From Pleasure, Pain

This is the first in a series of blog posts about what I see as the paradox of love. This essay is my answer to the prompt, what has brought you to your knees? I’m not sure where I’ll go with this. Maybe you can help. Ask me questions, or prompt me in some direction. Please keep in mind, this is merely my take. Feel free to provide yours.

Nothing begins, nothing ends,
that is not paid for with moan;
for we are born in other’s pain,
and perish in our own.
~ Francis Thompson

Twenty years ago, I started using the phrase it’s all about how we feel. Normally, I’d caveat such a mantra by claiming it only applied to people without mental health issues. In this case, I think the words apply universally. How do you feel?

Love is the highest standard we have for caring about others. In literature, movies, music, religion, and in our daily lives; our obsession with love is obvious. It’s poorly defined, extensively written about, and grammatically misused; but love is everywhere in the English language. We want to love and to be loved. It’s our ultimate pleasure. How sweet love is.

I embrace love, but I fear pain. Pain can take over my body. Excruciating physical pain has brought me to my knees. It’s absurd that such pain may be helpful as it travels my nervous system from its source to my brain. Pain is abnormal. Even though we all experience pain, it’s not supposed to be there unless something is wrong. Pain is a symptom more useful to doctors than to me.

As bad as physical pain is, emotional pain is more devastating. In extreme cases, mental grief often leads to thoughts of suicide. In physical pain I might say, I want to die; but, I never intended that. I only wanted the pain to stop. On the other hand, people in emotional agony can be dangerous.

Our vulnerability to emotional pain is greatest when we love someone. When we love another person, we grant that person more power over us than any god or demon. Still, we choose to love. Not just willingly, but aggressively with passion and desire. Why? It’s like we can’t live without it. If anyone does live without love, we consider that sad and dysfunctional.

Love has brought me to my knees in two ways. First, the wondrous and joyful pleasure of experiencing love has led me to my knees with happiness. Be it romantic love, love of parents, love of children, grandchildren, or friends; the wonderful state of love takes away the dark and gives light.

Second, love has dropped me in pain, in fear, in a depressingly dark, hateful passion. Love betrayed leaves behind lifelong scars too deep to ever completely heal. The end of a romance, the betrayal of a friendship, the dismissal of a parent we love, the suffering or death of a child; each of these may, and perhaps should, put me on my knees. Such pain and agony from the dark side of love makes me question the value of life.

There may be recovery or even pleasure at the end of the tunnel. Time may mend love betrayed. Still, our human nature forces us to look back into that dark tunnel, into that abyss of pain and suffering. We remember. Do we dare to ever again risk pain by making ourselves vulnerable? Do we face the agony of finding ourselves desperately miserable because we loved?

Why do we do it? Would you, could you, live without love?

That’s a paradox of love. We know the risks, the vulnerability, and the potential to suffer. And yet, we still seek out love and take the risk. How do you feel now?

Even when we look both ways and mind each gap, we will experience pain in life.

“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you.
You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”
― Bob Marley (20 years after his death, which means he never said it. True, nonetheless.)

The youtube poem below is worth hearing/reading, and I think the Love Hurts song by Nazareth is worth a listen.

 

Y – Yolonda, To Our Life (NaPoWriMo #28)

Yesterday was Yolonda’s birthday. I wrote this poem for her, to her, and about us. Lordy, we were so young the day we married; a long time ago on a planet far, far away.

 

Age 19

 

To Our Life
by Bill Reynolds

You’re at the core of my life, the blood of my love.
Together for years, we performed so many acts
With so many roles we’ve held as a pair, line upon line,
We’ve both been there, one with the other,
searching for truth.

Unknowing what another play might’ve been,
We know what this was; and now we see what it is
Like pearls on a string, between two people in love
Our years remain, foundations of that same love,
And discovery of truth.

We built this world, one moment at a time.
Moments we recall; and some too long forgotten,
Our time together, creations of a living world,
The past is our present, our present the future.
And pacing our life, acting on truth.

Burdens of life did task our endurance
As humanity’s frailty tested our love.
All while building great passion and strength,
Nothing in the future can bring change to our past.
Stumbling on stones, finding more truth.

Love is not work, not a great task
While true work of the universe, it just might be,
Not as a choice we make, nor a feeling we have,
Love is just that, love is simply love.
Love never dies, nor shall this truth.

Happy Birthday, My Love; blessings to you,
A toast to your life, how happy you’ve made me
By being my wife. I’m glad I found ya.
We all love you., my dearest Yolonda.
A love discovered is finding a truth.

Road Trip Ready

 

Live long, love well, seek truth and happiness. Keep looking both ways, and mind the dangers lurking in the gaps.

C – Collaboration Poem (NaPoWriMo #4)

This poem is a collaboration poem written by my daughter, Julie, and me. We both worked on it. In fact, she initially wrote the first part, as a poem to me. It is not renga because it meets none of the normal forms. It is simply two people writing a poem to each other and collaborating, so style and form are free. One could look on it as a duet, or father – daughter billets-doux (love, or sweet letters). Ardor means enthusiasm or passion. My portion is italicized.

Dewey and Dad
by Julie Barber and Bill Reynolds

You are my father, tried and true
And you my daughter through and through.

You know my heart, my feet and hands too.
Some even say I look like you.
From birth and to your life throughout,
I’ve been there for you, without a doubt.

There was a time when things were harder.
I hope I’ve grown and become much smarter.
If we could go back, I’d want you my daughter.
Together we’ve grown older with ardor.

My father, wiser by the day…. Always profound things to say.
Sharing our life keeps misery at bay.

I look to you when the answers are grey.
You say, “let nothing get in our way.”
You heart and your talent come into play,
Find peace therein, as you work away.

Go out and write and use your talents
It will give your life more sense and balance.
Your words are like clay, your pen is your pallet,
Your life is your muse, your mind is your mallet.

Get off your ass and do it already
The world is uncertain, and time is unsteady.
It’s your life to live, you should live it as heady,
Be happy my child, ‘tis all worth it, you’re ready.

The fact you’re so far away makes me sad
But I’m more than proud and grateful you’re my dad.

She’s Julie, but I call her Dewey

Forever you’ll be my daughter to me,
A lifetime of love, we certainly have.

My daughter, our love surpasses all distance
No oceans divide us, our minds unite us.

As we see one to the other, it will always be,
You rank above others swimming the sea.

Mind the gaps, family, love, friends, and the important things in life.
Look both ways, and all around.

Our Struggle with Love

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Mom frequently told me that she loved me. I don’t recall Dad saying it. If he told me, it was seldom. They both loved me; and while I loved them back, the feeling that I had was not the same for each. What was that? One word with so many meanings.

We even manage to say love to express approval of inanimate objects, “Oh, I love that pizza.” Or, as my young grandchild copied from his mother, disapproval: “I’m not lovin’ it!” He was too young for such a trendy (now trite) phrase, but he understood it.

If we considered all the meanings we have for the word and lined them up on our continuum of human emotions, the variety would defy any logic we use to keep saying it. Fortunately, context helps us out and we socially understand each other’s intent. We would need to invent too many new words to replace love. Someone once told me, “I love you, but I’m not in-love with you, if you know what I mean.” I understood and welcomed the explanation since the first three words could be concerning, but still not necessarily unwelcome.

valentine-1Regarding romantic love, it is one of the most fantastic feelings we can experience. We can even see that love feeling in friends who have fallen into love, head over heels. More evidence for the wonderfulness of amour is that the love and lust emotions get us in so much hot water, but we seem to dive right in anyway. It’s such a good thing. Would we be human without it? Barring some interfering DSM IV, mental problem diagnosis, we all love someone, and usually many people. And each feeling of love will be different from person to person, but it’s still love.

All love makes this world a better place. We’ll never have too much love in the world, but we seem to have too little of it. We have faced that since the beginning of time – too little caring about each other.

Enjoy The Youngbloods as they sing one of my best-liked, hippy love songs from the 1960s: Get Together. I’ve provided the lyrics below, as well as links to two other love-tunes.

The Youngbloods – Get Together lyrics

Love is but a song to sing//Fear’s the way we die//You can make the mountains ring//Or make the angels cry//Though the bird is on the wing//And you may not know why.

Come on people now//Smile on your brother//Everybody get together//Try to love one another//Right now.

Some may come and some may go//We shall surely pass//When the one that left us here//Returns for us at last//We are but a moment’s sunlight//Fading in the grass.

Refrain//refrain//refrain

If you hear the song I sing//You will understand (listen!)//You hold the key to love and fear//All in your trembling hand//Just one key unlocks them both//It’s there at your command.

Refrain//refrain//refrain

Right now…

Right now….

Also, Haddaway’s is a more erotic and fun video of What is Love (click here); and Dionne Warwick finishes up with What the World Needs Now is Love (click here). None of these songs have many lyrics, but I love them anyway.

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Happy Valentine’s Day.
Remember, love is a two-way street.
So, mind the gaps and be sure to look both ways.

Are You an Enigma?

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I’m comfortable with not understanding everything and everybody. It has little to do with what I want, but more to do with my level of acceptance. I can be curious, and sometimes I’d like to know more. But I’ll never know everything.

Here’s an example. About a year ago I was in a discussion group talking about the US Government, and the government of another country that many of us consider an enemy. One lady said, “All I want is to know the truth.”

I watched her to be sure she was serious. Then asked, “The truth about what?” Following her tongue-tied response, I asked why she thought she could learn the truth. I explained that we had all the information available, filtered by the providing media source. Her problem was, and ours is that we usually form opinions and make decisions without knowing the facts. She said, “Well, that’s interesting.”

enigma2

The first time that I recall anyone calling me an enigma was back in the mid-1980s. I was walking back to my office when one of my staff looked at the contents of my hands he said, “You’re an enigma.” I looked down at my hands, smiled at him, and asked why. “A Snickers candy bar and a Diet Pepsi. That makes no sense.” I hadn’t considered the conflict of the combo. I answered, “It does to me. I like them both. If I was interested in diet, it would be celery sticks and a glass of water.”

If an enigma is a person or thing that is “mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand,” may I add “and interesting” without changing the definition? If you are an enigma to me, that means I find you difficult to understand. So what? I may see you as interesting for that same reason. I should accept that is who you are.

If I ask you to explain what I see as a puzzling conflict in your behavior or opinions, and you do, are you still an enigma? Or is it my failure to understand the makes you an enigma?

The enigma phenomenon pronouncement is an outside view. The inside view usually makes perfect sense. Furthermore, if people change behavior or opinion, are they still enigmatic?

I am an enigma to many. Here’s why.

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I spent over 45 years working in the Department of Defense (military, contractor, and civil service). I graduated from the most conservative (by most measures) public university in the country. I’m an old white guy who lived in Texas most of my life, and most of my long term acquaintances are conservative, republican, and religious. Stereotype me based on that and you’ll get me wrong, as many do.

enigma4

Politically, I’m a left of center moderate democrat. Depending on the issue, I’m often liberal, but I often find myself defending traditional things. I am fairly disciplined, but a good and flexible listener. I am an atheist who spent too many years trying to be that church guy. My past, age, race, education, and former residence belie the real me.

Love and peace are the answers. We should do all we can to avoid wars. After that, I think the limited, partial measures war-like actions of the past were folly. War should be fought to win. Because war is so ugly, that goal is only reasonable after all peaceful measures have failed. Talking war is a murky swamp full of traps. But I think we need to apply logic to our policies so that we can stop being on the losing end.

I’m neutral regarding the term open minded. I prefer a willingness to hear some other points of view, to be accepting of what I can, but to hold to my beliefs until information changes my mind.

I’ve done a lot, seen a lot, and lived a lot; but I can still be perplexed about myself. So, if you’re confused, maybe you should be. My wheels turn slower than they used to, but they’ve not stopped.

enigma

To keep an open mind, look both ways.

Bonus Post – Look Both Ways

Bonus Post – Look Both Ways

I just finished watching Look Both Ways, a 2005 Australian independent movie. I watched it because I had one of those idea moments today.

As I was walking on a sidewalk next to a busy street, I approached a minor street to cross. I glanced left, but was not yet crossing when a car came from behind me and turned right, quickly passing directly in front of me. She was driving a little too fast, did not signal, and may not have seen me. I checked to my left again for traffic and safely crossed the street.

Before I reached the opposite side, I realized that I had not looked to my right to ensure no cars were coming from that side. I recalled being told repeatedly, as a child of five or six, to look both ways before crossing the street. While the threatening traffic was on my left, I should have looked right.

I’m also in the process of reading How to Write Short, a book by Roy Peter Clark. Dr. Clark’s book has me thinking about how effective we can be with few words. Thus, I had one of those rare moments when an idea comes to me.

Look both ways1Look both ways can serve as my metaphorical phrase for living life—staying alive and healthy. I can see it as considering all sides of an issue (pro and con), hearing people out who may think different than I, discerning dangers of life, being careful, remembering lessons from our childhood, trying different things and new places. Can you add to my list?

Here is my advice: look both ways.

There are about a half-dozen books with the title Look Both Ways. I only found the one movie and I’m glad that I watched it. I enjoy that kind of flick. If you like artsy, emotional, love-story-ish movies with lots of music and relevant singing in the background, give it a go, mate. I had to get my ear tuned to the Aussie English, but I managed. I found it for two bucks on Amazon, but you might find it for free on YouTube. Warning: tear jerker. See the official trailer here.

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There is no vegemite in the movie, but she does say, “Are you giving me the flick?” That must be Australian for Are we breaking up or Are you dumping me?

Furthermore, starting this Tuesday, each blog I post on Our Rainy Journey will end with some comment about “look both ways,” at least until I tire of it. And, yes, there is rain in the movie—they get wet.

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