Thursday, September 8, 2016

what to do with this love

This morning I read about a popular author and her new romantic relationship. Her marriage has ended, she writes, because the illness of her dear best friend made her realize the truth that she is in love with this friend. She herself had posted about it on her Facebook page, an explanation that is thoughtful, well-written and probably only made public out of necessity, which I respect.

I don't know this author personally or really follow her all that closely, yet I had a deep response, one that invariably comes because of things I'm wrestling with myself. Part of the story this woman is sharing but not focusing on is that she is now in a same-sex relationship - this is not part of my struggle. That issue aside (I have thoughts I won't share here or now), the underlying story I read here is one of friendship, boundaries and recognition. Let me explain.

A friend of mine, a single man around my age, recently shared with me that he's taking a break from thinking about relationships to figure some stuff out. This after I told him I'd had a dream of him deciding to elope and not invite me or our other friends. Is there something you're not telling me? I joked with him. This led us to open small windows into our individual hopes and fumblings in what we both hope is movement towards our respective future marriages. What came to mind (and spirit) as I sought for a way to affirm him is that first love story, when man is put to sleep and, on waking, finds the one he calls "flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone." Here at last, one I recognize as made for me.

This caused me to read that story again, to see how the current of my friend's particular experience moves below the story, what waves the Spirit might stir in it. As I read, one version used particular names we are familiar with (Adam and Eve), which makes the story feel so very personal and singular. Maybe that can be my story, too, we might be drawn to wonder. Another version uses simply Man and Woman in place of names, which got me thinking differently about the distinctive recognition which takes place upon waking. Before, none of the animals fit the bill. Then, here, a new creature, and yet so very familiar because she is taken from me. I thought of this story again when I read news of this author, because of the same-sex issue but also because of the long friendship between then. Do we sometimes confuse partnership and friendship for something more? What if this author lived within the boundary of that love which guides us to recognize who is made for us and who is not? I am not trying to judge, and yet I wonder about the seemingly sudden lunge towards total commitment brought about in the face of illness and possible death. The prospect of death can make us do strange things, and yet death is not all of what there is, it is only a shadow. Is it possible that her recognition has shifted away from what is true?

I guess what I'm trying to say is that recognizing truth and beauty is an act that requires the Spirit. (That first love story, after all, happened in the Garden...) I have stories of men I've been close to or partners with and I've wondered, could this be the one? But they end up being part of that animal parade set before Man; they receive different names, but not that declaration that only one will receive (here at last, bone of my bone...). Recently, there is another story like this, one in which a man and I have partnered together and found our styles and vision the same yet different and complementary, in which I have moments of seeing more than what is on the surface, in which I feel I have grown to be more of who I am because of his presence in my life, and in which a few innocent onlookers have asked me about him. And I admit, I have wondered myself. But deep in my spirit, I know this friendship is given for a different reason.

So then the question remains - what do to with this love I have for him? The kind of love I am trying to cultivate is that which expands only within boundaries set for me and yet calls me beyond what I know. This love is painful and costly. It asks me to yearn for that person's good, and yet not put my own needs for love and affection on that person. This love fights to see clearly and hope against hope and hold on and let go at the same time. It simultaneously breaks my heart and puts it back together. I wonder if that's what we resist, that process of being broken for the sake of a good we haven't yet experienced, a love that is tasted only when we are able to lift our heads and ask for it and hope to be filled.

(photo: married couple, friends of mine, west los angeles)

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