Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Making Love a Centerpiece

“In the course of twenty crowded years one parts with many illusions.  I did not wish to lose those early ones.  Some memories are realities, and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.”

In my writing I get inspired with one word, or quote, or thought, or insight – and the essay takes off, similar to the way I decorate my home.  I find one ceramic tile, or a contrasting colored kitchen cupboard, or a richly dyed area rug, and I build the interior decoration around this centerpiece.  Making something or someone the centerpiece of our life, our heart, can seem like very risky venture, but the wholeness we find by becoming vulnerable, by loving, is well worth all the risk of possible heartbreak.

In love, I perceive a reflection or dream about how love would look in my life.  In fact the view of love now at this age is much clearer and more vibrant.  What is tricky though in love and falling in love quickly with just a first impression, is that in love, we carry many preconceived notions, old wounds, ongoing stubborn habitual patterns, no matter how worn out and unhelpful they may now be.  Usually if we are honest, red flags go up and because we either like the way a person looks and feels when we are with him, we choose consciously to ignore the warning signs.

If we are clear about the inspirational centerpiece for us and whittle down to the essential qualities that we value and esteem above all else, and we contemplate these, practice these, envision these for us in a relationship, we can be perhaps more easily honest with ourselves when a person veers so far from this true north, this centerpiece we need to be happy and make a break before getting in too deep.  

I see that the business of being human is the business of loving.  The probability is that there is less life ahead of me than behind me at this point, so that means love takes on qualities of lightness, daring and exertion.  Loving is both about the joy and the discipline.  Loving, like learning an instrument, takes an alchemical combination of qualities and reveling in the simple magic and joy of making music combined with willingly and courageously exerting oneself to learn something new and sticking with it through an act of discipline.  And not giving up even if we do not think we are good enough or progressing fast enough.  I have uncovered the top layer of the mystery of music over the last five years of studying the guitar. Ultimately though as with the guitar, loving is about jumping in and playing!

It feels like a good time to love at this point in my life.  It feels right to risk and be vulnerable and even experience a heart break or two.  If something is worth doing or having or embracing, it is worth touching the tender heart of sadness as a sacrifice. It is an auspicious time to take risks and step out of my oyster shell.  I have certainly been studying and practicing loving way longer than the guitar and only recently have I received some clarity and understanding.  By chipping away my self-absorption and softening and surrendering, have I realized that there is another person in the mix.  I mean that seems obvious but how often do we over think, focusing on ourselves too much, and our own wounds and pain and needs and say, ‘What am I getting out of this relationship or is it worth the risk of pain or irritation or heart break?’

This does not mean that the path of love is paved with complete clarity for me, free from obstacles and challenges.  No, there are obstacles remaining and struggles within myself and no doubt will there be struggles with others.  It is just that I know this now and I want to appreciate the other person.  I want to trust and have faith that I will be cherished and protected and loved and that I am worth that just as the other person is worth that.  We are each a mirror for the other and when one is valued, so is the other. 

It is simply that a certain modicum of mindfulness is possible with practice, and as far as loving is concerned, it is very helpful to stay present with body and mind to the circumstances and situations of each moment.

If we are paying attention in the moment of now, when someone walks into our life, or walks back in, we can intuit if this might be a relationship that is workable for us.  We feel the meaning of the connection within moments.  It is clear to me that my forties are not a time to go about rescuing or saving anyone from their own harmful patterns.  Understanding that habitual patterns make up all of our existences and that we all struggle with something is essential; it is really up to each one of us notice what is in truth happening and take responsibility for whether a healthy relationship is possible.  For once we begin treading the path of rescuing; the oxygen of the relationship begins to diminish.  None of us really wants to or enjoys being rescued and if we begin that pattern, further manifestations of insecurity, smothering, grasping will follow only decreasing the precious genuine connection that we experienced initially. 

If we feel ourselves attaching to perceived outcomes, it is time to take a breath or three and breathe in very consciously the peace and joy we felt right in the beginning of falling in love.  Take some time away and let the other know we need a bit of space.  Inform the other person with as much precision, gentleness and confidence you can muster.  Even if it feels like you are faking it at first, the form of confidence and gentleness will seem natural and authentic after some practice. 

For me the centerpiece for loving is about companionship and mutual support for our own unique creative paths and missions.  This is a very concise description of what love and loving someone and being loved by another means.  Qualities of honesty, loyalty, presence to one another in the moment and spaciousness are all ingredients that make up a recipe of healthy, grown-up love.  The great secret which we should talk about is that it is really time to come into our own, and there is way less confusion and drama of our twenties and the new parenting exhaustion and career fatigue of our thirties. With age, comes wisdom so why not acknowledge that? With any luck, we are still in fine health and we have the wisdom of four or so decades of being human behind us.  We have only now and we might as well be present in the now we find ourselves and in the loving relationships we cherish.

There is a newly found freedom to love another with a genuine open heart of acceptance and appreciation and forgiveness.  Accepting and forgiving the other person for who they are; these are really only different sides of the same coin.  Just as we want and need to be accepted and forgiven.  In that openness, a natural appreciation shines through; we radiate our authentic selves for all to see, even for ourselves to see when we look in the mirror or another’s eyes.

For love to grow and be healthy, it takes nourishment.  This means our energy and keen awareness.  And it takes exertion.  Just to sit back and say well we are in love and all the rest of it will work out is unrealistic and naïve.  We all come from some sort of wounded backgrounds.  To be human is to suffer and experience a wound or many depending on our backgrounds.  It is okay to suffer as suffering gifts us with a sense of compassion if we open our wounded hearts deeply and honestly.  We need not continue to suffer unnecessarily though.  We become not only more compassionate but also more intelligent and softer, warmer toward fellow beings.  Yielding and vulnerability are lovely qualities that help us to be more human and more in touch with others on earth. 

Growing old with someone, to care for that person in their sickness and need with compassion and attention to their individuality; to listen with open hearted tenderness; to hold them in their pain; to stroke their forehead as they die; to hold their hand as they leave this life.  This is what we humans were born to do for one another.  Fear is what stands in the way of true love, fear and only fear.  The antidote to fear is love, love rooted in loving kindness, gentleness and fearlessness.

(Quote from My Antonia, Willa Cather)

No comments:

Post a Comment