Monday, December 05, 2011

What Fears May Come... From Love

Years ago, showing another person affection, kindness, tenderness, thoughtfulness, consideration and respect and even openly displaying your love was the most natural thing in the world. Nowadays people don't have time to listen to what you have to say, let alone take the time to understand how you might feel. We cover our ears and blindfold our hearts to stop any form of pain creeping in. Sooner or later it finds us anyway. It's the price we pay for clogging up our arteries. These days we don't even give ourselves permission to admit that we need love anymore. We're too scared. Love isn't supposed to be as necessary as food. But it is. If it weren't, why do we feel so much despair and gloom when it's absent, and so elated and exhilarated when we find it? Things have gotten to the point now where it's almost embarrassing to tell anyone you're lonely. So we've closed our hearts and souls, partitioned them off with this impenetrable material so that others don't even know how to get in anymore.

Still, we wear this facade, we march bravely through a series of emotional hells as if we're so damn strong, as if we're invincible, as if we've got our lives totally under control. Some of us actually boast about how good we are at it. How well we're holding up. Well, sometimes I don't hold up very well. And from what I see so many of my friends the same way. We're tired of getting up in the morning, smiling, simulating delight, when in reality the emotional texture of our lives feels more like a desert. Our hearts are dry. Our souls feel like black sunsets. Our minds like monsoons. I pass hundreds of I've-got-it-all-under-control women on the streets every day. But privately, and particularly at night, many of us ache and pray for more love and affection than we're getting, because despite our social status, our incredibly high incomes, our processed appearances, there's a dark void inside us that's all waiting to be filled.

In the past several months... years... we dared not admit that the "unknown factor" that might fill up that empty sense of darkness... is another human being. Now it's an overt display of weakness of will to confess that you still need and want love, companionship, affection, tenderness. It's cause for shame to admit to anybody that you're not getting any, haven't had any in so long that you now spend most of your time apologizing to yourself for continuously allowing yourself to be emotionally shortchanged. It's so much easier to just play it safe, because safe is at least predictable. In the meantime, however, we are barely eeking by. We parade around as if life is so wonderful, but it's so phony, and the energy it takes to fake it begins to wane. After a while you get tired of faking it. You get tired of lying to yourself, and to others, that you're so damn happy. A BMW can't hug and kiss you at night. Shearson Lehman Bros. won't comfort you when your mother dies. A 5,000-square-foot house doesn't care if you live in it alone. The phone company doesn't care a shift if your lover just left you for another woman or man. 

Now, everyone frantically runs the other way if you act as though you really do like them... let alone "love" them. This still baffles me. They seem to be trying to convince themselves that they're better off without intimacy, trust, compassion, support and true love, at least until they can make up their minds what to do once, or when and if... they ever surrender. These same people are treating love as if it's some terminal disease, and if they catch it they're goners. As if there's no "afterlife" if it doesn't work out. I wish more of them would watch how well people DO recover. Observe how resilient we are even after someone breaks our hearts. We are good at picking ourselves up off the ground and going forward with our lives. We don't have any other choice.

One person will not be responsible for our demise, we say to ourselves and to one another. We have also learned how to live with pain and disappointment, because we're used to it. We've learned how to deal with it. We get off the train. We look for another route, not an easier route, but a better route. And even after riding many different trains, we still hop on a moving freight train if we think that what we need might be inside it. 

But closeness is something SO MANY are shying away from because apparently it could lead to death. They don't want us to see them completely naked. They don't want us to see their heartbeat because then they would be discovered, they would be found out: that they're even more vulnerable than we are because they work too hard trying not to be. But I swear, I'm way too tired of guessing which door is the right one to knock on, and I'm almost out of breath... not to mention time. I just don't "get it". Our hearts are surviving at the poverty level. We're scared to death that getting "too close" will cost us too much. Apparently it's become so expensive to love that many of us are now simply unwilling to pay. This bothers me.

It hurts to acknowledge that you aren't being loved, or that you haven't loved anyone since you aren't exactly sure when, and that's when that ache begins to feel more like pain and you realize you're much older now, that this isn't college, that this isn't a term paper: It's the Final Exam and you're failing in a big way. You look around and realize that you're alone, and this picture is all wrong. Or the person you once cherished is gone. Or they're there and you wish they were gone. Or perhaps you simply no longer cherish them; they no longer cherish you. All you know is that your emotional life feels like a dead zone, as if it's been freeze-dried. This is not at all the way you dreamed it all would be. And you know what most people are very good at doing? Keeping up appearanaces. It's all about the walls and defense mechanisms... not wanting to reveal that maybe they should move in another direction. Open another door. Take a chance... whether it makes complete sense or not. 

I believe that the choices which make no sense whatsoever are often exactly the ones we should trust, because there is something we are supposed to learn. And yet you're still hoping, still praying, still waiting for that massive waterfall of rose petals. So you keep your fingers crossed that one day you might get lucky and find what you need. That one day you'll feel the rush, the rapture. That one day you'll meet the person who'll put the passion back into your life, who'll make your spirit quicken, who'll make your soul and heart feel like a harp. That one day you'll be able to merge because you've found the person with whom you mesh. That you have finally arrived somewhere you want to stay.

In the meantime, however, you continue to live your life as if it's a checking account. For years you assumed you had an unlimited reserve, but now your life is half over, and the checks are starting to bounce. You are surprised by your own mortality, how much you've let slip by, how much you haven't done, how differently you'd do it if you could do it all over. But you can't. I write primarily because I want to make deposits, not withdrawals. For me, writing is more like having a savings account: It's that zone God put inside all of us to go to when we've run out of checks. I'd like to think of writing as a kind of gift you give to others. It doesn't have to be the perfect gift, and it can't be the whole gift, because I don't know exactly what everyone needs.

I'm just curious as hell as to why we do what we do. I want to find out what's wrong, what's missing, what we need to do to make our lives better, to restore what we've lost: generosity, self-respect and respect for others; the desire to make others happy; kindness; love. I'm intriuged by what people feel, how we survive, why we treat one another the way we do, and the effect that treatment has on our lives.

I often hope for too much, and I know it. I'm a die-hard idealist and wouldn't want to be any other way, which is another reason, I think, I write. So far it's the easiest way I've found to stretch myself out, to be of some service to the world, even if it is on a small scale. All I'm trying to do is explore, investigate, probe the living, breathing world of all people... because they're my family, as we are all parts of the same whole... and I care about my family. My primary interest lies with those who overcome the odds. I'm more interested in people who either force themselves or are forced to learn how to untie the knots in their lives, who are willing to tough it out, go through hell if they have to, in order to come out happier, sounder people.

Long-standing victims are usually just that, and I find them boring. I'm much more interested in how people exercise courage, faith, how we overcome our fears.

One of my major hopes is that anyone who reads whatever I write will enjoy the journey, the expedition, even the painful parts, but I also hope they laugh. We need laughter, too. And to be honest, I get a charge from the probing. The digging. The search... the quest. Some people think that writing down your feelings and thoughts and observations is scary. It often is. But I'm willing to make the emotional investment because when I was growing up, my grandmother and my Mom taught me that anything worth doing in life should be a little scary, that you have to be willing to jump off the cliff before you can see where you might land; but you have to believe that you're going to land. So my investment is an emotional one, and it is expensive, but I'm willing to pay, because sometimes it's inside that so-called danger zone that I discover where the secrets of happiness are hiding.

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