Thoughts: Hairline and Otherwise

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The bowl in the picture (above) is Korean. Joseon Dynasty. 19th Century.  It is perfect.

I should look so good.

At 61, I am aware of the wear and tear. Physical, emotional and spiritual. I don’t feel badly about most of it. I’ve earned every scar. wrinkle and weariness. I’ve had a life, so far, full of the usual mix of wonder and whackiness and just plain being whacked and if I didn’t show the wear of it all, I’d be Dorian Gray

As most of my regular readers know, I got married a few weeks ago. I was married once before, for twenty-five years, and I’ve been divorced and on my own again for another thirteen.

I was pretty good at the living alone thing. A natural introvert, I rarely got lonely. I have a good circle of friends, both from my 54 years in Virginia, and my eight years here in Vermont. I have two kids who stay in touch. I have a pair of church families that are near and dear to my heart.

Oh, yeah, and I have a cat.

Yeah, I did fine with the whole middle-aged living alone thing. I was comfortable in it. After that much time, I’d moved past the anger and the grief, past the idea that you have to have someone in your life to complete you.

Meeting the woman I love, the woman I married. was a turning point. Would my life be good without her? Sure it would have been. Would I have been complete? Pretty much. But with her, I could not only have the joy of her presence (and I wallow in that joy like a pig in mud in August), but I become….. better.

Not perfect. I’ll never even be close.  Live 61 years and the cracks show. Popular jargon likes to call it baggage, but I prefer the term cracks.  Hairline or deeper, they are flaws that do not destroy or weigh us down, but make us fragile, easier to break, and thus tentative, a little afraid (or a lot afraid).

Depending on how life has gone for us, those cracks can be thin or they can be deep and dangerous. I have spent a lot of time in therapy discovering the cracks and learning how to navigate them without shattering.

Living alone, you can avoid those cracks. That is part of what I have learned in thirteen years of living by myself. It’s only you, and you learn how to drive through life without putting much pressure on the weak points.

It’s kind of like cars. I have two old cars. They have quirks as old cars do. I drive them every day and know the quirks and automatically adjust to them. I’ve done it so long I don’t even notice the quirks. But if you were to get into either of them, you’d notice all sorts of little things wrong with them.

It’s the same with people.

And so I am married. I tell people I am ridiculously happy, because I am. I have this big stupid happy grin on my face anytime someone mentions my marriage or the woman I love or asks how I like married life. After my experiences in marriage and in a long single-againhood, I really did not expect this.

I did not expect the connectedness, the safety, the intimacy, the passion or the sense that I am part of something bigger than either of us, that there is she and I and this other entity – Us.  It’s magical. And I thought I was plumb done with magic.

But it’s also jarring.

The thing is, I still have the cracks. And now, I can’t hide them in my aloneness.  Particularly from a woman as astute and empathetic as the woman I love.  And so those cracks, hairline and otherwise, are out of the closet, out from under the rug where they lived happily in my singlehood, and they are just “out there”.

I am very self-protective of my cracks I have discovered. I understand the whys – in the past, they have been highlighted and targeted as weak points to break me. You’ve likely been there with people too.

And if you have, you know, as I do, just how broken you can be when someone hammers them enough.

I’m blessed. The woman I love is not that way. She’s remarkably patient with me. Gentle. Persistent, yes, but kind and accepting, cracks and all.

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That picture, just above, that is how she treats me. And how I try to treat her.

Do you know how rare that attitude is? Of course you do. Because we’ve all encountered the people with a hammer, whacking away at our weak spots waiting for us to break so they can say “I told you so.” and somehow feel superior. It’s the tactics of bullies and of people who are so flawed and fragile and afraid of their own flaws and feel the only way to distract from them is to expose others.

There is magic in loving a person, flaws and all. There is magic for the person loved. But there is also magic for the person loving. There is healing.

I fix a lot of things. Most of us do. In my workshop I have a dozen different kinds of glue. Most of them say the same thing – that the bond created by the glue will be stronger than the thing being repaired itself.

That’s what the right kind of love can do, take your weak places and make them your strong places. And I am discovering that for what might be the first time in my life. I’ve always known it theoretically. Now I am experiencing it live and in person.

It’s not easy. I’ve spent a lot of years fearful of my cracks, hairline and otherwise. It’s not easy, but I am learning. Fear dies slowly.

It is strange, and yet wonderful, to find out that the kind of love I thought must exist, could exist, actually can and does. I am still not sure what to do with it. But I am glad I pushed past the fears and my own past to claim it, to embrace it, to let it in.  For all the work of it, the pushing past fear of it, it’s a thing of wonder for me.

And at my age, wonder is in short supply.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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