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.

X – Xu and the Gong (NaPoWriMo #28)

Why do we have x-words, if they sound like they start with z? I’ve discovered the word formerly used to denote a Vietnamese sum of money. The xu (pronounced soo, as in moo, you, or too) is one-hundredth of a dong. Can you see where I went with this? Enjoy!

***

A Xu for You
by Bill Reynolds

I found a lucky Xu
I wanna give it to you.
Ninety-nine more, you kin get a dong.
What’s wrong? Duncha wanna a dong?

With yer dong, ya can get along.
That’s right. You can have a long dong.
A long dong with a song, all…
For a measly, simple xu.

So, wacha gunna do?
First a xu, then a dong.
With yer dong, get a gong.
Bang a gong with yer dong!

So, let’s sing the song,
Let’s bang the gong
You got a dong, so…
Let’s get it on.

***

 

 

Look both ways, then sing the song and bang the gong.
Let’s get it on, but mind the gap in yer dong when you sing the song.

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.

S – Sonnet “Seeking the Truth” (NaPoWriMo #22)

This, my first sonnet, was difficult. It was also fun and I learned more about the challenges of writing poetic. I want to work more with meter and rhyme, but now’s not the time.

I attempted to write in the Shakespearean tradition of a sonnet, with 14 lines of 10 syllables each, with a rhyme scheme of abab, cdcd, efef, gg; and the iambic pentameter. Like we all know what that is, right? My humble apologies to the Bard for attempting such a sacred task. 

***

Seeking the Truth
by Bill Reynolds

In seeking the truth, I require some proof,
My goal to touch some real conclusion.
A quest to discover both reason and truth,
The turning of pages led to confusion.
Noble the search for answers not pallid,
From myth; if I am, then god must be too.
From science we ask, a source that is valid,
From faith of past, must it be now so true?
These are the chains of unfounded mystique.
None of this means any absence of love,
Admit to the truth, there’s no god to seek.
My freedom is not a power above.

I found this truth after seventy years,
Loving all others is more happy cheers.

***

Look both ways and you’ll see them coming.
Minding the gaps will keep your heart running.

P – Poetry: The Greatest God Damn Thing (NaPoWriMo #19)

What do I believe?

The title of this quatrain poem is taken from a New York Quarterly, ‘Craft Interview’ with James Dickey, as quoted in the Introduction to The Art of Poetry Writing by William Packard. I’m new to poetry writing, but I have always loved it. Thus, I concur with Mr. Dickey’s assessment.

***

The Greatest God Damn Thing
by Bill Reynolds

Beating hearts bring words as rhythm flows,
the brick and mortar for posing forms.
They come to me in words of prose.
I wrangle with words to bring the storms.

I feel the beat as I tap my feet,
I catch the bop and I keep the time.
My world finds rhythm to keep the beat.
I seek my Po-voice and find the rhyme.

Mind and spirt bring forth my emotions.
Poetic verse grows as I now can hear it.
Out of me come plans and potions.
The poem I’ve written is part of my spirit.

The pleasure I found in hearing the sound.
My voice is here and my voice is there,
My emotions can show a feeling we share,
My poem’s my gift to everyone around.

**

Read, write, and love poetry silently and in several voices
as you look both ways on the highway of life.
See and hear all the rhythm and rhyme.
But, mind the silence of the gaps.

***

I agree — Naturally