“And Max the king of all wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.” -Maurice Sendak
Sometimes I remember this part of the story, Where the Wild Things Are, and it makes me kind of sad. I can go in-depth about why I hate it for Max and we can analyze the book from front to back and probably arrive at Max’s need for a child therapist and the problems his mom will inevitably face during his teenage years from the mixed signals she gives by sending him off without dinner then eventually leaving him some without explanation or discussion, but let’s not. Let’s talk about how it makes me hate it for us.
I really feel like this is such a profound insightful sentence, a deep well of insight. This is what we all want— to be where someone loves us best of all. This is the first time I’ve ever talked about this with anyone (and the irony of me typing this to an unknown and un-guaranteed audience is not lost on me) so, I don’t know if we all go through a period of feeling like we lack that, or if it’s just me, but I know that it never leaves you.
I understand that everyone’s family has some dysfunction in it; I’m well aware that normalcy and dysfunction are completely subjective entities, and I’m going to assume that I can speak freely without harping on that. My family growing up was very disjointed. Drawing a picture might help you, but instead I’m going to type it all out and confuse you, Wuthering Heights style (I totally drew a family tree before I could make it through the first chapter of that book). Growing up I had a mom, step-dad, dad, and step-mom and each of them excepting my mom had a child from a previous marriage. (My sister came along after my mom and step-dad got together) This is why I awkwardly giggle when people ask about my standing in birth order; mostly I was oldest, but sometimes I have been the youngest, and for the longest I was the middle.
The second thing we’re just going to have to all agree that we know and then move past is that a child’s perception is just that, the perception of a child. (No one bothers to point that out when the opinions belong to Scout Jean Louise Finch, but I guess to be fair, things told from my elementary perspective have yet to win me a Pulitzer Prize) There was a time when it seemed logical for me to match everyone up. Each child got a grown-up, and that grown-up was their defender, their supporter, theirs— they loved them best of all. It wasn’t a totally CRAZY thing to do, but seeing as it left me odd-kid-out, it wasn’t the most healthy or accurate thing to do either. What’s done is done; now we’re just stating facts. I remember feeling like Max. I felt like I was Queen of all wild things. I was the one who saw all the sides. I understood all the opinions. I ruled over communications. But I was lonely. And all I wanted was to be where someone loved me best of all. Not second of all, not equal of all, not most of all every now and then. BEST OF ALL.
It wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t rational. But it was real. And it doesn’t go away. That want, it still plagues me. And as uncomfortable as I am making generalizations, I don’t think it’s just me. I think you’ve felt it too. I think quite regularly, daily, hourly even, people are using all their resources to prove me right.
Sometimes I catch myself feeling like Max. Not lonely, because now I’m older and a little wiser and can maintain perspective enough to see what that really is, to then see past “loneliness”. But if I’m not careful, I’ll find myself mentally pairing people off with who they love best of all. I’ll catch myself lying, telling my heart that it’s not enough for people to simply love you, you need them to love you best of all. The trick is living there. I’m not fully convinced that it’s a bad thing to want; I am fully convinced it’s a bad thing to only want.
Life is full of dichotomies. Things that seem to contradict, but actually sustain each other. These paradoxes that keep things moving, keep us growing and stretching. Wanting to be loved most of all is both the most heartbreaking and most optimistic desire I can ever imagine having. I never want to be consumed by it, but I hope that I can be strong enough to contend with the pain in lack in order to perceive the blessing in abundance. I hope that I can gracefully sustain a season of living in that tension.