There's so much I want to write about, and I have to go get ready to teach. So I will do my best, and then scamper. :-)
Today I want to write about joy and growth, and happiness, and LOVE. I've been reading Hafiz (and re-reading Rumi) today, and have remembered some other old 'friends'... Peter McWilliams (poems) and Hugh Prather (prose).
See, when I was in late high school, I was over-the-moon in love with someone, (as many 17-year-olds often are). My parents were separating (after constantly fighting), and was a time of turmoil in the house of my blood-family. But when I was with him I was no longer trapped in that -- I could separate myself from all that pain, and see a way out, a future. In this new relationship, we shared a lot of love and joy. I grew, and I learned, I lived and I loved. And, as way to get to know each other better, he and I traded music, books, and authors. He introduced me to Led Zepplin, Credence Clearwater Revival, Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn (thank you, Russ!), as well as giving me a reintroduction to Robert Heinlein and Richard Bach. *insert-big-grin-here* I'd remembered Jonathan Livingston Seagull from having seen it on my parents' bookshelves as a kid.... but I re-read it, and loved it all over again.
And, along with those discoveries, I ran into 2 authors who would become, for the next 5 years, good 'friends'... if authors can be our friends (and I think they can, especially if we fill our mental worlds with people from books when we have few real connections with solid humans in our everyday lives. Such was the case with me, as I lived mostly in my head, until this young man I dated came along).
Anyway, one of the authors of which I speak is Peter McWilliams, and while dating the young man of which I previously spoke, I chanced upon McWilliams' love poems.... and they spoke of exactly how *I* felt at that time: I was gone, completely GONE. Irrevocably smitten, in a way that only those 'in love' can fully be. :-) Head over heels, I idolized the guy I'd fallen for, and saw him in nearly every poem I read in McWilliams' books.
(And really, I think that's the way those poems are meant to be 'consumed'.... with the same dopamine-serotonin-norepinephrine rush from which the poem was originally conceived: a large shot of dizzily-happy, mixed with a twinge of fear/longing, with an almost-equally-large shot of crazy as a chaser. Definitely a mind-altering experience, and a wild ride, to be young, and 'in love.'
**Side Note: There is a BIG difference (imho) between Love, and "being in love" — and it's even more complex still, when both happen at once. Being 'in love' is just as I described it above: a wild ride of giddy (sometimes oceanic) emotions. But on its own, it's like a flower planted in shallow, sandy soil, and it can easily be uprooted or die.
To 'Love' someone is an action, as Love is a verb. It's a choice I make, when I find that someone is becoming a good friend. It's a decision on my part as to how I value that person and their presence in my life. It's about how I (will) regard that person, and how I (will) behave according to that person. To me, that means I value that person's happiness in equal measure with my own, and that I want as much for them to be happy, growing/learning, and healthy, as I do for myself. And while I don't agree with everything in the Christian Bible (and I am FAR from being a 'Paulist'), I *do* think Paul got the Corinthian verses on Love right.
When BOTH of these ('in love with' and 'to Love') happen, at exactly the same time? Well, it's rare for me, so I can only say what I know: there's a large smattering of emotions, but without so much giddy impermanence. There's more of an anchoring, more of a deep sense of 'good' and 'right' that come with the decision I've made (a commitment to myself, first,far before I openly/verbally commit to the other) to Love someone. Powerful stuff, especially since (the way I'm wired), I don't 'unLove' people.)
Back to the Prather and McWilliams books:
And while hunting for more McWilliams poetry, the second author 'friend' I chanced upon was Hugh Prather — who I'd also received as a late-teen birthday present, from my beloved Tunta Jean (my mother's younger sister, who taught me so much about the world, and life, and love, and learning to love myself). And it was Prather's book (from Tunta), "Notes To Myself" (and a few others),that got me through those so-difficult first years away at college. That was the time in which I unpacked the 'toolbox for life' that my parents had 'given' me, and learned that I'd need to develop my own particular set, as the ones they'd bestowed were feeble at best, and NOT at all what I really needed.
Those books, (along with some others, from folks like Robert Heinlein, Somtow Sucharitkul, L.E. Wilder, Anne McCaffrey, Ursula LeGuin, and Madeline L'Engle, as well as a few from Richard Bach) formed the basis for the 'literary' portion of that toolmaking kit, for the first years I was 'out on my own.' They, (along with some very tight friends, some really good therapy, and a commune where I found myself by running away from everything else), gave me the courage and strength to start building a strong, authentic (sharing, loving and giving) adult self.
And most of that had a start with the poems of McWilliams and the introspective prose of Prather. So, thank you to both authors, for starting the ball rolling, and thank you also to Tunta (always), for always seeing the real me — despite my always trying to hide in plain site, under the camouflage of whatever it was I was trying to bury myself.
The depth of Love (universal as well as romantic) and the gentle, probing introspection that I learned as I read those books (and loved/learned from those good friends, and learned how to live with others in community) taught me how to respect my heart (and its vast,all-embracing inner landscape), and to even let a few people in. The prose taught me a Love made of gentleness in examination — to look at others — and particularly myself -- honestly, softly, without being harshly pedantic. Instead of having my inner critic shred me at every turn (as I patterned after, and was taught to do as a child), I gradually learned to say to myself — in my mistakes, "Wow, that was NOT what I wanted to do.... definitely not the preferred method. So, let's back up and try again." (Instead of shame, I learned — slowly — error-correction and moving forward: progress, not perfection.)
Slowly, with what I was learning, I became able to treat myself with as much care as a child I was raising — with careful instruction, while removing the fear and shame of errors I'd already made. I taught myself to *not* run and hide in shame, but to observe, experiment, and try again — to learn and grow. And as I learned to be gentle with myself, I was also learning to be gentle and caring with the hearts (and feelings) of others, Growth. I still try hard to practice this, each day.
I'm middle-aged now... and I'm still far from perfect, but I can look back and see how much I've grown. Reading those McWilliams and Prather books again has really taken me back, and as convoluted as my journey has been, I can still 'see my tracks in the snow.' I have come so very far from where I once was.... And I recognize that, while I may not have known how to get there, I am indeed coming to the place I've always longed to be. It is a very good place. :-)
Where I am now, I have much growth, and lots of joy and light and love. New discoveries, new relationships, and so many new things to teach and give, as well as so many new things to learn — these are my perennial gifts, from having first planted the seed-words from those books (and friends/loves) so long ago. My gratitude is more than I can express; I've come a long way and the journey continues on.
I am honored to say that I start almost every day with a smile, and a sense of deep joy and excitement for what today (and tomorrow) may hold. Through all the twists and turns of my life, I've come to a place where I've built a work life that values what I have to give, and allows me to give a great deal back (which I so dearly need). I use my talents, my languages, my humor and my intellect, to make others' lives better. I give back, and I get 'paid' in warm fuzzies as well as money. *insert big grin here*
And my home life? I live in a place of warmth and light, laughter and books, music, and love. I could not have done better if I'd have 'cherry-picked' or planned it myself — but I didn't plan it, it just happened. :-) It landed in my lap, unexpected and almost unseen, after having something else fall through. It's so much better than I'd imagined, and in the short time I've been here, I've grown in some amazing ways. The person I live with is funny, smart, handsome, warm, kind, socially just and globally conscious, delightfully musical (we sing!), and an excellent companion. In short, he's wonderful, and is a highly-prized new addition to my life.
And the rest is mine to share another time. I've got to get ready to teach. :-)
To close, I'll give you the words to the poem that starts this entry, with my addendum (as to my life, from way back then up to now):
(To which I add: "Ah, and it definitely HAS.")
Pax/Love and reallybig hugs to all,