Learning lessons you do not want to know

With New Year’s Eve approaching on roller skates my mind naturally goes, not to all the great New things of the flipping of the flipping calendar year, but to mortality.  The day after New Year’s Day I’ll be waking before dawn to go to a funeral.  The woman who died was 94, sharp until her last few days, and she went peacefully in her sleep surrounded by her loved ones.  A blessed end to a long life, going the way we’d all like to go, the way we’d wish to anyone we love.  Still, her death causes lacerating pain to her daughter, a grandmother.  There is never a good time to lose your mother.  The permanence of a loved one’s death is always unbearable.

As my life goes along I more and more connect sudden professions of love with a demand, with deadly consequences.   The last three old friends I lost all told me, totally out of character, as things were winding toward their fatal end, that they loved me.  Love, I was meant to understand, means that even if I hurt you, even if I hurt you over and over in exactly the same way, even if I am deaf to your pleas to stop doing it, I DID IT OUT OF LOVE, you heartless, unforgiving fuck! 

It’s not a lesson that I’m happy to learn, that the last card an angry asshole will play before they metaphorically kill you is “I love you!”.  Any wisdom this lesson provides is no comfort to me.   We are all looking for connection in a lonely world, in a life that inevitably ends in death.  Love, like forgiveness, is a steady attitude, a desire not to cause pain to someone we love.  Not everyone lives to experience love this way, it generally has many conditions and strings attached to it.  

“If you really love me you will cut the heads off those people who hurt me by making me feel bad about myself,” is a deadly serious string, and the dutiful partner will go on the quest, decapitate the enemies, and there’s a version of love, I suppose.  Some people, for example, cannot love a fat person — put on one too many pounds and you break the deal.   Some demand total obedience, and if you disobey, you can expect a terrible punishment.  Others require telling a lie and sticking to it doggedly whenever something uncomfortable comes up.

For many, that’s as close to love as they will ever come.  It’s better than no love, I suppose, but not for everyone.

2 comments on “Learning lessons you do not want to know

  1. This reminds me of what Jiddu Krishnamurti says about love, that love is not jealousy, or grasping, or molding, or imprisonment, or dependence… I think this all needs to be said. I do have a somewhat different model of it though. I think love is often there, but there’s just too much in the way of its expression–it never gets to see the light of day. The only way it makes its mark is transmutation through the twisted mind into jealousy, anger, etc. So it’s not that it’s not there, there’s just the unfortunate reality of other parts of the person, which co-opt the love force and use it for other ends. There’s a lot of denial and self-deception about that process, so it is very hard to bring up, with other people and with ourselves.

  2. oinsketta says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful comment. Love can be a difficult subject, particularly with people who feel judged, get defensive and then angry, which is one reason I find myself writing about it from time to time.

    My father, hours before he died, lamented that he never learned to show love because he had never seen it in the house where he grew up. Poignant, and it reminded me again that love is only the way we treat people we care about.

    A therapist with a YouTube channel posted: people that love you, care about how they make you feel. The end.

    Seemingly so simple, though not in the toxic culture we live in. We wind up twisted far from our original natures and it’s a lifelong effort to get back.

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