Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hostage to Fortune

"I think to love, for such a long time, is a detriment." The woman, a widow after 40 years of marriage, wiped her eyes as she said this. She added that she planned to always wear her wedding rings.  I smiled sympathetically and nodded to encourage her to continue, noticing that she wore a man's wedding ring on a chain around her neck, obviously her late husband's.

Although I was there for a counseling session, she had set the table elegantly. Dark pink napkins were tucked under white soup bowls, the only splash of color in the white room. I could feel the heat of the stove as I followed her into the kitchen. Even though I had dinner plans, I recognized her need to serve, to sit with someone in her empty apartment, to prepare something for someone else.  It's all about her, anyway, I reminded myself as I sat down to sip a small amount of soup.  Sharing some food with her, appreciating her effort, was part of the unconditional positive regard I was there to provide.  "Mmm," I said. "Delicious."

As I listened to her express her sorrow, I wondered if what she said is true. Is it a detriment to love someone for a long time or for any amount of time for that matter? Do we really offer "hostages to fortune," as Sir Francis Bacon said, when we love?  Isn't it worth the risk, even though we will lose eventually? I wonder if comments like these reflect more of a desire to control or avoid emotion than a true regret.  Yeats said we should never give ALL our heart, "for he gave all his heart and lost."  Is it a waste of time just because we hurt when our love dies? Honestly, is it possible NOT to love, just to avoid the inevitable pain of losing?

Consider the alternative, if this were possible.  Human beings seem hardwired to develop connections, to be in and thrive in relationship.  It's almost like it is coded in our DNA, to relate, to mate, to love, to hope, hopefully to grow. It is not easy but the challenge of it can be thrilling. Consciously, I'll offer myself up as a hostage to this challenge, because this is where the flow and the juice and the pulsing blood of life is.  It may be a full catastrophe but I don't believe for a minute that it is a detriment.

The weight of love
Has buoyed me up
Till my head
Knocks against the sky.
~William Carlos Williams

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