Tuesday, September 7, 2010

About Love

In yesterday's post I made a comment that I haven't got off my mind ever since.
 Since I can't change him, I might as well love him.  The only way I can love him is just the way he is.  Otherwise I'm loving the figment of my imagination, which is ridiculous.
That's how it works when we write.  We make discoveries of thought that hadn't even occurred to us before.  Having made the discovery, and having it predominantly featured in my mind for the day; other observations began to emerge.  Other examples began to present themselves.  I began to examine all of my relationships.  Are there conditions I've placed that might interfere with the genuine quality of any of them?

I've mentioned before that I spend some time assisting a sweet neighbor lady in the care of her Alzheimer's patient husband.  As we moved him to a different position in bed yesterday it was obvious that he hurt.  I noticed that she began to cry.  It hurt her to hurt him.  She asked, "How long must he suffer so?"  The conversation stopped as we went about the business of caring for him.  Then, after several long moments, she looked at me, her eyes shining with conviction and said, "The more I serve him, the more deeply I love him."

That is the kind of unconditional love I was speaking of yesterday.  Her husband is incapable of responding to her love in any kind of meaningful way.  She cannot change him.  She cannot change that.  She cannot apply any conditions to which he might respond in order to qualify for her love.  Yet she loves him.

That is the crux of the matter.  She loves him.  She doesn't love the idea of him.  She doesn't love some fantasy of how he might be.  She doesn't love some future him.  Or some past him.  She loves him!

I once wrote an article called The Secret To Happiness.  It was on another forum. ( I'll have to look it up and post it here one of these days.)  In that article I concluded that happiness can only be experienced in the moment.  My catch phrase was that, "To be happy you have to get your heart, and your head and your butt in the same place at the same time!"  I still strongly subscribe to that notion.

Yesterday I discovered that the same is true of love.  It can only be experienced in the moment.  My dear friend's love for her husband cannot abide in the memories of the past.  The past has evaporated and while there are loving memories, they cannot fully sustain her present.  Neither can she draw sustenance from imaginations of her association with him in some conjured future.  While I and she fully expect that she will indeed have a wonderful future with him, and while we all expect that future to be glorious, free from Alzheimer's and other afflictions; today it is only in our imagination.  I contend that the only time she can truly love him is right here, right now, just as he his.  The verity of that notion lies in the evidence.  For that is exactly what she is doing.  Love is a verb, after all.

Were it not for that love.  I don't know if she could maintain the stress and drudgery of her care-giving task.  With that love, each duty is a pleasure.  I know this because I love him too.  Some of our duties are not all that pleasant, but love supersedes the mundane and unpleasant.

We do this for babies all the time.  They are adorable, but they are also difficult, time consuming, inconvenient and yet most of us find these duties easy and delightful - for love.  Gradually, though, some parents begin to imagine a more lovable child in some future arrangement; when he's potty trained, or can communicate with reason, or can keep up with me on a hike or can deliver himself to school.  If they are not careful they begin to love the one they've imagined instead of the one they have, in the moment.  Then the temptation comes to recreate the child into the imaginary one and the manipulation begins.

Often, I have sat in the Detention Center and realized that just years previous these were sweet, precious, untainted, unspoiled children.  In some cases it may have been just weeks or days previous.  Then I would ask myself, "What changed?"  Dixon says, "Its puberty!"  He may be right.  But, I'm beginning to think that the biggest factor, perhaps the only factor, was that someone had attempted to re-manufacture them in some other image than the one in which they were created.  Someone was trying to make them be something they were not and to some degree, had fallen out of love with who they were in favor of who they were supposed to be.  Or should we say imposed to be.

I believe that the moment we stop loving someone in the present and start loving our imagination of them in some future state; is the moment we lose them.

Betty has not lost Whitey, even in his sad and restricted state, because she loves him, even in his imperfection. Her love is not the idea of him in some imaginary, perfect, future state; hers is in the here and now.  The very fact that she does this, to me, ensures that she will one day enjoy a time with him beyond her wildest imaginations.

Dixon often says, "The past is history, the future a mystery.  Today is a gift. That's why they call it the present."

Let's give ourselves the greatest gift of all.  Let's give ourselves love. Let's gift ourselves the children and friends and neighbors we might have by loving them now!  Just the way they are.

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