No, 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.