April Snow-Covered Mountains over Portage, Chugach National Forest, Alaska by Janson Jones
“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.” ~ Jalal ad-Din Rumi
Very melancholy today. I sense the stirrings of an impending fall. The days before a fall are always so precarious—I feel out of sorts but for reasons that I cannot quite discern. My senses are heightened; loud sounds unnerve me, and food does not taste exactly right. In other words, lots of things that are non specific, that I cannot quite grasp, hovering just beyond the periphery.
I have wondered many times in my life how people who are even-tempered make their way through the days, never falling into the depths of despair, never flying on the wings of mania. I have wondered what my life would have been like if I had been blessed with an even temper, how much I might have missed if that had been my reality instead of this reality.
I chose Janson’s picture of the mountains over Portage because I find it so incredibly intriguing. It’s spring snow, but because of the sepia tones, it could be sand. The picture itself undulates with its shadows and patches of light, which reminds me of my life, and how it moves in ripples, little peaks, sometimes deep vallies. And then again, moving through my life often feels like walking on sand: the slow trudge to make headway without losing my footing, the strain of climbing against grains that fall away with nothing to hold onto, the slow slide when going downhill.
you worry too much
You have seen your own strength.
You have seen your own beauty.
You have seen your golden wings.
Of anything less,
why do you worry?
You are in truth
the soul, of the soul, of the soul.” ~ Jalal ad-Din Rumi
I have been thinking about love for the past few days. Love in general. Love specifically. Motherly love. Passionate love.
Why do some people love so passionately while others are more reserved? Is it a matter of control, as in loving too much is giving up control? Do men love differently than women? In a relationship, are women the ones who love more? You know what I mean—there is always one person in the relationship who loves more than the other person. I think that being able to recognize this and accept it is a sign of maturity.
I mean, when you are young and newly in love, you want the other person to love you just as much as you love him or her, and nothing less will do. I think that once you have had some experience, you realize that no two individuals love in the same way, ever. But loving in the same way is not the same as loving less. I think that loving less reflects an unwillingness to give over the self to another, and this, I think, is directly tied to trust.
As in Do I trust myself enough to lay myself bare to this other person? Do I trust this person enough to lay myself bare, to risk everything? It’s a tricky path, one that has no clear markers.
Should never be offered to the mouth of a
Only to someone
Who has the valor and daring
To cut pieces of their soul off with a knife
Then weave them into a blanket
To protect you.” ~ Hafiz of Persia, The Gift
In looking back over past relationships, I realize that I used to fall in love easily, but that I did not stay in love unless there was an equity in the relationship. In my relationship with the pathological liar—which happened when I was quite young—my mind constantly sent warning signs that my heart overruled. It was not until I was willing to face the truth that I was able to break the cycle.
In my relationship with my ex, my love grew and adapted over the years, which is how it should be in a long-term relationship. However, my mind sent me warning signs that I chose to ignore: Yes, he drank, but was it really too much? Who says what is too much? Was I really the one who always took care of the details, or was I making too much out of things? I think that in the end, I needed the break as a result of exhaustion as much as anything else. I was bone-weary from fighting constantly, and the love I had within me felt drained and tainted.
Now, with Corey, I am aware of many differences from past relationships, one of the main being that I feel a sense of protection that I never felt with anyone else, and I am not sure if that is because I have changed enough to let someone protect me, or if Corey’s protection allowed me to change. Another aspect that differentiates our relationship is the tenderness that Corey shows me. It is blissful to feel such tenderness.
That being said, there is still a part of Corey that I cannot touch, a part that he holds back in reserve for himself. I try not to see that as a statement about our relationship, but sometimes it’s hard.
“Love is an attempt at penetrating another being, but it can only succeed if the surrender is mutual.” ~ Octavio Paz
I understand why he would feel a need to protect himself. I understand the deep wounds that he has. But understanding and accepting, unfortunately, are not the same. To reveal the self completely is to open the door to vulnerability. Few people will willingly walk towards vulnerability. It’s much too frightening. And then there is the sense that if a person holds something back, in reserve, then he can never be completely broken.
Yet if I am to be completely truthful, then I must admit that I long for him to be as open with me as I am with him, which makes me feel as if I am expecting something unreasonable. I mean, love is not ownership. Two individuals who love each other do not have to be completely immersed in each other in order for their relationship to succeed. In fact, it is usually better if each person has outside interests, things to occupy time away from each other. But this separateness can be taken to the extreme.
I think of my own parents whose relationship was supremely dysfunctional, and I am amazed that I have ever been able to have a healthy relationship given what I witnessed. My father spent more of their marriage at sea than at home. When he retired from the Navy, he couldn’t stand being on dry land, and they couldn’t stand that much togetherness, so he became a merchant marine. My mother had her own interests, and my father had his. They only began to do things together when they were older. Still, my father was unfaithful numerous times, and my mother tolerated it, and I don’t understand that at all.
My ex and I spent the first part of our marriage doing things together and the last part of our marriage with separate friends, going out separately, and it was rare that we came together to do something as just a couple. I hated that. Corey and I enjoy each other’s company, which is a good thing as we have spent the last two years practically living in each other’s skin, which is problematic all by itself.
“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.” ~ Zelda Fitzgerald
In the end, though, this is what I believe: Love is not necessarily patient and kind and all of the other things Corinthians says that it is. Love is complex and intense. It is so much like dancing naked in the rain. It is risk and faults and failures. It is learning to love sushi and learning to appreciate things in life you may have never considered before. Love is as solid as it is ephemeral; it can burn like a dragon’s fire and soothe like the coldest mountain stream. Love takes courage, and it can be terrifying in the way it consumes. Love demands respect and in its deepest essence it hearkens to our finest natures.
The human heart, both fragile and strong, is only amplified by love. And while the heart is a solid vessel, in its abstract form, it is an empty vessel, waiting for the elixir of life to fill it to satisfaction. Handled without care, the human heart can break into a million pieces, while at the same time, its ache can be taken away with a simple phrase. As Ondaatje says, “the heart is an organ of fire.”
We can no more choose who we love than we can choose our natures. If we are lucky enough to find that true companion, the one who will take our hearts and hold them close, keep them safe, and refill their occasional emptiness, then we are fortunate indeed.
Love is hard. Life is hard. To expect otherwise is to be naive.