Sunday, March 02, 2008

Musings on Love

Yesterday one of my daughters by choice married the man of her dreams in a quiet civil ceremony in the living room of their home, followed by a dinner and dance reception in the local Fire Hall. Many families these days are blended, bringing children, pets and what not from a previous partnership. I have observed these two young people over the past few years as they learned about each other, learned to make a family with the two daughters she brought with her,learned to seamlessly integrate a baby into that family,and learned to be each other's best friend.

There is no vine covered cottage, no happily ever after, but they are both committed to each other, their partnership and their children. As I observed this very simple, but very profound ceremony, I realized that what they have is rare in this day and age. Happy tears flowed from both them and their daughters. Vows were said with deep conviction.Love and happiness shone from all of their faces.

It took me back to my own simple wedding ceremony 35 years ago. I sense the same commitment, joy and love in them as I have shared with my partner all these years. It was truly an honor to witness this special event.

On the Many Faces of Love

A recent conversation led me to contemplate the many faces of love and the need for forgiveness in light of the fact that none of us are perfect. It is impossible to go through life without both hurting and being hurt. Forgiveness, therefore, has to be learned and practiced if we do not want to end up unloved and unloving.

It had been over twenty years since my younger sister had spoken with me. When our mother passed away she could not deal with the anger and grief she felt. Since I had been unable to travel half away across the country at that time, she found it easier to direct her anger at me.

When I was so sick last year, my daughter phoned her and discovered that my sister had wanted to reconcile for a long time, but was afraid I would reject her. From my point of view the choice had always been hers. Originally we began corresponding by Instant Messenger once a week. We did not try to reclaim the lost years; it would not have been possible. We simply began the process of getting to know each other all over again.

From the time she was born, we had a deep spiritual connection. She needed only to think about needing to talk to me, and even from a thousand miles away, I would phone her. This was not mind reading, far from it. I simply knew how she was feeling emotionally, and would respond without thinking when she wanted to contact me. This strong a connection is not that rare. People often pick up the phone even before it rings, knowing in advance who it would be. Or they would think about calling someone only to have that person call them before they could follow through with the call.

When she let me back into my accustomed place in her heart, she found it a bit strange initially. I had been there from the time she was born, but had to block her out when she disowned me. It was simply too painful to feel her sorrow and anger without being able to do anything about it. She had forgotten that I had always been there, but as soon as I reminded her, she recalled how empty it felt when I was no longer there. I had not stopped loving her; I just had to do it from a distance.

It was not until last Christmas that I allowed myself to believe that she was back in my life to stay. It was not the gifts she sent, it was the wrapping, the same way we used to do, with a tree ornament on each package. I cried and cried and cried and finally believed. When she flew half way across the country two weeks ago, and showed up at my door as a complete surprise, she also finally believed that all is as it should be and we are truly connected again. It was only a weekend visit, but it was so packed with love and renewal that I could not wish for more.

Forgiveness is very hard to do, it is right up there with I’m sorry. In fact, I think it may be harder to forgive than to apologize, but it can be done. It has to be learned if we do not want to go through life with a heart filled with bitterness and anger, unable to love and losing those we have loved. That does not mean that we forget totally, but the open wound does heal and become a scar. It helps to remember that people don’t usually start out to hurt us, it just happens while they are trying to get their own needs met. The scar is always there, but no longer painful. Many things wound us over the years and we must learn to let those wounds heal for our own benefit, if not for others. I will always bear the scars but it does not stop me from loving.

My love for my two chosen sisters, sisters of my soul, as close to me as it is possible for people to be close runs deeper than I could ever express. They have walked in my soul. I know of no other way to describe what happened in the hospital in April 2006. They came through the mist to bring me back. The image created in my mind was of the three of us sitting around a small bistro table in a glorious garden, while they told me that I could do this. I could come back through the mist, I just needed a bit of help and some extra strength to do so, and both of them gave me all that they had. One of them provided the direction, the other provided the visualization and made her strength available. They created an unbreakable bond between the three of us. They were not even sure they had succeeded until I wrote them from the hospital to try to thank them, although there are really no words for the love and gratitude I feel for them.

There are so many faces of love. The love is no less strong and it is not a matter of loving one more or less than another. Love simply is, it courses through us, bringing beauty to all that we see and do. For instance, my love for my biological daughter began even before she was born. She carries a part of my soul, the part that animated her when still in my womb. Another bond forged of love that cannot be broken.

My love for my daughters by choice is based on the need they had for a maternal figure, which I could provide. It has to do with never refusing to help when there is an observed need. My love for them is no less for that, but I am much more prepared to let them go when the time comes that they no longer have that need. We must all let our children go when it is time for them to pick up their adult responsibilities and create their future. The love remains even as they go forward toward that future.

My love for my partner wears yet another face. It is based on many lifetimes spent together, the trust that comes from knowing each other so well and each putting the needs of the other first. He completes me.

When we are here on this earth, in these bodies, we cannot be perfect. We inevitably hurt one another, not on purpose but because we are unable to totally avoid it. We are simply trying to get our own needs met. We must remember to forgive ourselves as well as those who have caused us pain.

On Finding Happiness

Buddha taught that the root of all pain is desire. My grandmother taught that when life hands you a lemon, make lemonade. TV and the books of fairy tales taught us to expect the vine covered cottage and happily ever after. The third statement does not belong with the fist two, and is, in fact, an impossible dream that has caused more pain than can be measured.

My grandparents and my partner’s parents both managed to make it to the fiftieth anniversary, and after a rough start with a ten year relationship, my second marriage is in its thirty third year, having known each other for forty years. I have no empirical data, just personal experience and observation. None were or are of the vine covered cottage variety. It has taken hard work and commitment to get through the worse years but the good years more than make up for them.

First it is necessary to take responsibility for one’s self, one’s actions and one’s own happiness. If we only stick around for the honeymoon phase, then separate at the first sign of trouble, we will never find our happiness. We will create a life where we are either on top of the moon, head over heels in love (or lust), or in a deep depression over the loss of yet another potential “happily ever after”. We become experts at beginnings and endings, and know nothing about middles, which are the areas we should be expert in.

There is so much we need to know. We need to be able to argue and negotiate without denigrating the other person, sticking to the issue at hand and be willing to compromise. We need to remember to take the other person’s wants and needs into consideration.

On Marriage

As we approach our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and forty-two years of knowing each other, my thoughts turn to partnerships, both formalized and common-law.

It is hard to believe in these days, that a marriage can become strong and stay that way. So many young people cop out at the first sign that the honeymoon might be over. That does not mean that we never make mistakes, sometimes we do. In such a case it is best to separate before doing permanent harm to each other.

In order to build a strong foundation together, both parties have to be committed to making it work. Each obstacle that is overcome, makes the parties and the partnership stronger.

Again, I draw on my grandparents and my husband's parents for strength and wisdom. My husband's parents celebrated their 50th before my father-in-law passed on. Mom missed him terribly and I think she was almost glad when a stroke took her through the mist to be with him. My grandparents married young and the union lasted for their lifetimes. Grandma passed on in her early 60s, and Grandpa never even looked at another woman before his death at 87.

I know that it was not all sunshine and laughter. They survived many conflicts and traumas together, partly because of society's demand that marriage be 'till death do you part, and partly because surmounting each obstacle made the union stronger and more prepared to deal with the next. In their twilight years, they did not become bitter old people, they did not regret the way they had lived their lives. They lived honorably to the best of their ability and were content.

I hope to be as content at the end of my days as they were. Although my first marriage was a mistake, I do not believe this one is. My only real regret is that this being my second marriage, we will not likely be able to celebrate our fiftieth together, rocking on the front porch in companionable silence.


Liara Covert said...

Your reflections are touching and profound. We can learn a lot about ourselves by reflecting on role models, mentors and family.

In 2007, my maternal grandparents passed on within 4 weeks of each other. They survived to share their 72nd wedding anniversary. Their love endured through war, being forced to leave their home country, living in 4 countries as refugees before immigrating to Canada. Although hardship was common for them, divorce wasn't in their vocabulary. Physical and emotional pain, as well as varied health challenges reframed the basis for their love and interdependence. They were stoic.

My parents have been married 48 years. Their relationship has also known strain, but they teach me that love justifies sacrifice. It enables us to get-to-know ourselves better, providing we're willing and brave. We can learn to be flexible, understanding, compassionate and build lasting trust.

Although I have evolved into an effective communicator, not all of my relationships have been easy to understand. Yet, as I deepen my insight into unconditional self-love, and value all expeirence, I expand my sense of loving others and being loved too.

Some of my most profound lessons involve the love of my life. I have evolved to explore romantic love with increasing fearlessness:

Zareba said...

Thank you, Liara:

Your insights are based on the lives of those who have come before, as are mine. Perhaps we can share what we have learned with others. The values that we have learned from our elders are simple, yet so profound, as are all truths. Commitment is the key to long marriages. If we do not commit, we don't last beyond the honeymoon stage.This plays a part in all of our relationships.

It is wonderful that your grandparents spent 72 years together. I hope you got to spend time with them. Their wisdom and devotion are so clearly seen.


jim said...

Zareba, you are a wealthy woman, by the right standards you are rich beyond measure. Your giving is greater than than all the money this world could offer.

The young have inherited a world that exploits their desires, turns those against them, and then punishes them for giving in. So too did ours Zareba, but not nearly so like this one with these youth, they have little chance but for the offerings given freely and set forth without compensation, set out like a candle in a window, for the passing need to notice when the opportunity is right. Your blog and your love and your writings are like this, there, here and waiting to be of service.

Forgiveness opens love, allows the surfacing of love, without it, the love stays buried beneath the debri of the worlds errors, our own errors, others' errors, always products of misunderstandings or misguided reasons, no one is exempt.

Surface living like is done these days by those caught up in the culturally taught fantasies, substitutes rejection and further indulgence of desires for forgiveness, a temporary forgetfulness thru short term distractions, pretending to be forgiveness and mercy. Is it any wonder why we suffer from so many varieties of stress and such when we are snuck up on by our pasts of unforgiven slights and mistakes traveling in both directions, from us and to us.

I think maybe life is a job, for some the job is lighter, for others the job is more intense and longer lasting, either way we grow older wondering why it couldn't have been another way or better, finding some reason for something being missed. I think we have to be very pleased with our progress and rock on that porch with our friends and our families, no matter how hard that later rocking is or how difficult the job seems to stay. Reconciling with those lost, learning to love and abide with some near for a, even short, lifetime, those are manifest rewards and pleasures to be felt forever. And the more you paid for those rewards, the more you gained and have to give.

You have a lot to give Zareba, and you do give a lot, and as if that is not enough, you have those around you who have known you and have gained from you the energies and supplies to do it themselves for themselves.

Life is hard, but we do it, grace it with love and find the future open in spite of this worlds' face. Keep it up, Zareba, it is well worth doing, people need you and what you have to give.

Zareba said...

Jim: I am truly one of the wealthiest persons on earth. To love and be loved it the greatest treasure.

I like your analogy of life being a job. I have always said that life is a school in which we learn to become the spiritual beings we truly are. Since many of the grades and courses are particularly difficult, I pray that I will learn the lessons meant for this time around, and not have to repeat this grade.

We see those who are on vacation, and envy their trouble free lives, not realizing that they will go on to the next grade soon enough.

May you find peace and joy in each day.


I’ve traveled down so many roads
Searching for the truth,
And each new thing that I have found
Has piqued my need to know.
Sometimes I think the flowers
Are the luckiest of all.
Their simple lives are safely lived
Within the garden wall.
They do not ask, they do not care,
They do not need to know.
But then I stop and think about
The walls that fence them in.
Their garden life, I could not live.
I think I am a weed. Crabgrass, perhaps.
I love to spread my roots out in the soil.
I seek out every fertile spot
To see if I’ll grow there.