Part of me wants to write of the past few days. Another round of pain and hospital this week as the battle with Kidney Stones continues. (Hint, stones always win the first battle, lose the last.). There are lessons to learn in times of pain, whether they are physical, emotional or spiritual. I have spent a fair amount of my life learning those lessons, finding ways to give pain meaning.
But I am bored with it all. I am impatient with things that slow my life down. Things that get in the way. I am not exactly a type A personality, but I am generally a relentlessly forward kind of guy. So this morning. I am going to write of things and people I love.
Years ago, when my mother was still alive and my marriage ended, I fell into a relationship. My mother, who always wanted the best for me and often was pretty accurate in what she thought was best, simply said, “I am glad you have found someone to love.”
“Someone to love.” Not someone who loves you. She knew me well. I flourish when my life is full of people to love. And these days, my life is full.
It begins with my wife. The woman I love. We’ve been together for about seven years now. Married for four. She came into my life at a time I was pretty sure I was done with romance and “that” kind of love. I was not even sure the kind of love I envisioned existed.
Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, I had never given a great deal of thought of what a really, really good love relationship looked like, felt like, acted like. I stumbled on a wonderful book by a writer/therapist/minister named Dan Allender called “Intimate Allies”. (and as an aside, he has written a whole host of books on healing from wounds while still giving back to the world. I recommend him highly)> I remember crying at times as I read the book. “This is it! This is it! Why did I find this so late?!”
When I met the woman I love, there was and is a lot of chemistry, but I also learned how much she simply lived what I had read in that book that has lingered in my mind for many years. It’s no wonder that seven years in I still live with her in awe and an unreasonable amount of joy. TO find this, years after you had surrendered to believing you had had your chance at love and were done. Truly, she is a beautiful and wonderful joy in my life.
One of the measures of love is whether you make each other better, and she certainly has done that for me. I am more compassionate, more open to new thoughts, more trusting (again) of people. I have a different kind of thick skin, a healthier kind. I have grown, taken chances, become more resilient. For the first time in many many years, I feel emotionally safe and that opens the doorway to try new things, failure or success be damned.
It goes to my children. I thought I had lost their love, and a chance to love them. They were raised to not like me, not to trust me. It is a terrible thing to lose the love of your child and it was a wound I was sure I would simply have to live with. I missed being a father more than I missed being married, I discovered. I missed doing things with and for them. I missed watching them move from childhood to adolescence. It’s a magical times.
But things happen. As it turned out, each of them came up to live with me as they were teenagers, and we developed love and trust and care for each other. Living with me taught them I was nothing like the parent they had heard about. Living with them simply brought me joy. There was healing to be done, for sure, and we did it together, they and I, and I learned whole new ways to love because of them. Watching them grow, and at times being part of that growth, has been a joy. Still is, though they are all scattered across the country.
I inherited a daughter when I married CIndy. Again, not a thing that started well, but love, when given a chance, wins. I give her all the credit, she eventually gave me a chance and we have had the chance to grow together. She has become as dear to me as my birth children. All grown now, there is little I can offer her other than a friendship and the knowledge that she and her mother are loved. But to even get that chance has been a joy.
I have a congregation that loves me. At times I am not sure why. I see myself as ridiculously ordinary. I never feel I do anything extraordinary, but love me they do, and they have trusted their lives, joys, losses and struggles with me over the past five years. I have tried my best to love them back as well as they love me. I am not sure that is possible.
I moved here to Vermont twelve years ago. I came here on the possibility of a relationship I believed had legs. In the end, it failed, but I had fallen in love with Vermont. At a time when everyone thought I would go back to Virginia, I stayed. I have friends here now. Good friends. I don’t think I realized how many people cared and how many I had touched until I went through my cancer as they reached out and comforted ad prayed for me through the entire process. So did my friends from Virginia, my internet only friends, my wife’s friends from her life before me. I have considered their friendships (and maybe some of your reading this) a great joy, glad to do what little I could with my words and my availability and presence. It is a privilege to love each of you and well or as weakly as I do.
There’s my cats. Strays or rescues, both of them. And a few from the neighborhood that spend a lot of their lives on my back porch. Cats (and dogs to a larger extent) absorb love like a sponge and love back ten fold.
Mine have returned what love I have given them with a strange (for cats) and deep loyalty. When I have been sick, they lay close, rarely leaving my side until I am better.
And there is God. I won’t let this turn into a sermon. I do enough of those on Sunday mornings. But despite the terrible times in my life, his love and second (and third and fourth) chances allowed me to fail and fail forward. And taught me how to love others in the same, or worse places. Not always perfectly, but hopefuly in the right spirit.
All those blessings came from simply loving people. Caring for them. All of them, my wife, my kids, my stepdaughter, my congregation friends and even my cats have taught me an important lesson (and everything in my life is about the lessons). Life changes when you love people. It is a powerful thing. And I have been given many to love. That’s where much of my joy has come from. That is what has restored me. My mom, as usual, was right.
“Give love a chance” – John Lennon. “Have courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.” – May Angelou. “A New commandment I give you: Love one another.” – Jesus. And what a privilege it is. Do I regret love? No, not even when I have failed at it. In the long run, being able to love, trusting love, has made my life what it is.
Did I mention my mother was right?
Be well. Travel wisely,
PS: Wasn’t that more interesting than a treatise on kidney stones, hospitals and pain?
PPS: That’s my mom and dad and I. Yes, I wore a lot of flannel, even then.