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.

 

Mother’s Happiness

I know little of what my parents thought about any deep subject such as a philosophy of life or their world view. I managed no more than hints or rare tidbits. Regarding my father, I remember too much of the bad and little of the good. The opposite is true of my mother.

I remember more in Mom’s case, and most of it good. The few bad memories were usually not her doing. Mom may have had her share of bad days, but I can’t remember one that was her fault.

My clearest memories are the pleasant ones about our overall relationship. We were close. Not in the best of friends sense you may hear some parents brag about. Mom was my parent – not my friend.

As a teenager or young adult, I would have railed against being called a “momma’s boy.” I now look back on our relationship with pride.

My mother protected me, mostly from Dad, but also from a few other things. Oddly, not from bullies. If I developed an early skill in dealing with them, it was avoidance. Later in life, my approach was more direct. Conversely, she liked telling people how she often broke blood vessels in her hands spanking me. I don’t recall any of that.

She and I argued our share. I was a momma’s boy – not a good or obedient boy. There were times when I was disappointed in her for not coming to my aid. Looking back, I now realize how right she was.

When she did help me, she did it her way. She helped me in a manner that permitted me the dignity of learning difficult lessons the hard way – which was apparently my preference. When she felt like I needed to learn a painful lesson, she gave me the space I needed. I now realize how difficult that must have been for her. My mother’s love for me, and mine for her were never in question.

When Dad’s health was declining and she felt like she needed to help him, she postponed action on the lump in her breast. After his death, she moved on to her own health care. Everything she did during the period of that treatment, she did with the occasional assistance of her sister. My sister and I lived too far away to be of much help.

While Mom was a long-term breast cancer survivor, the invasive disease brought on her death only after she decided to end most of the treatment.

But years before that, the spot on her lung had been removed and she was recuperating in the hospital the day my flight from Texas arrived in Pennsylvania. Walking down the hospital hallway, the sounds and smells were unique. I would know where I was had I been awakened blind.

As I walked down the hall following the directions I’d been given, I knew I would take the next right into another hall, then right again into her room. I anticipated walking in and finding her groggy and sore from the surgery. I envisioned her smiling up at me, weak and tired. I turned the corner.

The window at the end of that hall looked down on the hospital’s parking lot. Its sill of hard tile was about a foot deep. My recovering mother could easily sit there and gaze down to the parking lot, watching for me.

When she heard my voice, she turned her head and saw me walking toward her. The day after surgery, my 70-something mother jumped off the sill and started running toward me. Mom drove her five-foot-tall frame hard against me, wrapped her arms firmly around me, and then pulled my face down and kissed me.

After I suggested that she get back into bed, we walked to her room and she slid back onto the sheets and pillow. Mom was excited and chatty. She was always happy to see me. But on that day, her response was overwhelming. The doctors and nurses kept Mom alive. All I had to do was walk down the hall at the right time. I became the star of her show. I will always remember how happy she was to see me that day. I’m glad I could help.

Happy Mother’s Day to moms everywhere.
Look both ways and mind the gaps.

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.

V – Vexfest: Different Stereotype (NaPoWriMo #26)

I sort of got the idea for this from another A to Z blogger, Sandra of What Sandra Thinks, specifically her Bitchfest 2017, where she adds “special touches of sarcasm, darkness and foul language.” Since I find her humor refreshing, I decided to take a similar, but more serious, path.

Vexations create a state of being annoyed or frustrated. I confess that during my life I’ve been guilty of many of the things I find vexing. My greatest frustration may be my own human condition. We have many words devoted to being pissed off. I am not the only one.

***

Vexatious Me
by Bill Reynolds

With all the natural evil that be,
I am most troubled by
The moral evils that I see
Placed peeps on peeps. I’m vexed and…

Affronted by unfair stereotyping,
Aggravated by sense of entitlement,
Angered by any amount of animal abuse.
Annoyed by the foolishness of youth,
Bugged by too much welfare abuse,
Bent out of shape by all the bullies,
Disgruntled by job discriminations.
Displeased with wasting time, including mine.
Embittered by lost love.

Enraged by abuse toward women.
Exasperated by flawed governance.

Frustrated by incompetence, especially mine,
Furious over child abuse, anywhere, any time.

Indignant over unjust justice.
Infuriated by big black lies, also
Irked by little white ones.

Irritated by misunderstandings and
Miffed by gossip for fun and pleasure.
Offended by those too sensitive,
Outraged by starving children.
Peeved by human weaknesses, yet
Piqued by those better than I.
Pissed off when treated unfairly, and

Riled by my own pride.

Worried that nothing will change.

***

I failed to mention other drivers (texters, Beemer drivers, and Mercedes too), the wealthy, other people’s kids and dogs, and the folks who work at the driving license places in virtually every state. Also, virtually anyone who disagrees with me about nearly anything at all. And then there are people who are more vexatious than I.

Relax and go with the flow. We’re only human,
but let’s look both ways to enjoy the view.
Mind the gaps my friends, lest you get too twisted.

 

U – Universal Pain and Suffering (NaPoWriMo #25)

I don’t think there is a rule, but I’ve read that poems should be about specific things. The universe isn’t specific. So how do I write about it and be specific? I decided to key on a quote from Aristotle: “The universe exists for, and shines through, the particular.” My attempt was to twist that concept into living in the present.

 

***

Suffering Universal
By Bill Reynolds

What means the vast universe?
From the largest to the smallest,
It’s the every and the all, interspersed.
There’s more, and we’re on the call list.

Where thoughts drift among the unknowable
It’s all there. Is our significance so minute?
Dare we, as we might; is it so uncontrollable?
Or shall we focus on the more acute?

A far-off star explodes. Planets vanish.
Did you hear it? Did you see it?
Stars in the sky, but maybe not.
We see the light. Is it still a vantage?

Death. Suffering. Pain. Sadness.
Broken bodies. Broken hearts.
Do you hear them? Do you see them?
It’s all there. Should we care?

Are my feet on earth? Can my senses touch reality?
The universe is there, but also here.
Not for its own sake, but for each of us.
Let’s focus on the small, while aware of it all.

I engage with my personal
Real world life as it truly can be.
Let me be in the universal here and now.

Until more of the changes happen,
Until the stars no longer shine,
Until we know it all,
Until we hear the universe breathe.

***

Right here; right now, bloom where you’re planted.
But, look both ways and mind the gaps.

*

T – Tercet: In Real Time (NoPoWriMo #24)

The tercet is a poetic stanza of three lines with a rhyme. While there is no specific rhyme scheme necessary and some even venture into free verse, I prefer to not to dig in unplowed turf. However, I did play with this and came up with rhyming lines one and two in each stanza, and using mid and end line rhymes in line three: aab2, bbc2, etc.

***

In Real Time
By Bill Reynolds

Not to be seen, heard, or specifically smelt.
We know it’s there, cuz experiences felt,
No gods can stop it, no power to quit.

Some sew it wisely, while others just wait.
The outcome’s the same, we share the same fate.
Fight back as we may; that is only delay.

Wind we can feel, the rain we may taste.
But the passage of time, we have little to waste.
Let’s consider the past; make choices that last.

Perpetually running, it passes in silence;
Everything changes, nothing is timeless.
Reality speaks loudly, but time passes proudly.

***

Thinking of time, be looking both ways.
While minding the gaps, watch only today’s.

Sunday Lions (NaPoWriMo #23)

My Lion Friend

***

Sunday Lions
by Bill Reynolds

*

I’ve never met a lion,
Except in the zoo.
Never seen a lion,
It’s in the photos that I do.
Never touched a lion,
Only in my dreams.
I never loved a lion,
But in my heart, it seems
Lions are my friends,
The ones I never knew.

***

Look both ways, mind the gaps, and love the animals.