Thursday, January 27, 2022

Becoming the wine / More of one thing leading to another

Let This Darkness Be a Belltower

Quiet friend who has come so far,

feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

(Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29, Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Joanna Macy)


This morning I was looking for insight into what makes a good and lasting committed relationship or marriage, having not experienced that in my life.  I loved a man at what I once thought was a safe distance for 42 years until his death from the results of alcoholism and drug addiction, always hoping that he would be able to return my love.  I may have been physically safe but emotionally I was never in healthy territory.  This morning I'm looking deeply into my lifelong pattern of loving from a distance, stemming from my childhood where it was not safe to love my parents unless I kept my physical and emotional distance and which resulted in being so distant from them that I no longer felt love.  Love was replaced by fear and shame.  

Meeting R when we were 17 years old, I felt that it was finally safe to love another person.  For the only time in my life that I could remember,  I felt fully alive, but it wasn't long before I didn't feel worthy of his love and retreated into unvoiced fear and shame.  During the year he was in Vietnam, I perfected my ability to love from a distance for a sustained period of time.  He returned from Vietnam, broken and unable to love anyone.  At the time I thought that this proved that I was not worthy of love but, unlike my childhood response of ceasing to love, I made what I see now as an unconscious vow to love him no matter what happened in hopes that my love would be returned.  I could not imagine a life without him and, at the same time, I could not imagine a life with him and so I remained alone, waiting for something that could never be.

This brings me to a painful turning point this morning.  Although I now feel able to love and worthy of love, I find myself afraid to ask for emotional and physical closeness.  My childhood fears are still with me.  I learned early that asking for emotional and physical closeness resulted in anger and abandonment.  My relationships with men have been fraught with my fear of anger and abandonment and yet I see that I am drawn to men who want me in their lives but not too close.  The part of this that is apparent to me this morning is that I have to admit that I am comfortable being kept at a distance because I am unable to believe yet that a committed relationship, much less marriage, is possible for me.

Through blogging, I have been given the gift of witnessing long-term loving marriages.  That gives me hope, knowing what is possible.

So, I asked the darkness for help with my own situation and waited for a response.  Help came in the form of a gentle inner prompt to read the weekly newsletter from On Being that appears at the top of this post.  O my goodness!  All is not lost.  In fact, nothing is lost.  Thank you!


ellen abbott said...

I have a long term marriage. I don't know that I would describe it as loving though I suppose we love each other but the intensity and desire is gone but so is the anger and pain. We are comfortable, we've fought all the battles. All our bumps are worn off and in the end we are not alone.

Anonymous said...

That poem, your words... my heart wants to fly up to you and sit at your side and watch the sun rise and then set. Spending the the day reconfirming ... yes, you are.

37paddington said...

This post gives me goosebumps. How much richer you are because you dare to lead an examined life. You are so worthy of love, of closeness, and may you know it in the way you wish, because one so capable of loving unconditionally is already unconditionally loved in return.