Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Before you can accept somebody "as they are", you have to accept love for what it really is.

This is a little long. But sit still for a minute. Don't be an impatient buggar, and I promise to try and say something useful.

"The powerful and intangible beauty and pain of love." I said that to Lovebabz as I responded to her comment at this blog. Those words set off a series of thoughts on the truth about love. While many of us are addicted to the idea that love is like a field of daisies, too many forgot (or suffer denial about) an important reality: The beauty of love comes with all kinds of pain. And just like love means accepting a person for who they are, you need to first accept love for what it is.

What the hell do I mean? Pay attention, dammit.

I once heard Jimmy Evans say that finances, sex, and other common issues aren't the real cause for divorce. Divorce happens when somebody says "when I married you, I hoped for this, and in the end, all I got was THIS." Jimmy made the point that "disappointment" triggers divorce, when the "A" of your hopes doesn't meet the "Z" of what you actually got. Fantasy versus reality. Folks had a fantasy of what a mate should be and burned fucking rubber when the mate turned out to be an actual human - flaws and all.

From where I sit, we don't just experience this disappointment with other people. We experience it with love itself. Every day, I see people "giving up on love" because the truth of love doesn't look anything like the fantasy.

Stick with me. I'm going somewhere.

"I like you for your qualities... I love you for your flaws." You don't need the power of true love to be with a "perfect" person. Love is what happens when you connect and commit to somebody in spite of their shortcomings (because we all have them). And because of the flawed nature of human beings, love becomes a tool to overcome. To beat the odds. To feel the warmth of caring for an imperfect person while enduring the cool of their imperfections. And what a feeling when they love you back in spite of your bullshit.

I can only conclude that love is a powerful intangible force full of beauty and pain. Digging to the deepest levels of the beauty requires some trips through deeper trials. To get to any semblance of the fantasy of love, you're gonna have to get vulnerable. You're gonna have to sacrifice. You have to navigate the obstacle course of self discovery even when you don't like something that flies out of your emotional closet. Yes. It's hard work.

Superficial love doesn't require such pain. It only brushes the surface, like the difference in a scratch and a puncture wound. You may not need to put much into a superficial relationship, but you sure as hell aren't gonna get anything meaningful out of it either. For those who don't want to rub two brain cells together, accept these Cliff's Notes: No pain, no gain.

Despising the truth of love's dual-edged sword will lead you to search for "perfect" people and superficial connections. The wisest of us know where that road always leads. So before you call yourself trying to find somebody to love in truth, school yourself just a bit on the truth about love so your emotionally unstable ass will be ready.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Gift of "Good-Bye"

I can't help but believe that knowing how to avoid a bad relationship is just as important as knowing how to find a good one. And to me, the biggest gun in the "avoidance" arsenal is "The Gift of Good-Bye."

After my ex-husband suddenly vacated our home - and my life - back in November 2003, I called myself praying he would return. I was super nice on the phone. I said my prayers at night. I wondered what I could do to make myself "worthy" of his return. Hindsight reveals that I hoped for his return for all the wrong reasons. I was concerned about finances. I was concerned about raising children alone. The best thing I could have done was to let. It. Go. And really, to let him go.

In the three years that followed, I grew more and more thankful that he walked away. My prayers went from "God please reconcile us" to "thank my friggin GOD he walked away." I saw how worthless I'd felt through the entire almost four-year ordeal we called "marriage." I was repulsed by memories of actually wanting him to come home. And one day, somebody essentially changed my life with a piece called "Let It Go" by Bishop TD Jakes. You can read it here, but here's a taste of what makes this piece resonate with readers from all walks of life:

People leave you because they are not joined to you. And if they are not joined to you, you can't make them stay.


And it doesn't mean that they are a bad person it just means that their part in the story is over. And you've got to know when people's part in your story is over so that you don't keep trying to raise the dead.

You've got to know when it's dead.

You've got to know when it's over. Let me tell you something. I've got the gift of goodbye. It's the tenth spiritual gift, I believe in goodbye. It's not that I'm hateful, it's that I'm faithful, and I know whatever God means for me to have He'll give it to me. And if it takes too much sweat I don't need it. Stop begging people to stay.

So what makes us cling to folks willing to walk out of the door? Why are we happy to throw ourselves around the ankles of people who clearly don't value our lives? For me, it was fear of learning to live life alone again. Financial concerns and two sons compounded that fear.

But I tell men and women alike - don't chain yourself to somebody who doesn't give two-shits about your life. Stop trying to remake yourself into an "acceptable" being for somebody else. Right now, I am living the epitome of loving a mate who allows me to be myself all the time. Not just on the third Wednesday of the month.

And here's a bonus secret for you: Although I am the happiest woman in the world, I still wouldn't stop Dickhead if he decided to walk out the door. Why? For sanity and self-worth, The Gift of Good-Bye is the gift that keeps on giving.

Now go home and dump any shitheads that you're clinging to. Life is too short baby, and you're blocking your better mate from meeting you.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Conflict Escalation from a Fighting Pro

Today you did battle at your job. It was a horrible day after which you renamed your boss The Shiftless Tyrant. Your major accomplishment was maintaining the self control to not quit. You arrive home, kick off your shoes, and hit the porcelain throne. When the golden rain is over, you reach to your left and hit that familiar empty roll. The Mr. used the last bit again and you're stranded.

You have a few choices here, but you go with Plan B, which allows you to give the Mr. all the lip you wished you could have given the boss at work. You request a new roll of toilet paper, but it sounds more like an owner asking a slave to go fetch some cotton. (Well some toilet paper does have cotton in it, right?)

Anyway, not to be outdone or summoned like chattel, the Mr. senses the slave reference and fires back with something you're not even sure you heard right. You have an emotional blackout, and soon the two of you waste 1/2 hour screaming about everything from dirty dishes to who was dropped on their head at birth. And you're still stranded on the toilet.

How does an empty toilet paper roll end in insults and tears? Unnecessary conflict escalation. And that's not good for anybody's relationship.

My house has seen a number of these incidents - some starting with a simple misunderstanding. When the dust finally settles, we both lament over the exponential escalation factor that left us both wounded.

In the toilet paper example, who was wrong? Should the Mrs. have stuffed her bad day at work and not carry the attitude into the house? Or should the Mr. have understood and simply brought a new roll? The point is, assigning fault is less important than making sure you're never any part of the escalation process - whether you "started it" or not. The argument may only last for minutes, but things said during these useless battles aren't often forgotten. You wound your mate for nothing and the cumulative effects can chip away at intimacy.

Pride, human nature, and even selfishness drive folks to "attack when attacked." But we aren't supposed to see our mate as an enemy when something goes down. A deep breath and a "yes honey" go a long way in killing the monster called conflict escalation. That's true for MEN AND WOMEN.

Now go home and stop acting like a spoiled jackass.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Is Peace the Road to Heaven and the Path to a Good Relationship?

I was strolling through the internet blog park and came across a blog called "Holy Shit from Deacon Blue." An author named Inda Pink wrote an article about "Peace," saying this about peace and the road to heaven:

So I can totally see people choosing to reject heaven because they are afraid of peace. [emphasis mine]

It sounds funny but human nature is a funny thing. We want moments of peace or long periods of peace, but I think most of us would cringe at a lifetime of peace. We would wonder where the spark is. We feed on conflict whether its personal or whether we see it on TV or whatever.

The fear of peace I think is what will drive at least some people to hell. And it makes me wonder how many other hangups we humans have that send us to hell, and not, as we assume, the will or desire of God.

To provide context, Inda sought to understand how a "good God" could send anybody to hell, and ultimately concluded that people choose hell. Her estimation points to the love for peace as a critical factor.

While I may not totally agree with Inda's assessment of the road to the Biblical heaven, she is absolutely right about one thing. Humans love conflict. It represents a spark. And I recognize how this concept works against the "heaven on earth" that relationships can be. The most tumultuous relationships have no peace. We see words like "Drama Queen" to describe people who essentially feed on the chaos that ruins peace - and ultimately ruins their own relational heaven.

My fiance and I talk about this all the time. At times, I see him as angry and aggressive. One of my biggest fears is to not live in a peaceful home. I grew up in a household with arguing parents. Peace came in bit-sized chunks... minutes... hours... and maybe a whole day where the warring sides simply called a truce.

As a result, I can admit that my desire for peace may be unbalanced and doesn't allow enough room for the natural disagreements that come with relationships. Thankfully, we balance each other. My hunger for peace often means I let too many things go. His aggressive style of dealing with some conflict means he may invite more trouble than necessary. But when you smash those two things together.He throws logs on my fire and I douse some of his.
You get peanut butter and jelly. You get milk and cereal. You get rice and gravy. Okay, maybe not. But you get something that feels a lot like what "romantic bliss" is supposed to be.