“I have loved to the point of madness; That which is called madness, That which to me, is the only sensible way to love.” ~ Francoise Sagan

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

Sepia Docks (Wikimedia Commons)

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. 

“Oh soul,
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

Josef Sudek Still Life (w/sepia tones), 1954

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. 

Perhaps.

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. 

“Your love
Should never be offered to the mouth of a
Stranger,
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. 

Solitary Bench (w/sepia tone)

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. 

Paris Street (ca 1925, w/sepia tone)

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

White Rose (w/sepia tone)

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. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Sarah Bareilles, “Gravity” 

 

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I sit and watch the years go by . . .

Picture Collage

Eamonn and Kelsie, Norview H.S. Senior Prom 2009 

“It is the evening of the day” ~ “As Tears Go By,” by The Rolling Stones

Eamonn 1995
Eamonn Four Years Old

Tonight, my eldest son is going to his senior prom. He is taking his girlfriend of six months, Kelsie. May I just pause here for a moment and tell you how old this makes me feel?

In my eyes, Eamonn is still a young boy in grade school, sweet-looking and acting, except for when he is acting mischievous. He and his brother Brett are best of friends, and everyone gets along; in particular, Eamonn and I get along wonderfully. He still believes in me and hasn’t reached the point at which I become stupid and out of touch.

Would that I could bottle that period of time, and dab a bit of its essence on my wrists whenever he is acting like a complete and total jackass, in other words, like a teenager on the precipice of manhood.

 “I sit and watch the children play”

Eamonn 1st & Brett Kindergarten
First Day of School (Eamonn 1st grade & Brett Kindergarten)

But that is not possible. Time passes. Your children grow into teenagers, then into young adults, then into adults. You hope with every fiber of your being that at some point, the lessons that you have tried to teach them and the codes by which you live will kick in and that they will become honorable people, caring people, people who realize that life is more than what is within their small circles of being.

All that you can do is hope, that and try to take comfort in knowing that you have offered the best of your wisdom. But if we are to be completely honest as parents, we must also acknowledge that we have shown them many of the disappointments that life has to offer: a failed marriage, a short temper, an absorption in work. You have shown them these things even though you never intended to do so.

And the world has shown them more than you ever wanted them to know: wars, intolerance, bigotry, racism, sexism, warped views of the roles that men and women can actually play.  If you have been careful, you have tried to balance those images with how you would hope they move into adulthood: more tolerant of others, less disparaging of people who are not exactly what you want them to be, more aware of how much they need to participate in their families, more willing to treat their significant others equally and with respect.

At some point, you realize when they are growing up that you have absolutely no control over certain external forces: the things they see and hear at school, what they choose to do when they are away from you, how they treat their friends, boyfriends, girlfriends. And most especially, how responsible they are in their choices about alcohol, drugs, and sex.

“Smiling faces I can see”

I know that Eamonn has tremendous respect for his stepfather. He loves and admires Corey, which I hope will translate into a desire to emulate the kind of man that Corey is.

makemie woods spotlight
Summer Camp: Eamonn top row, Brett Below

Nevertheless, Eamonn has still not forgiven me for divorcing his dad. He has said it more than once, and always, he says that divorce is the most selfish thing that a parent can do. Even though Eamonn still blames me for the divorce, he always follows those hurtful comments with a statement that he is glad that Corey came into our lives.

I have tried to explain to Eamonn that one of the main reasons that I asked his father for a temporary separation was so that we could get some distance between us in order to reassess what was important. In my eyes, that was our family. I did not want our children to be raised in an atmosphere that was continuously clouded with arguments and accusations.

So I asked his father for a separation. At the time, I never wanted it to be permanent, nor did I want our relationship to end in divorce. I never dreamed that his father would fall in love with someone within two months of leaving us. I never anticipated that he would be so angry at me that he would never consider coming back home. But that is how things played out between us.

In retrospect, it was the best thing that could have happened. I was no longer walking around on egg shells. The children were no longer subjected to a hostile atmosphere.

“My riches can’t buy everything; I want to hear the children sing”

Brotherly_Love
Brett & Eamonn Ready for Combat (unfortunately)

Certainly, it was very hard being the single parent of three children and working full time. Things did not always go smoothly. But I promised myself that I would not be one of those women who brought a series of men in and out of the house, leaving the children feeling confused and alienated. The end result was that I didn’t date anyone; truth be told, I wasn’t all that interested in dating anyone.  I went out on Friday nights with some friends, but I was always home before 9. I was very content spending one night a week out with my friends.

I was trying desperately to be a good role model, and I know in my heart that I did the right thing when it came to getting involved or dating. Then I met Corey. Neither of us were looking for a relationship, which is why we were able to talk so openly to one another. There were absolutely no expectations, especially on my part because of the age difference.

But a funny thing happened along the way: we fell in love. I introduced Corey to my children gradually. By the time Corey and I got married, there was already an incredibly strong bond between the five of us.

“It is the evening of the day . . . I sit and watch the children play” 

I Am Just Too Pleased With MyselfCorey had a lot of learning to do about parenting, but he adapted and learned, and managed to open my eyes along the way. We all adapted and grew to be a fairly close family. I know that I complain at times about Eamonn, but the reality is that he’s a teenager, and I’m his mother, and the two things don’t always mesh very well. But we love each other. There is never any doubt of that.

 Thankfully, my sons have had a remarkable role model in their stepfather, and a good idea of what it means to have a positive, loving relationship. Corey and I have a big argument about four times a year. When we argue, we try to keep it private, and we do not call each other names, especially in front of the boys, which is so different from how it used to be with my former spouse.

With any luck, the boys, especially Eamonn, will remember these things once he has a family of his own or even when he gets into a serious relationship. He will remember what it means to be an equal partner in a relationship. He will remember how sometimes, one person in the relationship has to do more of the care-taking. But I hope that the thing that he remembers most once he is grown is how important it is to say I love you often, even when you are angry or upset, and to mean it; and also, to love the members in your family openly, with hugs and kisses and a genuine pat on the back for a job well done.

“Doin’ things I used to do . . . They think are new.  I sit and watch as tears go by.” 

In the meantime, I’ll sit here tonight and remember how handsome he looked as he got into the car with his girlfriend. I will wish fervently that he remembers his promise to me to act responsibly, and that he and all of his friends make it home safely.

Eamonn in Papa's hat close up
Eamonn at 1 Wearing His Papa's Hat

No matter how old your children get, you never stop worrying about them, even when they are making you feel as old as dirt.

He probably does not realize it yet, but tonight marks the ending of one chapter in his life and beginning of a new one. He will be graduating in a few short weeks, and he will have to make some life choices. I will be here to help him if he will let me, but I realize that in the end, they must be his choices, even if they are not the ones I would have him make.

Nothing says that I have to let go of all of the pictures in my memory of Eamonn as he has grown through the years, from the moment that I first saw him, to his school pictures in grade school, to his first serious girlfriend, and now, in this closing chapter on high school.

I have always felt so fortunate to have had Eamonn as he came along a few years after we lost Caitlin, and with his arrival, I was finally able to open my heart again, not just to him, but to everyone who mattered to me. Eamonn taught me how to take chances again, and nothing that happens, nothing in the world will ever diminish the importance of Eamonn being my saving grace.

Just as his sister before him and his brother after him, I will have to let Eamonn go at some point, but that does not mean that I will ever love him less than with all of my being.

More later. Peace.