So, Funny Story

Given my last two posts, this is very on the nose. A conversation arose between my significant other and me.

My analytic nature, the fact that I pull back sometimes, the way I stop and think things through, etc. made him wonder if I was in love with him, or if I was only fond of him. He didn’t doubt that I loved him in some way, but only if I was in love with him.

It’s a fair question, and he didn’t express it in a way that was at all plaintive or manipulative. I think he simply needed to know because he, like me, is afraid of loving someone more than he is loved in return.

So here I am worrying about being irrational, while he is worrying about my not allowing myself to have real feelings for him. It sounds like something that would make for a good romcom.

We talked about the question, and about this difference in our natures. If I were to put it into sci-fi terms (as is only right and proper!), I think his protective shields are mostly deflectors, while mine are cloaking devices. He protects his core by diverting potential attacks, I protect mine by hiding my more vulnerable nature.

So here’s a potential pitfall of being careful (not that I am advocating recklessness): not everyone connects caution with passion. The stronger I feel, the more careful I want to be because I fear that if I’m reckless, that I will hurt myself, or him, or both of us. I want to make sure the foundation is solid before I start building upwards. Once the house is built, or at least well underway, I think I’ll be able to be more carefree and impulsive, but until then, I’ cautious. However, this can also look like a lack of passion.

Part of me wonders if that misunderstanding is fostered by the lie mentioned in my previous post about the irresistible nature of love. That if I am really in love, I will leap and damn the consequences! But I think my s.o. knows better, and I know for a fact that he has other reasons for wariness on this score. He has experienced what it is like to be in a relationship where he loved more than he was loved in return. He is understandably not eager to repeat that experience, and I can’t blame him.

And another one of the lies, the one that leads to people settling, makes that disparity a horribly  legitimate worry. Some people would consider marrying someone they were only fond of (or even that they didn’t really like) in order to be married. Too many people are in relationships more because they cannot stand not to be in a relationship than because they’re in love.

I am not one of those people and I assured him of that. I wouldn’t be in a relationship with someone I wasn’t in love with. I would much rather be single than settle.*

Despite advice from some of my friends, I am not going to leap and damn the consequences. I fear that if I did, no matter how much I love him or he loves me, that there would be serious negative consequences. The trick is to try and make sure that there are not serious negative consequences from my caution. I am probably not going to be as cautious as other friends would like me to be.

Where is the balance? I know I do not want to be reckless. I also know that this isn’t something I can master with logic. Love isn’t rational. It’s overwhelming, as it’s meant to be. I guess it’s a solution that he and I will have to find together. And I hope and pray we can communicate well through it, and find a path that’s good for us both.

 


*As a side-note, my refusal to consider a relationship with someone I am only fond of isn’t a judgement against arranged marriages or marriages of practicality in general. For some people, when both parties understand and approve of the situation, marriages of that kind can be very important to the framework of a society, and can result in love even when they do not begin in love. But the culture at large in our country doesn’t support those kinds of marriages much anymore, which changes expectations, and at any rate, they are not what I am looking for.

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The Breakdown of Calculations

Forgive me for this ramble. I know it can be tiresome to read about this kind of thing, but I am working through it, and that’s the sort of thing this blog exists for. Some of this, at least, is relevant to people in general.

I’ve seen a lot of relationships over the years. I’ve seen the good, the bad, the dull, and the disastrous. I’ve watched possibly surmountable problems collapse into avalanches, I’ve watched people drift apart and give up, and I’ve watched people make bad, bad choices in their desperation to be loved.

Our society tells a lot of lies.

There’s the lie, ever-relevant to people like me, that if you aren’t in a romantic relationship, if you aren’t loved by someone in the “eros” sense of the word, then there is something wrong with you. As a woman who has been single for a long time, I can bear witness that many women treat me as a broken thing that needs fixing. If I could say just one thing to them, and really have them hear it, it would be this: I am a whole person as I am. Don’t treat me as if I am deficient or incomplete.

There’s the lie that what Lewis, in the Screwtape Letters, calls “the storm of emotion” attendant to falling in love IS actually love rather than just a stage of love. There’s the accompanying lie that when things get hard, that love is over and it’s time to move on. I’ve seen a lot of lonely people who buy into this one. They’re lonely because they move from relationship to relationship seeking a permanence that does not exist.

A related lie is the idea that love is something that happens TO us, and that it is irresistible.  Attraction may be involuntary, but whether or not we feed that attraction and act on it, is our choice. I have a hard time sympathizing with those who use this excuse to justify loving foolishly, or committing adultery. Especially adultery. Loving foolishly happens, and while I may be frustrated by patterns, such as someone who constantly pursues abusive relationships because they are attracted to a “type,” I can empathize with that pain. But justifying injuring another person by cheating on them because you buy into some concept of “irresistible love” only angers me.

There are lies about sex that range from misrepresentations of normalcy, to downplaying its significance in our emotional and spiritual lives. This causes no end of harm, but it’s harm we rarely talk about because few want to be labeled as “puritanical” by pointing out the damage caused by a culture that desperately wants sex to be “no big deal” while simultaneously idolizing romantic love with the lies mentioned above.

For the most part, I know where I stand on all of these. I also know where I stand in terms of what I will and won’t accept from a partner, and what I am looking for.

  1. I won’t change who I am, or pretend to be someone I am not, in order to find a mate – It seems to me that this would be self-defeating, anyway, because I’d only end up attracting a partner who wants whatever I am pretending to be instead of me.
  2. I need someone who shares my faith – I’ve seen cross-faith partnerships work, but I know how hard they can be. I also know myself well enough to know I need that spiritual support. I also need them to share at least most of my moral outlook.
  3. I need an intellectual equal – I’ve seen the consequences when there’s a disparity. Either one partner ends up parenting the other, or they constantly frustrate each other because they are incapable of being on the same page. By the same token, I need someone who is at least close to my maturity level. I need to be able to trust them to be an adult when necessary, but I also need them not to judge me when I’m being kid-like. Sometimes a woman wants to play video games and eat cookies for dinner, and sometimes she wants to run around the park with her arms spread out like an airplane, or cosplay for a Star Wars movie, and the last thing she wants is a partner who looks at her like she’s insane or who gets frustrated at her for doing these things.
  4. I need someone I can trust – Loyalty means almost everything to me. I trust slowly, if ever, and I give my loyalty with care. Because when someone has my loyalty, they have it. I need the same from my partner. I don’t think I’m the sort who can forgive infidelity. I also need someone who won’t back out of a commitment, but who will work with me to solve the problems that will inevitably come.
  5. I need someone who knows how to communicate – This is, unfortunately, a little nebulous. But I also know it is important. The ability to listen, and to articulate, and to work through problems are vital in any lasting relationship, including friendships and family ties.

I won’t accept abuse. I hate being manipulated, and I have enough self-worth not to take crap from people. This is an advantage I have, not a strength, a gift, not an achievement. Too many people are riddled with insecurities, body dysphoria, and feelings of low self-worth that make them think they aren’t worthy of love, or not worthy of being treated well by those they love. I’ve seen women, especially, but men, too, “settle” for what they think they can get in an effort not to be alone. It’s depressing to see, and it always seems to end with one, or both, partners being badly hurt, and that’s not even considering children being involved.

I want none of that. I don’t want to settle, and I don’t want anyone to settle for me. I would rather be single my whole life than settle for someone or have them settle for me.

But. And here is where things start to go sideways. We are fallen humanity. I am by no means perfect, and neither is anyone else. So any partner I find will have their own imperfections, just as I have mine, and there will be strife and pain even in the best of terrestrial circumstances.

Lovely.

My best friend recently said to me that I need to have lines, and I need to know where those lines are. The above lines are good, so far as they go, but when it comes to specifics, some of them get harder to evaluate, especially when I know I am emotionally compromised.

Some answers come easily. If my significant other cheats on me, we’re done. If he starts behaving in a manner that’s abusive, we’re done. Both are things I deem highly unlikely, but I’m too wary of the world to put anything out of the realm of possibility. But for the other lines… it’s harder. For one thing, the future is unknowable, people make mistakes that are either patterns, or mistakes that they correct. Some patterns I think I can live with, while others I can’t, but how can one know if a mistake will be corrected or whether or not it is a warning sign?

I have watched so many friends ignore warning signs.

In evaluating my friends’ significant others, I look for patterns. Part of this is just time. I remind myself constantly to take my time. I am well aware, however, that I am not as hard on my own significant other as I would be on those of my friends. I’m biased in his favor, and I know that’s dangerous. But at the same time, it seems right. I love him, and loving someone does mean being biased in their favor. I also know that I cannot expect him to be perfect any more than I am.

So what is and isn’t acceptable? Am I seeing what is truly there? Are the qualities in him that I find wonderful enough? Are his failings things I can accept if they never change? Are there things I see now, that aren’t problems, that will become problems for me eventually? And how do all of these questions play out from his side when applied to me?  My communication with my s.o. is good, as far as I can tell, and so I know he worries about different aspects of our relationship than I do more often than not.

I begin to understand more and more that, eventually, it will just come down to a choice. And once that choice is made, one way or another, I will have to accept the consequences, good and bad. At present, I worry, but I also pray, and I am trying to listen to those around me, both my s.o., my family, and my friends.


Reflected

Feelings are peculiar things. Some people seem to consider them illusions, glosses that we paint, consciously or unconsciously, over reality and that affect our perception of that reality.

Some people look at the biological aspect of emotions, the chemical and electrical triggers. To these folks, perhaps, feelings are more substantial in nature, phenomena that have clear (even if science has not yet fully explained them) causes and effects.

Some believe that emotion, sensitivity to energies, even extra-sensory-perception (ESP) are senses like sight and smell, things that tell us about the reality around us.

And then there are those, like me, who believe that all three are true. I’ve seen how my emotions can cloud my perception, I’ve felt the chemical “switch” in my brain tick over and throw me into a depression that has no external cause. But I’ve also had experiences that tell me there is more to reality. If I am right about that last bit, and if we are capable of perceiving it, then our emotions may be part of a continuum of senses that tell us about the intangible.

C. S. Lewis, in one of his essays that I am too lazy at present to look for, talks about the difference between observation and experience, of how someone who is in love knows love in one way, and someone observing someone in love knows it another way, and how it is not immediately clear which experience is the more “true” or “accurate,” if, even, that question has any meaning. For I believe, and I think Lewis would agree with me, that both are true, but in different ways.  I’ve spent most of my life as the observer, and it has taught me a great deal.

Part of me doesn’t trust emotion. This part of me used to be much stronger than it is now. In fact, it used to rule me. This part sees emotions as irrational (which, to be fair, they are), and therefore untrustworthy at best, and dangerous at worst. Much of what I have observed over the years bears up this assumption.

Years ago, now, I ran up against the limits of my rational mind. It was like hitting a wall at high speed. It broke me. And I remained broken until I accepted that other ways of knowing have value, and that the rational mind is only capable of evaluating part of reality. Since then, with my prejudice against emotion weakened, I’ve been able to see the good it does in our lives, as well.

To put it another way, I am aware of the science behind sight. How light bounces off matter, is filtered by my eyes, bounced and refracted and then translated into images by my brain. I know that things can go wrong with this process, that it isn’t entirely trustworthy, and that at best, it is only showing me a tiny sliver (the visible spectrum) of reality. But at the same time, if it were not for this flawed perception, what would I know of the light? I need sight, even if I cannot always trust it entirely.

Perhaps emotions are similar in regard to the unseen world. They’re imperfect, only representative of a small input of information, and translated by an organ that is notoriously unreliable. But without them, what would I know of anything beyond the material world?

This has become particularly relevant to me lately as I am dealing with an extremely irrational and incapacitating emotion: I’m in love.

It’s TERRIFYING.

I may be more comfortable with my emotions than I was ten years ago, but this is in a league of its own. I have moments where my rational brain is screaming at me that I can’t be trusted, and other moments where the very same rational brain reluctantly admits that there is no way that I am going to be rational about this. And that that is ok. As long as I try not to be stupid, it’s time to take risks.

Some background: I’m 35. This is the first time I’ve been in love. I’ve had crushes, none of which were ever reciprocated. I’ve been on a few dates here and there, none of which turned into anything. I’ve had people crush on me when I couldn’t reciprocate, and once I was stalked, which sucks.

But now I have feelings for someone who also has feelings for me. This is completely new territory. I alternate from being emotionally overwhelmed in a pleasant way, to being overwhelmed with fear of the unknown. “…For love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” Song of Songs 8:6-7

It seems I have reason to fear. And that fear is compounded by my instinct to not trust emotion. My rational mind is not disengaged. I don’t even know how to disengage it. But I am well aware that this is not the time to be purely rational.

I am rambling, at at nearly 900 words I’d best wrap this up soon. I am not even sure what my point is, other than to see my thoughts placed into words.

If anything, I guess it is a question tossed into the ether: For someone who’s default is rational, who knows that even the best relationships are challenging, and who, though she has faith in a higher benevolent power who has her back, also believes that that doesn’t protect her from worldly consequences, how is it possible to fall in love?

And how far is too far to fall?


If you need prompting!

This month in the InMon offices: I’m a week late with prompts. Yes. I was distracted last week by the news, among other things. In other news, I will likely be rethinking InMon before the end of the year. Perhaps it needs an update, perhaps it’s time to be replaced … Continue reading

via Inspiration Monday: Time Web — bekindrewrite


Charlottesville was my Fault

I highly recommend that everyone read this. And then do some careful self-examination. I know from personal experience that examining yourself for racism and privilege hurts like hell. Something in me wants to rise up and protest that that’s not me, I’m not like that, or even that there’s a good excuse for my privilege and my failings. But in the end, I’m better for shutting my mouth, listening, enduring the pain involved in change, and growing.

Sarondipity Universe

Written by Josh Bryan

I live in rural Northeast Georgia, and was raised in rural Upstate South Carolina. I grew up hearing the black kids called monkeys and the n word at the playground in elementary school. I’ve heard members of my family say derogatory things about other races, including these racial slurs. I was even told in third grade that I couldn’t have a black girlfriend because, “people just don’t like that.”

I could make an argument that systemic racism is the cause of a vehicle plowing through a group of protesters in VA, but I know too many people who claim that “racism doesn’t exist.” So please, friends and family, hear me. I’m going to set aside the argument for systemic racism for a minute and look at the four types of racism that I see every day living here in the south.

I see this as a…

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Note to Self

Because, today, I am in desperate need of a reminder. A reminder of where my priorities lie. Where my faith is fixed. Where I hide my heart. God help me stem the tide of bitterness in my soul.

From the pen of C. S. Lewis, in what may be his most breathtaking piece of nonfiction: The Weight of Glory.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner – no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.

And my other source of sanity. I point you to Stephen Colbert. Love and peace to y’all.


Silent Photograph

Consider this proof of life! I have my wits and my fingers, still. I will return more consistently, and soon, I hope. I miss my friends here.

I offer a snippet for BeKindRewrite’s InMon, for the prompt Silent Photograph. It is very short.

Enjoy!

 

On every world where creatures have both sight and sapience, the technology follows: translating light into matter.
Lens, mirror, silver nitrate, ammonium thiosulfate… It’s easy to take it for granted once it becomes commonplace. But I think when people see it for the first time, they know the truth of it.
Photography is witchcraft.
I smirk, but I mean it.
Go on, roll your eyes. I know you want to.
Then stop and think for a moment. You take a camera, point it towards some map of light and take your exposure. What have you done? You have frozen a moment of light that will never come again and trapped it in static silence.
Think of all the photographs taken. How many outlive those who know what they are, or why? They lose context, they lose names, they become nothing but a static, silent record of light.
Yet you laugh at the thought that a camera captures essence and soul.
Take your shot.
The camera will be more honest than your eyes, if less sensitive. It will record exactly what it sees.
There. You have the record, my essence trapped in silence. I don’t envy you, in that darkroom, when you finally see what you have caught.
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