Measuring Up to Love

Measuring up to LoveNo, I don’t—measure up to love—and though intellectually I convince myself that’s okay, it’s not. Tentative and wary in love leaves me wanting, like sitting at the banquet table and nibbling around the edges of a sumptuous meal. Dig in, I think, and then with false bravado present the image of doing so—but my fear of being hurt makes me protective and cautious, isolated and aloof rather than fearless and inviting, vulnerable and embracing.

This piece is about love and trying to love, and trying to write about it. The desktop icon to open the first draft and write has been in the same place on my computer’s screen for three weeks, unchanged yet beckoning. Yearnings to document my thoughts and feelings (write yourself “empty,” I think) about being loved and loving are met with distractions: another cup of coffee, glass of wine, client e-mails and billings, a bike ride, another chapter read in the compelling whodunit by my nightstand, and then it’s time for keeping commitments and appointments.

I’ve been married and divorced. And remarried.  In these relationships I’ve not measured up to love the way I’ve yearned to. Real intimacy eludes me. I have not been the partner I’d like to be.

I hear the internal echo of my father’s frequent and well-intended but hurtful words: “…you’re becoming an also-ran, doing a half-baked job!” The pain of those words still lingers, especially because they bear some truth to my current reality.

I feel like an “also-ran” lover, a partner doing a “half-baked job.”

Being tethered to childhood experiences of love served cold as paternal advice and instruction, and maternal distance and aloofness has closed me to the affections and invitations to intimacy by my partners—shackles I’m desperate to shed.

I move to another room, sit in my reading chair and take in the marvel of an African violet cutting a client has given me—every cell in this plant has the capacity to duplicate the plant from which it’s been plucked. Am I destined to love and be loved as I was “loved?”

I desire more than that.

I smile then promise the developing new plant that I’ll nurture and love it into the full bloom it’s meant to be. Would that I could find love as easy to embrace as the seen and unseen cells of this eager-to-bloom flower replicate on my windowsill.

Gratefully I’m distracted by the writings of Paul the apostle, the much-traveled evangelist and prodigious correspondent.

I read Saint Paul’s description of love in his emotive letter to fellow Christians in the city of Corinth. I’ve read this many times but always in the context of the spiritual meaning of his words. This time I read them not only as a spiritual seeker, but as a struggling human being, a searching and fearless wannabe giver and receiver of the gift of love.

 

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but I do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol…  (1 Corinthians 13)

 

Too often I speak “in the tongues” of men, and hear the gong ‘n clang in the hollowness of my words. Patience and kindness elude me more than I care to admit, and, though infrequent, thoughts of ill will to those who offend me can make me brood.  Selectively embracing my truth rather than protecting, trusting, and persevering to take in the other is familiar and painful, but I do it nonetheless.  Succumbing to childishness not only seeps into my thinking but can also find expression in my behavior. But then an unexpected memory renews my hope.

Three days before my father died, he and I reconciled. No words were exchanged. He lay on a hospice gurney, attached to a morphine drip in my parents’ living room. Family and friends chatted and milled around sharing stories. While anecdotes and snippets of hymns brought tears and laughter, we celebrated and said farewell. I don’t recall, even to this day, why I left the kitchen table where I was surrounded by loving family and friends. I poured warm water into a serving dish, found a wash cloth and approached my father. Though in a drug-induced fog there remained a gleam in his eyes and a smile on his face as I leaned over to gently raise him up to a sitting position—and then I bathed him.

It was two imperfect people sharing a perfect love. If only I could repeat this with the one I love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs.

Measuring up to Love2

 

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14 Comments

  1. Lydia M. Hill

    Hi Roger,
    I found this post to be the most real of all the ones I’ve read. It’s important work you’re doing, and so difficult and humbling. Those of us with pride struggle to do what you’re after…! Thanks for sharing some of this painful journey!

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Hi Lydia,
      There are levels and depths of “real,” and I appreciate your affirmation of what I wrote in this piece. In the next hour, or tomorrow when I “run” from the difficult and humbling, and do so filled with pride I will remember your words. Thank you.
      Sincerely,
      Roger

      Reply
  2. Mary

    Beautiful imagery and prose. The way you can render words to get your inner thoughts on paper is wonderful. There are so many different kinds of love but the loving gift you gave your father, reconciliations coupled with the intimacy of the human touch is incredibly moving.

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Mary,
      Thank you for these encouraging words. Like many of us who fiddle, not only with words but with the “doings” of life, I kept searching for what was “right” when my soul’s voice was screaming to be heard, and then finally I listened.
      Sincerely,
      Roger

      Reply
  3. JoAnne Kurman

    I love this story so much, Roger. Thank you for writing it. It moved me deeply, brought back a childhood memory of me reciting the Love Chapter in Sunday School. It wasn’t an assignment. I did it because I wanted to memorize the chapter, stand in front of the class and say it out loud. Simple as that. I remember that to me it was no big deal, natural and fine until I saw my little sister sitting in the back row, her eyes rolling back into her head. What had I done wrong? Oh, but it was so right. That remains my favorite scripture although at 12 I didn’t understand it….but who knows? Maybe I did. Thank you for sharing the loving kindness you gave to your dad in his final hours and how you felt the love between you. I could see it all in my mind’s eye, your description so beautifully written.

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Jo Anne,
      I can see you valiantly standing in front of the class to recite the “Love Chapter.” There are times when seeking to understand gets in the way of hearing and acting on our heart’s desire. The pleasure of memorizing Paul’s words and reciting them was more important than understanding them–something that was to come later. My suspicion is that this scripture has been a lifelong companion. Thank you for inviting us in to your Sunday School class.
      Sincerely,
      Roger

      Reply
  4. Carmen Apodaca

    Recently I visited a friend of many years as she lay in her hospital bed. I embraced her face with my hands and she said, “Carmen, I love you.” This touched me so as I too feel I fall short of loving purely and unconditionally. I took off her socks and grabbed some lotion and massaged her feet. It was how I could love her in that moment.
    I grew up blaming my mother for so many things which limited my growth instead of helping me blossom. As I began to take responsibility for my self, I realized fully that my Mother loved me
    as best she could. I suppose that is one quest of my life, to make my best better.
    Thank you for sharing so deeply as you prompt all your readers to do the same.
    P.S. I love you.

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Carmen,
      The image of you holding her face then removing her socks to massage your friend’s feet is an illustration of “loving purely and unconditionally.” There is a moment, for all of us, when we have the choice to be intimidated or fearless, leave the room or remove the socks. Thank you for allowing us to share this courageous moment for both you and your friend.
      Sincerely,
      Roger

      Reply
  5. Colette

    Your heartfelt words capture your struggle so poignantly, and invite all of us imperfect beings to feel and share our own. The tender touching moments of your fond farewell with your dear Dad, tell the tale of two men who loved each deeply. So as you continue to bravely face your true self in your quest for measuring up to love, may you find peace in knowing that you have already experienced the highs and lows, the pleasure and pain, the requisite yin and yang of all loving. As The Prophet reminds us, “if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure, then it is better …to pass out of love’s threshing-floor .” I admire your courage in admitting your flaws, and embracing your vulnerability. I love how you are opening yourself for the still possible love you are seeking. I know you are more than a “wannabe” giver and receiver of the gift of love. xo Colette

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Colette,
      I enjoy this quote. “Love’s threshing-floor” is where we separate that which is to be embraced from that which we discard, or put aside. There are times when I wish to cross the threshold, close the door and leave all the threshing for others. Your words reinforce my conviction to not do so. Thank you.
      Roger

      Reply
  6. Dona

    LOVE–it’s complicated! We express it and receive it as imperfect humans with different experiences that have shaped us. It is easy to be hurt when the expression or the reception doesn’t meet our perceived needs. A big dose of resilience is helpful along with some openness and adaptability and a willingness to forgive. Oh! And almost forgot – sense of humor. There is just no way to get it perfect either the giving or the receiving. The intimate moments like the one you so beautifully described make it all worth the struggle.

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Dona,
      Well said! And don’t we often forget the sense of humor necessary to cope and deal with our imperfections. I like your reminder that “openness and adaptability and a willingness to forgive” are also woven into the fabric of love’s complicated nature. Where can I sign up for the booster shot of resilience and humor?
      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts,
      Roger

      Reply
  7. bud

    I am not sure there is a meaning of “love” that is easy to understand. Be it’s meaning or expression, it is different every time you think about it. I think a lot depends upon the context in which it is used. You can love your partner in one way and love a person you know but whit whom you are not intimate. Intimacy may well be the key.

    Reply
    1. yourrel4 (Post author)

      Bud,
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I agree with you. Writers of all genres, thoughtful and bright theorists and philosophers, Biblical authors, lyricists, as well as all of us who’ve fallen in and out of love, have wondered about it’s meaning. Gratefully we’ll continue to do so.
      Roger

      Reply

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