be done: return. We cave. We go back, for more.
And, that’s exactly what we get.
I don’t know how Elizabeth Taylor felt the day Richard Burton passed. I wasn’t there. I never knew her, and she never told me. I do suspect that she felt a whole pie chart of emotions, from rage to devastation to grief to relief.
I said relief. I said it, because I meant it.
Years later, reflecting on the whole of their life together, she remembered only what she loved about him, about being with him, about their life as man and wife. To the interviewer, she insisted; they’d had a world of fun, and she’d do it all again.
I’m not at all sure how I’ll feel, in my own retrospect. Perhaps I’ll pass before he does, and he’ll have the story to tell. I do know that, tonight, I’m no Elizabeth Taylor and he’s no Richard Burton. Strip away the glamour, the glistening, and the guise; we’re just two crippled people, addict and codependent, and if there is anything at all to remember about us I hope our feeble memories can retain something good.
The love of my life?
At this point, I just cannot recall.
Copyright 5/15/23 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in part or whole or by translation; sharing by blog link, exclusively. No AI lifting of contents. Thank you for respecting original works by humans.