Thursday, March 10, 2011

Make It Stay

A friend of mine who's been having a rough go of it over the last few months posted this Tom Robbins quote from Still Life with Woodpecker on Facebook the other day:

"When we're incomplete, we're always searching for somebody to complete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a relationship, we find that we're still unfulfilled, we blame our partners and take up with somebody more promising. This can go on and on- series polygamy- until we admit that while a partner can add sweet dimension to our lives, we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment. Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure every relationship we enter."

Tom Robbins...somehow he seems to know an awful lot about love. If you've read much of him, you already know that. But Tom Robbins isn't the point.

Whenever I see this quote, I am reminded of another quote - source unknown - I stumbled across when I was first in college. Hell. It could have been in my Psych 101 textbook for all I know. That thing was rich with awesome quotes. Anyway, it went a little something like this:

"Young love says, 'I love you because I need you.'
Mature loves says, 'I need you because I love you."

At 19, I couldn't even begin to fathom the difference.

The dawn of understanding wouldn't come to pass for me until I hit my 30's...not until Andrew was gone (but not yet dead) and N8 the Great was gone and all there was left was my infinite wisdom.

I'd love to say I grasped that opportunity and ran with it, enjoying my freedom and the journey of self-discovery, prancing through fields of imaginary daisies while singing Julie Andrews songs. But I didn't. No, no.

I hid.

For a long ass time. Like, almost 5 years. The celibacy, initially, was purely unintentional. All I knew was that I was so very very tired and lonely and heartbroken. I suppose if I wanted to be completely honest with myself - which I will be here tonight and deny in the morning - I was in a terrible fit of depression.

And then, one day, I had a talk with myself. I don't exactly remember why or when or what the conversation was but I remember the end result was this: I could either get busy living or get busy dying. It was my choice. I had a choice!

At that point, the celibacy became intentional. I started to write again. I started to figure out what was important just to me. I began to explore just who I was, who I wanted to be and in what context. None of which are dependent upon anyone else. They still aren't.

Only then, when I'd finally become comfortable in my own skin and defined myself only under my own terms, did I decide I might be ready to have some romantic companionship.

You want to know what's interesting? It doesn't come so easily when I'm older and more self-aware. I'm a whole lot less likely to fall for the banana in the tailpipe trick. Frankly, I'm a whole lot less likely to feel much of anything chemical at all. So much so that, for a long time, I believed I was irreparably broken.

I know now that's not true. It didn't take forever to find someone with whom I could connect in that way. Or the next one...or the next. Truth is, there are a lot of people out there with whom I can connect sexually, romantically.

But I don't love someone - connect with someone - simply because I need them anymore.

If you know me in real life, in fact, you know I spend a fair piece of time just with myself (not to discount Lex because he totally counts...I'm talking sexually here). And while I need affection and attention, I also do just fine without it.

Subsequently, what I've discovered, is that I'm no longer completely devastated when a relationship changes or ends. I no longer think in terms of black and white or force labels on relationships. They each define their own levels and I am happy to let them go where they may with no expectation of "future" or "commitment" or even tomorrow.

I don't believe you can forcibly make love stay. I don't believe you can force anything from least, not for very long and not without dire consequences.

Love is many things. It's glorious, magical, beautiful, sweet...fragile.

What it is not - especially over the long term - is easy.

Love is painful. It's compromise. It's radical honesty. It's hard work - full of blood, sweat, tears. It is full of complacency, full of unmet expectations, full of angst, full of those times when you set your own needs aside for the needs of another.

Love Hurts.

Sometimes? Love hurts a lot.

Sometimes? Love is The Knowing.

It's rarely ever easy.

And it rarely equates to happiness.

It is what it is.

Worth it.

Just...make it stay. When you can.


Michael said...

"I'm no longer completely devastated when a relationship changes or ends. I no longer think in terms of black and white..."

How'd you get to this point? Was it something you did, a process, or just a revelation one morning in between spoonfuls of Wheaties? I've been running for over 15 years now and I know better, I do, but I can't seem to get to that realization. Great post, BTW! I like the Tom Robbins quote, never heard it before.

Just Jane said...

Michael: It was - is - an ongoing process along with a series of revelations. The short answer is this...

I know who I am and I keep that for myself nor lose sight of it. I also no longer assume love will stay beyond today. If I want it to stay, I try to do what I can to make it stay, with the understanding that, no matter what I do, it may not always be there.

Kristin said...

Lots of wisdom in that post! I just recently came to several of those revelations, myself, so it's nice (and helpful) to hear you spell things out so clearly. It's amazing how much easier "love" is when I'm able to enjoy whom I can, for however long I can, without expectations or false hopes. People, in general, (friends and/or lovers) have so much to contribute, and I think that being able to appreciate what they bring to the present, at the moment, makes the amount of time the relationship lasts, or changes in the state of the relationship - from lovers to friends, for example- less devastating. Thanks for your wisdoms! :)

Just Jane said...

Beautifully put, Sweet Kristin. Isn't growing up grand? xo