Now that the dreaded month of February is fading in all of its loathsome pastel fluffery, (shudder) I can finally of speak of love. Not the Hallmark misty commercial type, not the the damsel-in-distress with torn clothing and breasts bursting the seams. Not even the gasping shadows that wear diamond baubles and kiss....but real love. The love that buys cheese.
"For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks; the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation." Rainer Maria Rilke
I've known love. From infancy my mother loved me; gentle, sweet, softly. My father too--although his love was more gruff, harder around the edges."I know the horse threw you, get back on it!" (chuckle) Between them, life on an isolated ranch in the Colorado rockies shaped me. My two sisters were great pals--I, in the middle--classically was more of a loner. But there was love.
School years passed, tenth grade bringing sweet first infatuation...inept awkward advances, hasty kisses and stolen moments. I would have sworn to you I was "in love" while now, looking back, I had merely scratched the surface of such a thing--barely inhaled a waft of its scent. The pain of that separation was staggering at the time...but it would not be the last.
As we live...we love. We fling about this word and apply it to movies, cars, ice-cream...nail polish. We seek it in our friendships, our pets, long for it in novels, sing about it at the top of our lungs in the shower. (my college roomies would testify to this) We dabble in physical contact attempting to make a soul-deep connection. Each experience--every joyful discovery and then exploration and celebration...and then disappointment and the injury of the end....adds dimension to the enigma of love.
I used to believe that true love was when someone would adore me and make me laugh and we'd romp and play. Sure enough, my first husband was just this. We traveled, lived in Mexico, explored jungles in Guatemala...and I was shocked to find myself...lonely. For the first time I realized that he didn't...get me. He liked the fun, happy, laughing me....but not so much the "first on the scene of an accident" organize people and stop the bleeding and the weeping me when we lost her. The quiet that followed that night...dark poetry. He didn't want that.
We returned to the states and had a son. There--in the agony of labor--my heart was cleaved in two and I discovered the depth of maternal love. Love that captures your breath, that you would give anything and perish for. And the remarkable miracle that it can happen again, with my second son....the mystery that is the human phenomenon of unlimited love. To unearth this well that never ran dry...was stunning. I couldn't love enough...I couldn't kiss enough or hold or cry myself empty. There was always more.
Parental love amazed me. Taught me. Tested and pushed and rewarded me. And despite this...I was lonely. For parental love--even at its peak--is a one way path for the first 15 years or so. I have known others that have twisted this. Asking for hugs, instead of giving. Taking rather than providing...and in our nation of broken homes and shattered hearts--this can happen without realization, without notice. But the cost to a child is immense.
I needed more. I was....alone.
Strangely, the days passed settling into the routine of life. The routines that save us. When a part of our heart, our soul...shuts down.
My quest for love has spanned decades. And as I've plumbed the depths of my own self, so I've realized that there are so many kinds of love...but a single definition for me: the people that love me...get me. It's not always fun. It's not always easy...and it's certainly not simple. It's a bit like the weather. Seasons. Storms and sunshine, wind and hail...once in a while there's a hurricane. But this "weather" brings us the air we need to breathe...hot, cold, wet, or angry--we breathe.
My best friend knows that on rainy days...when the sky is black and tumultuous clouds roil above...my bones ache on these days. But I paint. I must. She knows.
My new husband called today. My voice sounded a bit off. He asked what was wrong, and I miserably told him, "we're out of cheese." He shouted at the top of his lungs into the phone, "OH MY GOD, HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?!?" which reduced me to a puddle of giggles on the living room floor. He gets me.
When you find someone who will rearrange his entire day to leave work early enough to get to the deli before it closes....to buy cheese. It's love.