Tough love embraces with a forceful passion, sometimes squeezing a little too hard. But in its grasp, you feel that nothing could pry it away (and that maybe something has tried).
Tough love means I think you’re worth fighting with, as much as you’re worth fighting for. Because I pick my battles carefully and you’ve made the cut.
It means I insist that you cut the bullshit, because I know you’ve got gems hiding under it.
It’s a type of love I crave as much as I give. I’m insulted by those who try to comfort me with pleasantries and sweet nothings, as if my laser focus couldn’t see through the fluff.
It’s a type of love that grew to protect itself from threat, that learned not to air its soft gooey insides. A type of love that hopes it’s still recognizable under that hardened shell–it’s a smooth and beautiful shell, but it just might be one cut away from becoming a weapon.
As a kid, whenever I would come home crying with scraped knees, my mom would yell at me. It didn’t help, but it was only because she hated to see me in pain. Neither the pavement nor gravity could receive her wrath for causing the injury, so I took it for them.
So too when I see you in danger, I read your every flaw and misstep like it’s fresh clickbait. It’s not fair, but when the forces you’re up against seem too high and vast to hear me, where else do I turn my rage?
Must concern always show itself as aggression? I just hope concern is still recognizable under its shells of aggression.
I never meant to cause shell-shock.
But I’m also learning to love myself with a certain toughness.
I never quite connected to messages of self-love and self-care that were only about glittering affirmations and bubble baths. Sure, I’ll take a few of those on occasion, but I’d hardly grant the title “love” or “care” to gestures too soft and empty to really feel.
So as I embrace myself, I adjust and readjust my grip between firmness and give.
Right now, that involves shamelessly enjoying a good sulk on the couch sometimes, and also getting my ass off the couch and doing pushups and financial planning and starting tough phone calls and setting boundaries and finishing this essay and admitting when I’m wrong.
I just hope I’m not squeezing too hard.