Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Bonnie Raitt Strikes Again

If you want to follow the Bonnie Raitt reference, check out last week’s blog entitled “Love.”

This is going to be a very long blog. It’s a love story. It’s going to take me all day to write it, I can tell. I want it to be as perfect as it can be and I want to do it justice.

We all have core issues, whether we are aware of them or not. I have several. One of them is abandonment. I assume eventually I will be abandoned. I know love won’t last forever. And the reason is generally my other core issue. Underneath all that strength and self-esteem, I think I am not loveable, not desirable, not wantable. Of course I will be abandoned.

I’m no stranger to loss. Loss isn’t distributed evenly in life, but almost everyone has experienced loss. I have a pretty good size measure of it in my life. I don’t fear it, I just keep dealing with it. But I always worry about the loss that will be the straw that breaks this camel’s back.

When it comes to relationships, I try hard not to be jaded. I don’t want to be naive, but I don’t want to be pessimistic or create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Strangely enough, I see my fears most when I am in a healthy relationship. I guess it’s because there is something worth losing so I battle my inner panic that I’m going to be left any second.

I met Jay playing cards. I didn’t start playing cards to meet men, but there he was. I instantly liked him. I found out later, he instantly liked me too. It took a few weeks, but eventually we had our first date. In the parking lot, he asked me for a second date. And that was it, we just spent almost every day together after that. We just couldn’t help ourselves.

I tried to keep a reign on my heart initially. I even went on other dates. Whenever we would talk, Jay was always in tune to me. He knew my fears and worries. He would say things like, “I’m just talking here. I’m not going anywhere.”  Or, “I feel bad that you worried even for a minute.” When life was busy and we were in the middle of something, he would stop and say, “But Darcy, there is nothing more important than us.” And we would stop whatever we were doing and just be with each other for as long as we needed. He was amazing.

Six days after meeting me, Jay told me he loved me. He knew it was probably crazy to say, but he couldn’t help himself. I told him it was ok because I knew I loved him too, crazy or not. Sometimes, it just happens.

We are 50 though, and know that the future is precarious and unsettled. I stopped believing in forever a long, long time ago. Jay doesn’t even process time or future. We talked many times about all of this and finally came up with: We love what we are together. We have no intention of stopping it. That was it, the definition of what our love meant. I loved it. It was brilliant. Love means millions of things, but this was ours.

One of my favorite things, was how we called each other by our names. I would say, “My Jay” and he would say, “My Darcy.” He would often say things like, “What would my Darcy want?” or “I got that because it is my Darcy’s favorite.”

I quickly began to trust us because I had never felt like this before. All the evidence was there. Because Jay was there. I mean, he was really there. Shortly after we started dating, I had to attend a funeral for someone my age. I knew it was going to be really rough. Without hesitation, he came. My dad was in the hospital for a procedure. Without hesitation, he was there. He came with my favorite Starbucks and then sat there until my dad was released just so I could escort my dad while he went and brought my car around for us. I never had to ask. He always offered because he wanted to be there. He likes taking care of people. I’ve never met a male version of me before.

Jay would sometimes say to me, “I feel two feet taller now, just walking down the street.” I totally got what he meant. I was surprised at what a surprise one person could make in your life. Mine was definitely changed for the better.

One of the biggest events, was my annual fourth of July party. It’s quite a thing. Lots of people, 12-13 hours. Jay, on his own, offered to help with everything. In fact, he wanted to share the expenses. He set things up the day before. He waited on everyone the whole day. He was a better host than I was. I got phone calls and texts and comments after that day about Jay and what an incredible pair we made. It was a day to be remembered.

He also volunteered his life, his history. We told stories a lot about growing up. He has pictures all over the place. His walls, his phone, his computer. He was always showing me something. He took me to the house his family lived in when he was very small. He took me to the house where he brought up his children. He wanted to know about mine. We watched a video of my mom so he could see who she was. We had long lists of things we wanted to talk about because the only thing stopping us was the time to do it all.

Jay told me that he read once that the relationships that last, are the ones where both parties think they are the lucky ones. I thought that was an excellent thought. We would banter over and over with each other saying, “No, I’M the lucky one…” And he would tell the world if he could. He talked to everyone in my life. One night at a fire, he had a very lengthy conversation with one of my friends. She shared things with him, and he did with her. He told her that he had to pinch himself because he couldn’t believe he went to lunch and fell head over heels. When he met my sisters, he told both of them that he was in love with me. I would love to hear about the conversations he had with his friends, telling them how happy and lucky he was. He would expect people to tell him to slow down or imply that he wasn’t seeing everything clearly, but no one did. Not even his therapist. Everyone was just thrilled for him and for us.

Then there was all the fun stuff. The compatibility stuff where we just plain enjoyed the same things. My friend told me how happy she was to see me doing so many things. Finally, she said, finally someone who is active and doing things. You’ve waited a long time for that, Darcy. You guys are always doing something cool together. So happy you and Jay found each other.

Picnics were amazing. Walking hand in hand, just about anywhere. Concerts where we laughed and danced all night. Dinners, lunches, breakfasts. Movies, drive-ins. Festivals, camping, parties. Fires, comedy clubs.

The laughter was so healing. It may seem like a small thing to share the same sense of humor, but trust me when I tell you it is not. We could have gone on the road the way we could roll off each other’s lines. He would repeatedly tell me how fun it was that we always got each other’s references. Growing up at the same time lends itself to knowing the same SNL skits, movies, songs, and so on. Jay would do these facial expressions and voices that would have me rolling. One night we had been packing boxes, and the next morning he asked me if we had been drinking and he forgot. We were laughing so hard while we working that our stomachs had hurt. It just was so natural for us. So much joy.

And then there was the music. Music is part of my soul and always has been. But Jay loved music in a way that I have rarely encountered. I found myself reconnecting with music because of him. The radio was on more. I found my playlists and found myself reaching for it. Whenever we were together (which was all the time) Jay would have a playlist ready for us. He came to Karaoke one night where I have been going for a long time. He had never done it before, but he walked right up and sang, “I can’t help falling in love with you” in a romantic Elvis voice. He made it crystal clear that he was unashamedly singing to me. As soon as he hit the last note he walked over and hugged me in one of our embraces. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I know almost every person in that bar. And most of them told me I was glowing and they were thrilled to meet him because he obviously adored me.

How could I not mention the chocolate? We both love dark chocolate and Jay made sure there was always a supply. He preferred 65% cocoa, so I adjusted from my usual 85% because it was a small sacrifice to make. After a couple of weeks, somehow we discovered that he thought I preferred 65% so we were both trying to accommodate the other one. We laughed over our misunderstanding, both wanting to please the other. Now THAT is what relationships are supposed to be like.

But my favorite? It was the dancing. That touched my heart and set me on fire. A girl considers herself lucky if she can find a guy that will dance at all. Most guys don’t. Period. I will never forget the first time Jay took me dancing. We got out on the floor and I had tingles from head to toe. I knew he liked to dance, but I had no idea he was an amazing dancer. He is skilled but also fun. He is incredibly handsome but he is never so sexy as when he is on the dance floor. We danced and danced. Fast, slow, didn’t matter. We could be silly or serious. During a slow song, during that first dance date, he told me he knows it isn’t the proper protocol, but he could see us dancing to that song as our wedding dance.

One time, we were out dancing to a band he had found online. There were four to five different women who couldn’t wait to talk to us during band breaks because they said we had made their evening. They just thought we were the most amazing couple- fun, sexy, making everyone smile. Hell, the band even came up and introduced themselves to us. One woman took a bunch of pictures and texted them to me. I am never that girl. Never. I am never the one on the floor that everyone envies. I am always the one watching with envy.

We danced all the time at home. We would dance in the shower full of soap. We would dance down the hall to get to a room. We would dance naked sometimes. We loved dancing. And it was beautiful.

But life isn’t all fun and games. Especially for 50-year-old adults. There is life to be lived. We would be there as best we could for each other, helping with tasks and errands. He had to close on the house that he raised his kids in so we would meet there. We would spend hours in the hot weather, no air conditioning, and work on the garage and basement. It was dirty, hot, smelly work but we did it. There would be a bump in the road every here and there, but overall it was mostly amazing. We would get tons of stuff done.

We started swapping cars because it was easier for him to move things in my vehicle. I loved sharing each other’s cars and helping each other. He had to move his apartment too so we also spent hours packing boxes, rifling through things, purging stuff. There were movers to call, apartments to visit, etc.. Again, some minor bumps in the road, but I loved accomplishing stuff with him. We have different skill sets and I would think about what an amazing team we were. Between the two of us, we could do just about anything I think.

And then it suddenly broke down.

Jay apologized for starting something that he couldn’t finish. He realized that he has too many things to work on in his life. In fact, he feels he can only do one thing at a time, which is obviously a huge problem because no one gets to do only one thing at a time. We all have to work, take care of our health, our homes, our families. Life requires multi-tasking. For Jay, a relationship is the dispensable item on the list. For me, it is the foundation for anything else. Love is never a bad investment. Never.

His perspective is very, very different from mine. I saw hours of working together under tough conditions but laughing while doing it. He saw the few moments of stress as overshadowing the rest. He sees that he was making picnics for us when he should have been working on other things. I see a picnic that he thoroughly enjoyed with someone he loved. That same person then helped him with hours of labor packing and cleaning. Surely there was so much more benefit than cost. But that is my view.

I told him that accepting his decision has been very, very hard. I saw us as gifts to each other. We were both clearly starving for what we offered to each other (and both verbalized exactly that). I know without a doubt that my life with Jay was far, far better than my life without him. And from everything he said, everything he showed, his life was far better with his Darcy too. But that’s my opinion.

I know when you truly love someone, you have to want what is best for them. Sometimes that means giving up what you want. I love Jay that way. So I want to be able to say that as much as it hurts me, as much as he is what is best for me, if I’m not good for him I need to walk away. The problem is, in my heart of hearts, I don’t believe walking away is what is best for him. I know it’s not my place to say, but I don’t believe it. I can’t make myself believe it. I do have to accept it though.

I had been processing this with my counselor Scott as it was starting to happen. In psychology, we call it sabotage. No one can say for sure, but to us it sure looks like a classic textbook case. A man struggles to make progress, meets someone who he loves deeply, she happens to have a lot of skills and experience that directly correlate to the things he struggles with. He walks away instead of trying to make it work. His brain tells him he doesn’t feel love from me. Why? Because I make a joke while we are cleaning that directly relates to an activity we did the day before that I thought he would think was funny. Instead, he feels like I am jabbing him. So the hours I spent on my hands and knees cleaning for him didn’t feel like love to him. It didn’t feel like I cared when I kissed and hugged him every few minutes just because I like to touch him. He misunderstood a joke. Sometimes it felt like he had to work hard to misread me.

Now I am going through the embarrassment of telling people. They all react the same. No one can believe it. Everyone is shocked. Two of my friends actually cried. One person said, “No Darcy, this isn’t just a loss you have to face. This was different. He was different. I would have opened up  my heart to him too.” I never for one second thought either one of us was perfect. But when you look at the big picture? I knew we were lucky that the issues were so small in comparison to the very large great things. And everyone else saw it too. They thought we were lucky, just like I do. Just like Jay used to.

Sometimes, it hurts so much that my throat closes off and I can’t breathe. I can’t even imagine hearing music now that isn’t attached to him. We had a special playlist for the bedroom. We would sing lyrics to each other while intimate. Who does that? Jay and Darcy did.

This camel’s back is broken. Shattered.

I feel so dumb. I am 50, not 15. How did I not know to not let a man into every corner of my life? Now I have nowhere to go or be without the touch of his memory. Then I go back to my friend’s comment and I feel a little less dumb. Everyone around us admired our love and connection. I wasn’t a fool.

I told Frankie, my son, about him. It has been years since I told him that someone was going to be around. I told him that I wouldn’t even involve him if I didn’t think that this guy was going to be around. He just said, “they always leave anyway, Mom.” I haven’t had the courage yet to tell him he was right again. Once again, I fucked it up with my kid. I thought I had it right this time.

I don’t want anyone to tell me I will get through this. I hate hearing that. I don’t want to. Getting through it, leaves me where I was. I don’t want my life back before I met Jay. I am sick of the existential crisis I live in. No one to love. Lots of friends and support that I am blessed to have but feel terribly guilty because it doesn’t make me happy. I am grateful, but it isn’t what fills the hole in my heart. Then I feel like shit because I know I’m lucky to have so many people in my life. I hate that existence. I want the life I had with Jay.

Bottom line? Bonnie Raitt wins again. I can’t make him love me. I can’t convince him, even though I tried. I even begged him.  I know his heart, and if he knew exactly how much this has hurt me, it would devastate him. But his answer is that he should have broken up with me sooner. I told him he should have never taken to me lunch. Never started. But that is not the answer I want him to come to. I want him to finish what he started. I want him to not walk away. I want him to realize what we had and how damn lucky we were to have it. I want him to realize that working on us would open up a whole word of opportunity to work on all the other things he wants to work on. A loving, supportive partner who works equally hard on herself would be a gift, not a deterrent.

I want him to come home to his Darcy.

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Love

“I can’t make you love me if you don’t
You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t
Here in the dark, in these final hours
I will lay down my heart and I’ll feel the power
But you won’t, no you won’t
‘Cause I can’t make you love me, if you don’t”

That is a song by Bonnie Raitt and I realized it was my life song several years ago. It is one of the first songs I ever learned at Karaoke. It is written in the context of a lover, but I identify with it on many levels of relationships. I have spent much too much of my lifetime trying to get people to care about me that don’t, then more time mourning because I’m not loved the way I had hoped to be.

My dad is a stoic German. He isn’t comfortable saying I love you. My sister was always able to be satisfied knowing that he loves us. He is kind, generous, predictable, stable and a provider and so on. But I always wanted (and still do) him to say it as well.

Then I got married in my early twenties. After my husband became an atheist, he also no longer believed in marriage or romance. He told me repeatedly that he had never loved me. He tricked himself into believing in love because he wanted to have sex. We were Christians and believed in waiting for marriage. Therefore, he tried to tell himself he loved me in order to relieve his sexual urges. When I would show him the box of letters he wrote me during our engagement, (one a day, sometimes two a day) he dismissed them as lies.

I dated a guy after Tim died that I thought was a real possibility of being someone I could stay with. He went to karaoke with me and heard me sing my Bonnie Raitt song. When I came back to my seat, he whispered in my ear, “You will never have to sing that song again. You need a new life song now.” My heart soared at the thought. About three weeks later, he left Frankie and I without any explanation or closure.

Later, I dated a guy on/off for about three years. Every couple of months he felt the need to remind me that I loved him more than he loved me, that he didn’t want anything permanent in our future. I didn’t either, but for some reason it had to come up over and over.

Now I have a teenager who I tell I love every few days and I get no response or an “ok” for an answer. Where did that come from? He grew up in a home that has love expressed consistently. Yeah, I know. Normal teenage stuff.

I have a guy friend who doesn’t say I love you to a girlfriend until he is ready to ask her to marry him. Two and a half years of dating but they don’t exchange that phrase.

I have a girl friend who doesn’t think much of saying it at all. Her response is, “Don’t say it, show it.”

Everyone has different perspectives I guess.

The New Testament was written in the Greek language. There are at least three different words for “love” depending on the nuance of the word. That is part of the problem. We only have one word that I know of. It is an incredibly complex subject (love) with millions of meanings, but it is a wonderful thing.

When I say, “I love you,” to someone I met recently but “fell head over heals” for, it means something different from when I feel love for them six months later. It means something different twenty years later. And if I whisper it on someone’s death-bed, it means something different. But it is all love. All of it.

Then there is love as an action or choice. Sometimes we love someone even if we don’t like them very much at the moment. We choose to behave in a loving way because that is just what is needed.

Here is another theme song for me.

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.”

Written by Hal David. Yep, that is also the damn story of my life. I tell all my friends and family, 90% of the time, that I love them. At the end of every phone call. I guess when you have lost lots of people (and some very suddenly) you are very aware how important it is. Sure, I understand that it can become meaningless if it is overused. But can you overuse love?

This is my heartbeat, the core of who I am. But my experience has been the first song. Just the way it is. I am going to keep trying to love, in whatever form it is, no matter the response I get back from the world. It gets really, really hard sometimes, but I am going to try.


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Crying Uncle

For those of you that are not wired intensely, I am sure you read things from writers like me and roll your eyes. Why doesn’t she just chill out?

It’s hard to explain how my brain and emotions work. When people say, “Don’t over-analyze,” they don’t realize they are asking me to stop breathing. It’s involuntary. It’s second nature to me.

When an intensely wired person pairs up with another intensely wired person, the dynamics are… uh, well… intense. Shocking, I know. Truthfully, there is usually just an overwhelming sense of relief and connection. Oh my God, I am not a total freak of nature. He gets me. He feels and thinks this stuff too. The aching loneliness that ranges from dull to raging is finally over. It is glorious. It is euphoric. It is surreal. You pinch yourself often to make sure you aren’t dreaming.

Of course, you know the reality of bittersweet and ying/yang and all that jazz. That also means the heartache is equally as overwhelming. As life unfolds, you will naturally find yourselves disagreeing about things, maybe even at odds. Maybe at opposite ends of the spectrum. So you intensely get disappointed and then start trying to understand. You talk. And talk. And discuss. Two steps closer to understanding, three steps back. Five steps forward, one step back. Then a grinding halt.

I think life at 50 though, is so much wiser than earlier. At least it should be if you have spent some of those 50 years working on growing your emotional intelligence. When you work at improving yourself, understanding who you are, how you are wired, you gain some insight and awareness that helps you.

A decade or two ago, I would have never thought that anything less than a perfect resolution would ever be acceptable. I would have never believed that one strategy would be to simply cry, “Uncle!” and that would be incredibly effective. I would have been shocked to know that I could actually sit back after all that intensity and tears and say, “Jeeze, Darcy. Lighten up. Don’t take yourself so seriously.” Now, I have to admit, that message (for the most part) probably has to come from me or a very, very trusted source. I most likely wouldn’t take too kindly to someone tossing that out to me. But when I arrive at that place on my own or from another intensely minded person? It seems like brilliant advice.

And then life is beautiful again. You can be mindful of the connection that you cherish beyond words. You can just be close again. You don’t need perfect resolution. It isn’t even important anymore. The connection and love resumes it rightful spot. It’s the priority, rather than solving the world’s insolvable problems.

So often I have wished that I could be rewired. So many, many times in my life I have wanted to not be me so that I wouldn’t feel so lonely on the planet. But then other times, like now, I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Those moments of connection are worth every second I’ve waited for it.

Remember this lesson, Darcy. Honor your thoughts and your agony, but then just cry, “Uncle!” and lighten up. Life is too short. And love is too amazing.


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As It Should Be

If you  have followed my blog over the last couple of years, it is no secret that I find dating to be a nightmare. Navigating and balancing all the dynamics is not for the faint of heart and I could give you names of thousands that would agree. When someone asks me what I am looking for, I used to say a full-time partner. Now I just say someone who I might want to go on a second date with!

We (those of us in the dating world) do a boatload of mental gymnastics in order to make sense of the nonsense that occurs regularly in the that world. Some of that is necessary because we all need to adjust our expectations sometimes. But every once in a while, something GREAT occurs and you have to shake your head at all the months/years of the stuff you put up with, thinking you were hoping for too much. Seeing as I tend to blog about the negatives, let me share some of the very refreshing things that I have experienced lately.

For example…

1. When you send a text to let him know you are thinking about him but you are worried maybe you shouldn’t have.

What you expect: You usually don’t get a response for several hours. Maybe not for a day or two. Or maybe they never text you again. Ever. Or you might be seen as needy, over-anxious, desperate, pushy.

Instead: He sees your text and he calls you because he wants to connect with you.

2. When you say something sappy like, “Happy Anniversary” and are worried maybe you shouldn’t have.

What you expect: “I don’t do anniversaries” or you might be seen as needy, over-anxious, desperate, pushy. Or they outright laugh at you.

Instead: He says thank you and tells you how much he has enjoyed getting to know you. He even talks about how much he is looking forward to continuing the journey with you.

3. When you tell him you wish you could see him more.

What you expect: He doesn’t feel the same way. He thinks you’re smothering him. He ignores you and continues to make you feel like you aren’t a priority.

Instead: He tells you has the desire to be with you, even if the schedules don’t allow it. But he “embraces the emotions” that you obviously both have that are causing the desire to see each other to begin with.

4. When you go to his house and hope maybe you can stay over (even though you can’t because you have a son at home).

What you expect: “I can’t share my bed with anyone. I can’t sleep if someone is here.” Or “I haven’t had anyone spend the night here in years. It is going to take me a long time to be comfortable with that.”

Instead:  He says, “You know, you can stay as long as you want. I just want you to be comfortable.”

I could write pages more of examples, but the point is, the “instead’s” are as it should be. I think I am finally at the point that I would rather have one week with someone like this, then weeks or months with someone who isn’t. That may sound like common sense to you, but there were times when the loneliness was so bad, I would have taken the bad over having nothing.

You don’t ever know how long something will last, but for this moment? It’s as wonderful as I have always dreamed it would be. Knowing I am respected and wanted does amazing things for my ability to get through the hard days. There are never guarantees for “forever” so you just relish each moment and day, and hope there are more. And more. And more.

 


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Mother Teresa

Once a week, I try to post a quote on Facebook. It’s just something to keep things active on my business page and I hope it will generate some thinking. I really loved this week’s quote. It came out of a book I was reading called “Hope Conquers All” which is full of CaringBridge stories.

“Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired.” Mother Teresa

Love, love, love that. We need to love without getting tired.

I am the first to admit that I get tired. Often. I remember once at a spiritual direction session when Tim was still alive and I was dealing with a host of blended family problems, I was asked to move seats for a technique she was using. I don’t remember the actual intervention, but I do remember her saying afterward that she had an aha moment when she realized I was just completely exhausted. A simple thing like moving my seat became a burden because I was so emotionally tapped out. Tired.

I try not to complain, but when I do, I know I hear myself saying I’m tired. Tired of being alone. Tired of being the strong one. Tired of being the one people depend on. Tired of being responsible. Tired of being alone. Tired of being alone.

I was in a session yesterday with a lovely woman who has had a lifetime of burdens to bear. Family and significant others in her life have had hosts of issues like mental illness, severe addictions, etc.. She is tired. She just longs for someone to take care of her for a change. My heart ached for her. She is so worthy of being rescued, but there is no genuine promise to offer her that someone will eventually do just that.

Mother Teresa’s quote is profound. We need to love without tiring.  We don’t need miracles, we just need to stay the course. No fanfare, nothing fancy. Just keep at it. Keep going, keep trying.

And I don’t think it’s wrong to also hope to find someone in life who will love us without tiring as well. It’s ok to want it back in return.

I talked with my client yesterday about how she probably would identify with my fantasy for a significant other. My ideal isn’t being swept off my feet, or some fabulous vacation. The vision is in my kitchen, with someone who just says, “I’m here.” And then they stay. They love without tiring.

Thanks for your amazing life and example, Mother Teresa. And thanks for that profound statement. When I feel my fatigue, I’m going to remember that statement and let it inspire me to keep loving.


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Love Hurts

I’ve had another down week, but when people ask me how I am doing, I am saying, “fine.” I guess that’s because I am. There is nothing in particular wrong, but sometimes depression takes the form of a dark cloud that just kind of hangs over you. I’ve decided after reflecting on events, that is comes down to the fact that when you choose to be invested in people, (I mean REALLY invested) that pretty much guarantees that you will experience some gut wrenching pain at some point (or several points).

I’ve been told more than once (and recently reminded) that I just care too much. I know it’s true, but I don’t think it is something that will ever change about me. Sometimes it’s the maddening romantic love where you care about something that hurts you. You wish you could stop caring, but it seems beyond your control. It reminds me of the movie “Bruce Almighty” where Jennifer Aniston lays in her bed at night and just weeps with the prayer, “Please God. Please let me stop loving him.”

But there are many other loves. Loving your child, loving your parent, a friend, a client. Could be anyone. Sometimes there is love you cannot walk away from. No matter what happens, you are committed. Often this is family. On our wedding day, Tim and I wrote our own vows. I hadn’t had Frankie yet, but my vows talked about how I knew there would be a difference between any biological children I had and my step-children. But I vowed that as much as I was humanly capable of, I would minimize that difference to the best of my ability. Tim’s death never changed that commitment to me.

This week I have just had to listen and see and observe people around me who are hurting. Sometimes, people choose a path of destruction that is miles wide. Sometimes it does no good to try to intervene. Maybe an attempt would actually make things worse. Let me just say when you love someone, it hurts and aches deeply to be aware of how much they are hurting themselves and those around them, but remain powerless to stop it or do anything about it. Your heart just breaks as you watch.

My brother, Dad and I had another appointment this week. This time, there were no jokes and giggles. Dad was having a bad day. Sometimes the Parkinson’s just gets to him. It’s not life-threatening, but every once in a while I get hit between the eyes when I realize just how much he has changed. This predictable, stable, larger-than-life man now shuffles his feet. He may trip on the stairs. He may be dizzy, confused. And the worst is when he realizes it and just looks at me and says something like, “I just don’t feel right today.”

I wouldn’t trade this part of me for anything. I want to love deeply. I want to care too much. But sometimes I just have the need to also cry or yell out that it really sucks. Those moments I think erroneously that I would give anything to trade in my soul for someone who is a bit more calloused and selfish. Wish I could just not care and wash my hands of responsibility.

Those moments fade. And I take the whole package. I will love and care. And I will hurt and ache. It’s the price of connection and I am willing to pay it. Maybe it’s not that I’m willing. I doubt I could be anything else. It’s as involuntary as breathing for me I think.

Hmmm… I guess it’s another example of the paradox of bittersweet.


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The Extra Mile- Is It Worth It?

Henri Nouwen said the following:

“Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply. You might be afraid of the pain that deep love can cause. When those you love deeply reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love ever more fruitful. It is like a plow that breaks the ground to allow the seed to take root and grow into a strong plant… Yes, as you love deeply the ground of your heart will be broken more and more, but you will rejoice in the abundance of the fruit it will bear.”

This has always been my philosophy. I may not have been able to articulate it as such, but I think it is the way I have usually lived and conducted my life. Several years ago when I was introduced to the Eneagram and discovered I was personality type number four, I was given another layer of understanding. Fours will take agony over nothing because it makes you feel alive and not invisible. I had more words to articulate my personality and philosophy.

The last couple of years though, I find myself questioning whether or not I want to continue to make decisions based on the “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” theory. I’m not talking only about romantic relationships, but the way I have approached every aspect of my life. Give with all my heart because that is who I am. That is how I am wired.

Truth is, I love living my life that way. I’m actually proud of it. I got the extra proverbial mile. Okay, let’s face it, I go thousands of extra miles, as a mom, step-mom, therapist, family member, friend. When I was very young, I remember my mom saying that I give so much of myself, which is fine until I expect others to give back the same. When they don’t I get crushed. She understood me from the very beginning. And it’s the line in Henri Nouwen’s quote about being rejected, abandoned, or left by death that gets to me. I love giving passionately. That is, until it hurts. Then I question the whole way I conduct my life.

In my practice, I have often gone beyond the normal expectations. I will do a home visit if someone has lost their license, has a bad back, or suffered a particularly difficult trauma. I have given several free sessions for different circumstances. I have attended weddings, funerals and other meaningful events when requested to do so. I don’t charge for those extra phone calls between sessions or for letters to be written. And I do it because I want to. I do it because it is how my heart beats. Then I do something- less than perfect, or not what is anticipated, or whatever it may be, and the client gets angry or upset, and drops out of therapy. It may or may not be accompanied by a torrent of harsh words. I know professionally that this happens. But regardless of any intellectual knowledge I have, it still knocks the wind out of me. Years of going out of my way and doing all the extras are forgotten because one ounce of upset negates several tons of love and compassion.

Or perhaps it is my family. As a step-mom, I vowed on my wedding day to seek to love my non-biological children as much as any biological children I had. I know there is a difference, but my goal was to minimize that difference as much as was in my power to do so. And anyone that knows me, knows I have kept that vow. Of course I’ve made mistakes and I’m far from perfect. But I have been there. I have sacrificed and interrupted my life innumerable times. I have given on some occasions, far more than any biological family members have given them. I have opened up my home dozens and dozens of times to my husband’s FORMER wife and her family over and over again in order to make things comfortable for the kids. And I don’t mind… that is, until I get hurt or attacked or whatever. Then I wonder if I should make different choices.

I could go on and on but you get the point. I am challenged all the time by my professional peers, counselors that care about me, friends that love me- that perhaps I need to not always go that extra mile. Disappointment and hurt are part of the human condition and are inevitable. But is it possible that it might hurt a little less if I haven’t gone so far beyond the call of duty when it happens?

I don’t have any answers. I just keep wondering and thinking and wondering and thinking about it. But part of me also wonders if it is a futile exercise. The bottom line is, I don’t know if I am capable of living any other way. Sure, we can tweak things a bit, but overall? I’m not sure I know how to relate to the world in any other way but the intense way in which I do. I can provide evidence of ways that I have been a bit more self-protective and held back a bit so as to learn from the lessons I have encountered in my life. But overall? I will probably always love deeply like Henri Nouwen says.

I have met a few people who have chosen NOT to allow themselves to love deeply. They will not risk it. They just won’t. I adore them, but know I will be kept at a certain distance. It makes me sad, but then I have to admit, they seem happier than I am on a consistent basis. They are more alone, but they also don’t experience the aggravation and hurt as often. If I am totally honest, part of me is even envious of them. I wish I could distance myself and protect myself more.

Again, I’ve made some progress. I’m slowly, slowly learning how to be slightly more judicious in how I put myself out there. But the bottom line is, you never know when you invest how it is going to end. Just like with being an advocate, you don’t know when you will be successful so you just have to keep trying. And I will keep trying to take better care of myself, but in the big picture, I will probably keep loving deeply and keep praying for that fruit to show itself. Sometimes I just need a different perspective to see the fruit that is there, but sometimes there just isn’t any there to see. Somehow, I will seek to love deeply, but maybe more smartly too.