Caroline and I were watching TV the other night when we lost interest and turned to each other. It was just one of those things—we were on the same page and grateful for it. Sounds a bit dreamy, I suppose, but it was special. Then her eyes welled up. I reached for her hand and waited for her to speak.
“I was just thinking,” she said. “Each day we’re together, each moment—it’s one less.”
I know exactly where she’s coming from, and feel the same way. Like her I spent too many years with the wrong person, trying against all odds to make it work.
Those moments of exquisite happiness seem to come with searing pain built right in, don’t they? You can’t have one without the other. Most of the time, things hum along normally and we don’t notice the underlying stress of life, but it’s always there.
Our daughter Melanie introduced us to her new boyfriend last night. Although she’s been dating for years, she’s never been as excited about a boy before; she even suggested I blog about love.
That surprised me because she’s really not the starry-eyed type; in fact, she’s generally on guard in her relationships—in part because that’s who she is, but also because we’ve encouraged her to be mindful of her own hopes just as much as other people’s motivations. I was perhaps a bit overbearing on that count—she once begged me to let her enjoy her illusions while she was still young and innocent!
Still, she knows better. Last night, she confessed to falling in love. “It’s crazy,” she said. “We’re crazy. We both feel that way, and we haven’t even known each other a month. That’s not possible is it? I mean, it can’t be real, can it?”
Obviously, her feelings are real. We tell her so. Our concern is that she doesn’t jump from this fact to the belief that this love will last forever. Of course, it might; plus they’d be crazy not to want that—after all, they’re risking their hearts. Still, chemistry is volatile; they’re better off avoiding interpretations about ‘what it all means’ and enjoying the moment. Apart from avoiding complications, it enhances the experience and the focus one brings to it.
Mindfulness is so useful—it cultivates letting go of compelling thoughts and staying with what we know. We all gravitate towards what we want, and speculating about that usually means thinking wishfully. Hopes and dreams beg to be believed in; it takes skill to keep letting them go, but to the extent I’ve been able to do that I’ve found myself more able to follow my gut, sidestep my fantasies and trust myself.
Melanie’s made a good start on these mental factors, and her new boyfriend seems to be of like mind. If that’s part of their chemistry, they’re off to a good start. We found out that he plans to run for public office one day. Lord knows, we need leaders with ethics and clear-headedness. He believes that that career path “holds the greatest potential to effect positive change for the most people.” Let’s hope he pursues both his personal and his public life with discernment and a clear head.
When I visited my mother in 2006, just after she’d been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, she was sufficiently aware to see the oncoming, narrowing corridors of consciousness. Here’s what I wrote as I sat and watched her doze:
Dying to be somewhere else
How can I separate
Holding fast to old, new love
Thank God it’s not too late
Your longing eyes are reaching out
Grasping at the rope
With certainties that haunt us all
Wrapped up in death’s warm hope
And I embrace your clarity
Your pain and your despair
I seek them in the wholeness
Of all the years you bear
So if the facts are muddied
And fear constricts your throat
It suggests to us all at last
To end this dance with hope
And therein lies my vanity
While knowing all’s in vain
I work deep in my even keel
And dream my dreams of fame
I shall invent your legacy
Frame emptiness with care
Go hang it on my newest wall
And hope to make it fair