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Archive for July 17th, 2008

Happy Thursday!  Sorry to have left you without my wisdom yesterday, but things were just too crazy to have time to post.  I had a great topic too but I guess I’ll write it and save it for next week, or another week when I’m feeling particularly unwise.  🙂

As for today…well, I really am feeling very thankful, but I’ll warn you to brace yourselves, because it’s about to get mushy up in here.  Feel free to click away and save yourself the eye-rolling. (And forgive me if I sound preachy; I truly don’t mean to.  I’m talking about my lessons here, and YMMV.)

Today, as corny as it sounds, I am feeling particularly thankful for love.  I think that love means different things to different people and we all have very widely varying ways of expressing it and even interpreting it.  I think that, particularly when we are young (whether it’s actual youth or just not a lot of life-experience) we think of love in very romantic, sort of airbrushed ways.  Being “in love” is the goal for which we strive and while we’re there, we’re blissfully happy…and when it fades, we’re terribly unhappy.  And so often, I think that’s all we ever really know about love.  We’re in and then we’re out and it’s just a cycle.  And it’s very black-and-white, very absolute.  All or nothing.

For me, the past 16 years have been a never-ending process of learning about love in all its myriad shapes and manifestations.  I was in love very briefly and stupidly…and then I was out, just as quickly.  And then I had a child, and whole new vistas of love opened to me.  I learned to love in a way that the selfish, narcissistic person I had always been really could not have conceived.  Suddenly, this little person was more important than the whole rest of the world put together.  If terrorists had held her hostage and told me I had to sell out everyone else in the world to save her, I wouldn’t have even had to think about it.  Sorry, guys, I do think you’re great, really…but that’s my baby.  If God had given me Abraham’s choice, I’d have gone straight to hell.  And yes, that did have me questioning my faith…

So that was amazing.  And at that point I was sort of like a nun taking vows – okay, here’s my great love, that’s it for me.  I’ll be her mom, that’s all I’ll ever need.  And I stopped looking for that amazing “in love” experience.  Which, of course, is when it bit me from behind and shocked the hell out of me.

DH came along when ED was a year old, and I – who had firmly declared that I would never get married, because I could never find anyone who would love her as much as I did, and whom I could trust with her – was completely ambushed.  I didn’t expect to fall in love, I didn’t want to fall in love, but fall in love I did.

Many years of chaos and confusion ensued, with lots of other stuff going on inside me that made everything more complicated than it should have been.  In the process, though, I learned some very valuable lessons about love, at least love as it works for me.

First, I learned that love is not exclusionary.  Love does not build walls.  Love does not act to keep other things out.  Love opens doors, it invites the world inside, and it grows as much as it needs to in order to embrace that world.  Love, for me, makes me want to throw my arms wide and hug the universe.  (Not necessarily all the people in it – I’m not quite that enlightened.)  The more I love, the more I want to love.  When I am feeling it strongly, I am able to feel it for more people and in more ways than I ever imagined.

Which brings me to another thing I learned:  love is one of those things that isn’t always visible.  It doesn’t come and go…sometimes it just hides its face.  There may be days or even weeks at a time when you really think you aren’t feeling it anymore…but it comes back.  It pops out, grinning, and suddenly it’s like it was never gone.

Sometimes, of course, it doesn’t.  I’ve learned that too.  It’s not immortal, and it can absolutely be starved to death or killed through sheer unkindness.  But it’s surprising how hard that is to do – to really kill it.  You can beat it into dormancy, so that it hides away like an abused child, afraid to show itself for fear of further pain.  (And I want to make it very clear here that the abuse and neglect and pain that cause this don’t always come from external sources, and almost never come exclusively from external sources.  A lot of the time, love is damaged just as much from our own rigidity and unresolved anger and selfishness and fear and blindness as it is from anything that other people do.  That was certainly true in my case.)  And if you try hard enough, it hides pretty deeply.  When that happens, it’s hard to know for sure if it’s dead or only hiding and bleeding.  Sometimes, there’s too much pain to care which it is.  But there is a miracle that happens, if there is enough care and effort and true desire to resurrect it.  It can come back.  And when it does, if you can conquer the fear and pain, it is literally like a phoenix rising from the ashes – it blazes with such heat and glory that it is almost blinding.

It’s sad that this happens so infrequently.  There is so much pain and anger in our world that people can’t often bring themselves to wonder if it’s dead or just hiding, and I don’t blame them.  I really don’t.  I think there has to be a very powerful impetus to do so and for most people, there isn’t anything powerful enough to make them want to risk that pain again.  I understand that completely.  I am sad about it, because – having through a miracle  that was so not of my own making, experienced that phoenix rising myself – I am sad that so few people ever will.  But I understand that most of the time, it’s just not worth the risk, because even if it is just hiding, the odds are very good that if it comes back out, it is going to get killed.  Most of the time, it’s better to let it go and move on, and hope that in time it will heal and grow again in other fields.  I do absolutely recognize how rare it is that the circumstances occur that will allow it to rise again.

And that’s what I’m thankful for today.  I have been blessed with love for so many people – my children, my husband, my friends, my extended family, and even people who aren’t really all that connected to me, but who have touched my heart and my soul and my life.  And because I came so close to losing one of those loves forever, because I walked through that fire and experienced that miracle, I know so much more, now, about love itself.  I know so much more about what it can do and what it can be – and how few of the limits that we place on it are real limitations.  So many of them are boundaries we place, walls we build because it’s what our culture finds acceptable or what we think will keep us safe.  Sometimes, I think we don’t realize what it’s capable of until it’s tested to the very limit of its endurance.

So I’m thankful for the limitless love with which I’ve been blessed.  I’m thankful for the awareness I’ve been granted of just how much love I am capable of.  And I have to be thankful for the pain of learning how to love that way…because the end result is so worth it.  Sometimes, you have to get burned a little to understand the glory of dancing within the flames…I certainly don’t recommend that people play with matches, but if you’re in the fire already, for God’s sake, dance.  (I keep thinking of Garth Brooks songs here, sorry.  Standing Outside the Fire, obviously.)  And if, in the end, the flames get out of control and I get burned again…well, at least I know I danced and I don’t regret that a bit.  (And that one, obviously, was The Dance. Told you it was going to be corny!)

Today, I hope that everyone experiences love in all its beauty and glory and none of its capriciousness.  I hope that you are all blessed with all the joy and none of the pain.  Have a lovely day!

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