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Essays by Karen Anderson: For the Journey

Illustration by Kacie Brown

Years ago, a friend asked me, “What did you wish you had for the journey that you didn’t have?” She meant the journey of life and it’s hard to know what you’ll need when you start out.

But by age 30, I was experiencing extreme anxiety and went to see a counselor. I assumed we’d be discussing my marriage and my new baby. Instead we talked about my parents. “I don’t think you were loved very much as a child,” he said.

But I’d always had food, shelter, clothing. Help with homework. Wasn’t that love? Then, in college I dated a guy whose family members were always hugging each other, for no special reason. I thought it was strange.

I finally realized it was love. When I married that guy, I tried to embrace all those embraces but I was awkward. Early deprivation isn’t easily repaired.

Just recently, I read a novel in which the author spoke of our human need to “matter limitlessly and inordinately to another person.” When I got to the word “inordinately,” I was crying. Inordinately means more than expected. Had anyone ever loved me that way?

My husband, I believe. My daughter. A few friends. And I love them, too. Limitlessly and inordinately. It’s late in the journey, but now I know what I need.

What we all need.

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.