Tag Archives: love

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?


God’s Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
.
-Gerard Manley Hopkins

Advent Recycling

Alas, I do not think my time will allow me to do advent posts like I did last year. Hopefully next year.

I will try and highlight another carol for Christmas, and here, I will gather together last year’s offerings, and give you a advent calendar (and Tolkien) themed post from Grimmella.  I hope you enjoy them!

December 1: O Magnum Mysterium – Nothing says Christmas like 16th Century Latin

December 3: Away in a Manger – probably not the version you know…

December 6: Hearth and Fire – more winter than Christmas, but lovely

December 8: Balulalow – A joyful song from Scotland

December 10: Don Oiche ud ImBethil – Softer, more meditative fare. It gives me chills.

December 13: Cantique de Noel – You may know this as “O Holy Night” but I dare say that it is far more beautiful in French, especially with Joan Baez’s voice

December 15: Beautiful Star of Bethlehem – Twangy country Christmas music, and a fine example

December 17: Brugundian Carol – a softer, more mellow folk carol

December 20: Third Carol for Christmas Day – hauntingly beautiful song from the 1700’s

December 22: Veni, Veni Emmanuel – I love “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” in any language, but there is something of crystal-beauty to the words in Latin.

December 24: Go, Tell it on the Mountain – The incomparable Odetta, what more can I say?

December 25: Christmas in the Trenches – And finally, last-year’s Christmas offering. It’s pretty self-explanatory

Peace and love to you all, entering this season, however you do, or don’t, observe it!

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Brooding on Monsters

Forgiveness of others when they wrong me is a fundamental, though often challenging, requirement of my faith. I understand why it is so important, and why we often need help to accomplish it. I desire to be forgiven when I wrong others.

As far as extending human understanding, and even the idea of forgiveness, to some people, I seem to have limits.

Listening to the news has recently brought before me a recurring theme in my life: There is a homicidal torturer that lives under my skin. She longs to take predatory humans, especially sexual predators, into a brightly lit room and vivisect them over the course of several days.

There. I have said it. Yes, I know that many predators are also victims of predation or other horrible circumstances. I also believe that there is a predatory strain, an impulse, a siren call to dominate others, imbedded in humanity.

Obviously, I am no exception. I want to torture certain people, I want to murder them, and when all is said and done, both stem from that desire for domination.

I want to dominate and destroy an aspect of humanity (by proxy of humans that openly manifest it) that exists within me. Even more ironic is the fact that the predatory aspect I contain, that I hate so much in others, would be my motivation and means for attempting to dominate and destroy the aspect in others.

A friend said to me “but they are using it for evil. You want to use it for good.” She means that I want to use it to avenge the weak who are harmed and even killed by those who have the power to harm them. She has strong feelings about cruelty, and she has seen much first-hand as she tries to rescue animals from horrific abuses. She, like me, wishes she could pay the inflicters back, perhaps starving and beating them, then putting them in rings together and forcing them to fight and kill each other while people watching place bets.

There is a grim satisfaction in the thought. An eye for an eye is just. But then I remember that I do not believe that I am the judge. I am a fellow defendant, or at best, a plaintiff.

And yet, without that sense of outrage, that anger, that horror, I would have no motivation to act, to try and stop genocide, or human-trafficking, or rape. Great struggles against these evils are born from the anger, the sense of there being such a thing as justice and injustice.

Righteous anger is, I believe, just that. It is right, and it is anger. Some acts, and the people who perpetrate them, need to be stopped. Given the dangerous monster under my skin, I see the need for an impartial system to stop them, but sometimes the systems do not have the reach, the power, or even the desire to do so. What then? Is a mob, or a movement of the outraged better or worse than the lone avenger driven by righteous anger? A movement is certainly harder to stop, and they have achieved great things, like the Civil Rights Movement combating social injustice. But groups can easily become predators, too, or take their vengeance too far.

After all, not everyone agrees on just causes for anger and action, or the extent of just punishment.

But that is really another issue. What I am trying to process, here, are my own murderous desires. God help me, I know that though my anger may be right, those desires are not. They are understandable, but corrupt. If they are any less horrible than the acts they clamor to avenge, it is not a very great difference.

“Love the Sinner, hate the sin,” is one of those sayings that is too short to be helpful. For one thing, it has become trite, and for another, it is wide-open to all sorts of interpretations and actions. Even if I take it in what I believe to be the right way, I find it rife with complications. How do you love someone when they have done truly horrific things to others? How?!

Perhaps distance makes a difference. It is far easier to simplify matters from a distance, to empathize and demonize ideas of humans rather than real ones. But that is not the whole story. Chances are that I have met perpetrators, predators, and been unaware. I have not yet had to look someone in the eye, knowing horrible things they have done to another person, and try to separate something human from something monstrous in my mind.

I have no solution to this yet, other than the mysterious power that rests in prayer, questioning, and seeking. I am not sure I want answers from others, either. This seems to be one of those instances where I need to find the answer for myself. People vary so much in what makes them angry, how they react, and what they feel or believe is right. Everyone might have a different “answer,” and unless I find this one myself, I will not  trust that it is mine.

I am not even entirely sure why I am writing this post, but I desperately needed to vent, and one thing I do believe is that this world could always use a bit more honesty.

So here I am, raw and snarling. Today, I do not like what I see in the mirror any more than I like what I see in the news. I leave the can of worms of “News Media Bias” unopened, and I ask you to leave it closed, too. I cannot deal with that argument right now. However, I do believe that the sensationalism, the constant barrage of horrors and the voyeuristic hovering, has an effect on me, and on others.

There is good advice to be had in Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I need a bit more of that right now. Predators must be fought, but if we forget what it is we fight for, then what is the point? Perhaps that is the beginning of an answer for me.

Perhaps the monster in me wants to fight against something it hates, but God’s will is that I fight, instead, for something I love?

.


Advent: Veni, Veni, Emmanuel

This is one of the few carols that is both ubiquitous and among my favorites. It doesn’t matter how many times I hear it or how many versions of it I encounter. I love it, I sing it, and it still has the power to bring me to tears. The call for help, echoed by the assurance of an answer seems, to me, the definition of the hope we have in God.

The song may have its origins as early as the 8th Century, but may be younger than that. It was translated by John Mason Neale and Henry Sloane Coffin in the 1800’s.

The hardest part of this post is actually choosing a version to highlight. There are so many beautiful renditions out there. I finally settled on the Mediaeval Baebes, from their beautiful album Salva Nos.

Veni, Veni Emmanuel

Veni, veni Emmanuel;
Captivum solve Israel,
Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
Nascetur pro te, Israel!

Veni, veni, O Jesse virgula,
Ex hostis tuos ungula,
De specu tuos tartari
Educ et antro barathri.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
Nascetur pro te, Israel!

Veni, veni, O Oriens;
Solare nos adveniens,
Noctis depelle nebulas,
Dirasque noctis tenebras.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
Nascetur pro te, Israel!

Veni, Clavis Davidica!
Regna reclude caelica;
Fac iter tutum superum,
Et claude vias inferum.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
Nascetur pro te, Israel!

Veni, veni Adonai!
Qui populo in Sinai,
Legem dedisti vertice,
In maiestate gloriae.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
Nascetur pro te, Israel!

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight!

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of Might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Music copyright Mediaeval Baebes, 2003.


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