Redefining Moments
Joe Clark ~~ Mar 10, 2003

It must be that time of year again. Or just current observations have once again brought it to mind. For reference you might want to look at my wise thought about "When Love Must Die", or my quote from yesterday.

Recently I finished reading a book called "Brave Hearts" (I've mentioned it once before). The book had a lot to say about loving with abandon and extravagant love and strengthening relationships and many such happy thoughts. After I thought about it though, and seeing the opinions of a lot of people lately, it seems that those happy thoughts are somewhat of an idealistic notion. (I know, it sounds the same as all my other whiny thoughts, but read on anyway, because I said so).

I think that when thinking about love and relationships it is important to consider the defining moments -- the first date, the proposal, the wedding, the birth of a baby, the little league games with the kid brother, etc. BUT it is also important to consider the REdefining moments -- the death of a loved one, the moving away of family and friends, and the legendary breakup of so-they-thought soulmates, to name some at the top of my list. Where is extravagant, abandon-ish love in these cases? Where is love that hangs on and never gives up in these cases? Let's take them one at a time.

Death of a Loved One

Ouch. This is a tough one to start with. It is both comforting and disconcerting that we have so little control over this aspect of our lives. At any moment those that are closest to us (or we ourselves) could be called to account and removed from the land of the living. Those surviving must pick up the pieces of their lives. This is normally possible, with varying degrees of heartache and turmoil, but it is, in some sense, a defeat of extravagant love. Extravagant love would say, "I love you forever," but that is not a realistic statement in light of things like death. But, this type of estrangement from love does have the value of being an unwanted separation. Though loved ones are separated, it is not due to a lack of love, just a product of life on earth.

Moving Away

People going their own way has been a fact of life for me since at least the end of high school. After high school, there is the flight to college. After college, there is the secondary flight into "real life." In both cases, the tables are turned on all ideas of stability and a love that lasts. Sure, love can last, friends can be friends forever, but it's not easy. Most of the time the friendship slowly dissipates as both people gain new friends and new experiences and memories that tend to alienate the once-friends from each other. Again, the separation is not due to a lack of love, per se, but it is not entirely due to "fate" either. It is disheartening, but it too is just a fact of life. Even the best communication systems (cell phones, email, IM, etc) cannot always hold together friendships at a distance.

Breakups

Here's where I'm going to go off. This is where I always go off. Here is where extravagant love really becomes a good way to commit emotional suicide. Here is where loving with abandon is shown to be about the stupidest thing to do. I have observed or heard of several less-than-amicable breakups, and they always leave me wondering who the "bad guy" is. It is interesting to note that in my observations, it is more often than not the woman who initiates a breakup, and the man who is left with his heart on the floor. This is counter to what one might expect, with women being the emotional ones and all such talk. But apparently guys can be just as emotional and just as clingy as women. Guys might possibly find creative ways of hiding it, however. It is interesting to listen to the "X-women" try and comprehend why someone won't leave them alone. Of course I speak only from fake experience (like always), but it is not hard for me to understand. This love stuff tends to tie people together in intricate ways, and those ties are not quickly broken, at least not on both sides. This is gender-neutral. Women are well-known for not giving up easily, but I have found that guys, in their own way, also have their major troubles letting go. If you break up with someone EXPECT them to not leave you alone for some amount of time. Don't be surprised that they don't let go. Just because you broke up doesn't mean that it's as clearly obviously the right thing to do in the eyes of the other person. Dynamic cling is the price of "love" or what was once thought of as love.

As one who has no real reason to feel like letting go (because I rarely have anyone to let go of), and yet as one who always feel like I'm letting go of someone or everyone, I can come up with my own annoying statements about this subject. Loving with abandon is a nice thought, but for me it's not realistic. How can it be when it can so easily be taken away, by God or fate, or more annoyingly by the one who is supposed to be the recipient of it? How can it be realistic when it is so easy, apparently, to turn extravagant love into a control war and emotional chaos? All of these thoughts lead me to thoughts like the quote I put up yesterday. A similar thought is that one of the best lessons to learn is how to stop loving. How come no one ever speaks on this subject? How come all the youth group seminars and pastor's sermons never speak of how to let go (except maybe as an afterthought)? From my experience, letting go is a much more frequent need than the need to hold on more tightly. One would like to think that in the sticky situations, it would be healthy to stick in there and not let go, but in a lot of cases it just seems to prolong the inevitable "moving on" that many of us are becoming experts at (or for some, only trying (and failing) to become experts at).

Why, in this world of God's love and God's promises and eternal things and all that -- in this world, why is this "moving on" the answer to so many of life's issues? Love doesn't seem to solve all the problems, but instead time and the second-best options more quickly and more effectively solve the problems. I know there are exceptions to this, but for me the exceptions rarely if ever occur, and usually they end up not being exceptions after all (they just take longer to realize what they are -- temporary love, or temporary fake love). If it isn't my own stupidity that causes its end, then it is the other person's issues, or my lack of initiative, or it's not God's will, or it's my lack of competitiveness, or my geekiness, or my whiny wise thoughts, or who knows what else. Whatever the cause, the effect is much the same. I am well-respected, but I'm not sure that in the broader sense I am well-loved. People like me for what I do, but I don't know if they like me all that much for who I am (because I'm a whiny geek, and who wants that? Who wants a whiny geek when they were expecting a beautification engineer?).

Okay, now that I've left my topic yet again, it's time to close. As you go through life, watch for the redefining moments, the times when it seems that all you once thought useful dries up and withers away. Those are the true turning points in life, the "make or break" crisis times, when you either suck it up and learn something, or just fall apart and don't get over it for months on end. I am not advocating one result over the other, really, because both are somewhat divergent from the balanced lifestyle that would be ideal. "Learning something" belittles the gravity of the problem, and "falling apart" can't go on forever, practically speaking. Just hold on to your emotions and your life, and remember that things do get better, I suppose, sooner or later -- maybe not the ideal you had hoped for, but still better than the pain while in the midst of the redefining moment.