:: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 ::
This is Love
Little things that will change you foreverThere is one thing I've been searching for, and that is love. I know where this desire comes from, that I have. Sure, we are social beings. We need to feel human touch, we need to know that there is someone beside us. And those are certainly part of why I have searched. Yet the real reason is that, ever since just before my 7th birthday, I have been searching for the love that I lost when my father died.
May appear from way out of the blue
Making fools of ev'rybody who don't understand
My poor Mom ... I know she loved me, and would still if such coherent thoughts were still within her capabilities. But there was nothing in all of her life to teach her how to show love. It was my Dad who showered me with attention, who taught me how to spell my complete name and address in case I got lost, who taught me how to spell Mississippi (we lived 2 blocks from the Mississippi River).
My Mom would sing to me when I was falling asleep ("By baby bunting, daddy's gone a-hunting, to get a little rabbit skin to wrap the baby bunting in" -- I remember her singing that when my dad had taken our dog to go pheasant hunting, and I imagined that it was *my* dad who had gone hunting only to bring me back a treasure).
And it was because of my Mom that I already knew how to read when I started Kindergarten just weeks after my 5th birthday, in an era when learning how to read was considered to be a 1st grade activity. ... Well, my Mom doesn't take credit for that. She read to me every day, but she has always said that it was me that made her use her finger to follow the words on the page, which she attributes to my learning to read faster.
But, it was my Dad who showed me affection. That joyous, spontaneous affection that just is there, so that you hardly notice it -- it's just in the air, enveloping you like a soft warm blanket.
I remember it as being January of 1963 ... I don't really know the date, but I remember it as being dark, cold, winter, but after Christmas. I even seem to remember bits of the occasion: standing in the hallway, looking toward the kitchen, my Mom standing in the kitchen, my Dad sitting at the table.
"Chronic leukemia" they called it. I don't remember any of what they told me other than that. I was 6 1/2 years old ... of course I had no idea what chronic leukemia was, but I knew from that moment it was bad.
Over the next 6 months, I engaged in my first exercise of waiting for someone I loved to leave me ... waiting for a man, who I depended on to give me love, to leave me.
I was a smart girl. I learned how to do that too well.
I grew up. The boyfriends were few and far between, although I almost always had a crush on somebody. The boyfriends I did have always seemed just out of my reach, never interested in commitment. Even the significant relationships, the long term ones (if 7 years and 6 1/2 years are called long term), had that distance. Even the significant one that I still treasure, who I believe did love me in some way -- he never said "I love you Sarah. I want you to be with me. Please don't go."
Then, August of 2004 happened. It felt like an important time, and, in fact, I'd felt rumblings of the importance during the few months previous to August, but I didn't know why. A clue came when I took a trip home and visited my father's grave. I'd been there a couple of times before over the past couple of decades, but not like this -- I re-experienced with full sensory memory the time of my father's death. And as I was crying, I realized that, for the first time in 41 years, I was actually, finally, starting to truly release the grief ... the grief which, as a child, no one taught me to release ... and so, grief that I'd carried, packed safely away in a little box all those years.
Part of why I traveled to Clinton from Maquoketa on that trip was to take photos to share with the new friend I'd met. It wasn't *because* of him that I had that experience, which would open the door for the lessons I would learn over the next months, but he has undeniably played a part.
... little things that will change you forever ...
See, because my father died and left me, I've been looking for love ever since ... to replace that love I lost from my father. Then the replacing of that love got confused with the love people are supposed to have in the context of a couple, which gets confused with sex, and it all gets confounded by the fact that men and women are supposed to get married.
And ... growing up with my mother, who had no one to ever teach her about love. With a grandmother who was responsible for my mother's sad state. Without other relatives. Without somebody to sit me down and help me think clearly about what I was doing and what the results could be ...
I didn't understand that *having* someone is not the same as love. I wasn't able to see the little signs that would indicate that someone did love me.
I never even thought to tell myself "you deserve a man who loves you".... I'd just take whoever showed interest, and if I liked him ok, I'd hope and "try" to make it work.
But in that lack of self-confidence, I would get jealous. I was also imaginative, and so I'd think of all the terrible things that could happen ... think about them and worry, until finally they came true.
And then, when things did happen, it would be me who would beg to be taken back ... I never thought I could demand that he "do right" by me ... as though, it were not my right to ask such a thing.
I spent my time in those relationships waiting for them to leave ... I learned too well in 1963, that if you love a man so much, that he will leave you. I waited and expected, until finally it came true (be careful what you wish for).
And so, these other men left me too.
Those are the mistakes of thoughts and actions.
But, underneath all of that, the real problem was that I had no idea what love really is.
All I had learned was how to take love, and how to feel pain when the love is no longer there for you to take.
From David I have learned that that is not love -- it's selfishness. I've learned what real love is. He didn't try to teach me that. But it was from our friendship that I learned it.
I don't even really know quite why it was him ... well, yes I do. I like people, but, to be honest, most people are kind of boring. The reason I don't have a lot of friends -- real, close, friends -- is that I sense so keenly the distance between me and most people. Different interests, different priorities, such different ways of seeing things it's like we aren't even living in the same worlds.
But David ... sheesh ... were we separated at birth? Once before I felt that kind of kinship with another person, and that was with Jorge. Maybe we all lived previous lives together ... who knows ... (if you go in for that kind of fun speculative thinking)
But, not only was there that feeling of kinship, there were the similarities between the two of them ... interests, sense of humor, taste in music, intelligence, way of seeing the world ... as though the same spirit runs through the two of them.
And that spirit emerges into the physical world ... shook me up, a couple of photos that so much could have been Jorge ... looked like him, and even more, there was a style, an attitude that the two shared ... culminating in one evening in a shop, looking across the distance in the store and seeing David trying on a baseball cap ... the similarity was so striking it brought tears to my eyes.
Let me be clear ... Jorge might have been the love of my life (or the love of my life, so far), while David is my friend. But it's from David's friendship that I've learned what love really is.
The lessons aren't over. I still have to learn to be happy in my solitude. I have to stop thinking that it's ironic that, now that I think that I really know what I need to know to share in a real relationship with a man who loves me, it is possible that now there will never be anyone.
- I learned about trust, where you realize that you will be accepted and not criticized.
- And then I learned about honesty. It's easy to be honest when you can trust that you'll be accepted and not criticized.
- And then I learned more about honesty ... it's not just telling the truth to someone, it's also actions. Was there something that I would be ashamed to admit doing, because I knew it was not the best action? And if I did it anyway, would I want to lie about doing it? If so, then I should not do it.
- I learned about acceptance. That to try to change someone shows that you do not love them. A person consists of all the pieces of themselves, their life, and their experiences, past and present. You have to accept all those little pieces, because the totality of them is the person you say you love.
- I learned that acceptance also means sometimes you have to let people go. And you always have to be ready to let them go. If you accept all the pieces of their past and present, you have to be willing to let them go out and collect more pieces .. even if it's without you.
- I don't know how I learned it, but I realized that love is not something you can ask for. If it's there, it's in the air ... for you to breathe in and enjoy and be nourished. If it's not there, it can be tempting to ask for it, but what you get is not love, but some imitation. You might imagine for a moment that it's sweet and satisfying, but the aftertaste is bitter.
- And most importantly, I learned that people don't always go away. It took me two times to learn that (August and April), or maybe the first one was just a little preview for the one that I would be able to learn from.
I have to learn to neither hope nor expect that person, but also to continue to believe that he might appear.
... to appear from way out of the blue.