Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Love's Endurance

"Lemon, I cannot marry you. Not when a part of me is in love with someone else." George to Lemon in Hart of Dixie, The Big Day episode. (yes, I watch this show even though I'm not sure why. It's not my usual choice for entertainment, but, oh well.)

I can't get this line out of my mind. In part because for some reason I kept falling asleep during this episode and awaking just at this point, so I kept rewinding and watching the last half of the episode again. But it's more than the repetition... There's something about how unrealistic it sounds. It's a very romantic notion. It makes good fiction, but can real life be that clear?

Every time we love, we give a little piece of ourselves to the one we love. In return, we generally get a little piece of that person. When a relationship ends, often the love transforms to either hate or indifference, but it was love once. In love lives hope. In hope lives the willingness to compromise, to sacrifice, and to endure. In compromise, sacrifice and endurance lives the ability to love again but also the possibility to lose ourselves in the process.

When we truly love, a piece of that love lives on unless it is destroyed. A little fond memory or a cherished experience can take us back to that love against our will. We can find ourselves smiling over some silly moment we thought we would forget. Our hearts can ache deeply over a carelessly uttered word. We can find ourselves scared of letting go of a love that rings hollow in our hearts because the relationship doesn't fulfill those involved.

When we love, truly love, we don't quit loving just because a relationship ends whether through death or a breakup. Love endures even when we know a relationship can't. It sometimes even allows us to let someone go because that's what is best for them. That doesn't mean we cease to love the person, only that we are willing to do what's best for that person.

George's statement made me realize that often we repress or suppress the love we feel for someone simply because it's not deemed acceptable to continue to love someone after a relationship no longer works. We seem to think that an ending cuts the love out of our hearts. It just doesn't work that way. Relationships end for many reasons. Sometimes love has little to do with the success or failure of a relationship in the end. A relationship without a foundation in love isn't likely to last, but a relationship with a foundation in love may still fail.

Anyone who has ever been in a relationship based on genuine love knows that the fondness they continue to have for the person after the relationship ends means that, in some way, that love lives on.

It can be hard to accept that the person who loves us still carries a fondness for another person, but, if we're truly honest with ourselves, we generally find those fond feelings for someone in our pasts as well. I used to believe this was a betrayal, but I've been forced to rethink that idea by maturity and watching my friends' lives change.

Now, I'm not in any way saying I think George should've gone through with the wedding. After all, he and Zoe haven't explored their feelings yet. I'm just saying that with a few years of maturity, you learn that love isn't as clean as fiction makes it seem. Many people get married when they still have feelings for others. If they didn't there'd be a lot fewer weddings.

On the other hand, love is rarely as complicated as fiction makes it out to be either, but that's a post for a different day...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Making Choices, Accepting Life, and Finding the Way

Life takes us where we need to go, or so people say. People tell us to accept where we're at in order to get where we're supposed to be. I want desperately to believe that because if it's true the mistake I made many years ago that changed not only my life but the lives of several people I loved wasn't a mistake. It was simply life taking me where I needed to go to find my way to where I belong.

Yet...

When I think about it, I can't help but wonder so many things. If I'd made that other choice, the one I really wanted but didn't think I deserved, would life be better? Not just mine but that of all those involved. I was so sure of things then. I never second-guessed my decisions - okay, maybe never is an overstatement. Instead, I acted and let things fall where they fell.

The other night as I chatted in the warm night air of Louisville, Kentucky with my friend, KP, I couldn't help but revisit my past decisions. We talked about our lives in the years since we'd seen one another. We marvelled at parallels we discovered, not always happy parallels but parallels nonetheless. We lamented opportunities lost. We celebrated successes. We blinked back tears and laughed at absurdities. I felt the pang of the pain of a friendship interrupted as I enjoyed the moment of reconnection.

When KP saw through my stories and my struggles and, as she always has, bluntly but lovingly pointed out the reality I hate to face, I could've cried. It took me back to shortly after we first met when she pointed out things about my family I tried to hide. Never one to mince words, KP told me exactly what she thought, then offered me unwavering support and friendship, just like she did all those years ago.

When I disclosed the betrayal of a friend from those days that I thought she knew about, the expression that crossed her face was so pained I felt bad for mentioning it even though it was germaine to the conversation. I remembered again how she'd warned me about the friend who betrayed me. She'd sensed something wasn't quite right. As I bluntly and matter of factly disclosed what happened without a single detail, she couldn't hide her surprise and pain, but she didn't question me or push me. She just accepted where I was, and we moved forward. As I explained how that moment in time influenced my choices for years to come, she understood without needing a lengthy explanation.

We discussed the choices we made over the years in order to make life more peaceful, the choices we made in the name of love, and the choices we made in the name of survival. Choices that left us feeling like we'd lost our selves along the way. Yet, we both recognized our roles in making those choices.

As I drove away from our evening, I blinked back a tear thinking of all the choices I've made and those I haven't made that were essentially choices made by choosing to not choose or to let someone else choose for me. Even though multiple people have pointed out to me that I have the right to make choices for my own life, I realize I've given over many of the choices in my life to other people simply because I exhausted myself fighting them to make my own choices.

Now, it seems it's time to take back the reigns of my life. I must make my own decisions and let the life fall where it falls. Pain is likely inevitable, but if pain leads to true joy that's better than muddling along feel numb. Living is always better than merely existing.

My thoughts turned to writing. When I write a book, I can't really get away with characters who don't make choices, at least not for very long. Characters can't just wander around aimlessly or turn their lives over to someone else unless it's pivotal to the plot. At some point, characters must make choices on their path through life. Those choices are what make characters real and give them depth. In life, when we give up our ability to choose, we can become as one dimensional as a badly written character, a mere silhouette of who we are.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Best of Intentions

I brought my mini with me on my trip to Kentucky with the best of intentions... I planned to blog while here and to write reviews as I went. So much for intentions. I'm sitting at my friend, Kelly's house, and now I realize that didn't quite work out. This is the first time I've had a chance to work on either of my blogs since I left for Kentucky.

Kelly and I are sitting here acting like we did in college. Working a little on our projects, chatting a little, and just generally being together. Funny how that works. You find yourself comfortable with someone and old patterns resume without a single thought.

Conversation, work, and respect for one another's process and goals fall into place easily when two people know one another well. With friends like that it's easy to keep track of one's intentions and not feel guilty about pursuing those intentions.

It can be easy to let work slide, to let goals slide, to let routines slide while travelling, visiting, and researching. When a friend is a friend such as Kelly, that friend will accompany you on a research day that is fun for all and be patient and understanding that your research must take precendence to the day's fun. It is interesting  how some people do this well and others don't do it so well.

Yesterday, Kelly and her daughters accompanied me to Cumberland State Falls because I needed to visit it for the novel I'm writing. They helped me, paid attention to what I needed to do, and still enjoyed the day. We enjoyed the time together without stressing over the next minute or the next. Kelly understood my intentions to do what I needed to do while spending time with her.

So, while some of my intentions for this trip haven't panned out, some have. I've done my research and now I've written a blog. I may not have managed to keep everything as current as I would've liked, but I've gone with the flow and enjoyed my trip.

My intentions are always to keep my end goal in mind and to be flexible. It's great when people understand and support those goals. But it's even more important that I remember and support my goals and my intentions while maintaining the flexibility necessary to enjoy life as it develops! I feel like I'm getting better at it every day!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Women Empower Themselves

I'm a strong advocate for women's self-empowerment.Women should embrace life and invite pleasure into their lives. Women should never cower in the corner or give over their power to another human being, male or female.

In the name of women's empowerment, I recently read a book called Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts : Using the Power of Pleasure to Have Your Way with the World. It was a fun and interesting read, but I didn't find it particularly eye-opening. I am a Southern girl. I know all there is to know about flirting. I know how to be the most angelic bitch or the bitchiest angel or everything on the scale between. I know more than a little about the art of manipulation. And, this is where the rub begins for me. I hate, hate, hate it when anyone tells me that for a man to treat a woman like she deserves to be treated, she has to manipulate him into doing so. I'm sorry, but, if that's true, then sign me up for the other team right now.

Okay, not really, I'd have to get over my lack of sexual attraction for women and my intense sexual attraction for men, but that's not my point. I don't want to manipulate the men in my life. I enjoy flirting, and I don't mind hinting at what I want on occasion rather than stating it directly, but manipulation is where I draw the line.

I am who I am. I refuse to play games.

I refuse to falsely feed anyone's ego to get what I want. I won't pretend weakness to make a man feel more masculine. I'm not going to feign meekness. I'm not going to downplay my intelligence. I'm not going to smile when I want to cry. I'm not going to be all bubbly just because some men can't handle women who aren't "on" all the time. On the flip side, I also refuse to be all serious when all I want to do is be silly. I will no longer be what any man wants to be just to keep his attention, love, affection, attraction, whatever...

I want a man who loves me for me, and I want to love a man for who he is. Let's be perfectly clear about this. When we change to keep anyone in our lives, it doesn't work... that's right it does not work. We change and grow all the time, but when we spend all our lives trying to be what someone else wants us to be, or to make them think we are something we're not, it doesn't work. I played these games when I was younger. They lead to a lack of trust, a lack of intimacy, and a total lack of self-esteem.

And the whole idea of trying to make a man jealous to keep his attention... Oh, dear, are you kidding me? Again, games I played in college that nine times out of ten failed miserably. I learned a long time ago that if I have to make a man think he has competition to keep his interest, he's just way too much trouble. If his interest isn't about me but about winning me away from someone else, he's going to lose interest as soon as he's got me. And, that's not what I want. I want a man who sees me and wants more of what I have to offer. I have no desire to play manipulation games at all.

We, women, must take our power back regarding the derogatory words used about us and our bodies. (see Okay, So Sometimes I Really Am a B****, What of It?) We can own our own pleasure and be proud of it. We can and should be intimate with our own bodies. We have the power to have fun and let loose. We have the power to pursue our dreams without letting anyone get in the way. We can do all this. But, when we do so in a way that strings other people along, misleads people, strives to create jealousy, disrespects other people, or manipulates other people, we do everyone involved a disservice.

We should embrace all of who we are, but we should never let anyone else tell us who that should be, even the so called experts on women's empowerment. The woman who chooses to be a stay-at-home mom contributes just as much to the world as the woman who chooses to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The woman who chooses to remain child-free contributes just as much to the world as the woman with a house full of children. The woman who chooses to dedicate her life to hearth and home contributes just as much to the world as the woman who travels the globe learning about every culture. The woman who chooses to put her life on display to help others contributes as much to the world as the one who holds her privacy close. The woman who chooses to marry contributes as much as the woman who opts to remain single. The woman who chooses her own life is the woman with the strength no matter the choice she makes. The key concept in all of this is choice.

The moment a woman turns her life choices over to a man, or even another woman or her children, she stops contributing who she is to the world. That is a loss we can't afford. Women raise children and influence leaders. Women have within them and their influence the power to change the world whether they do so by rearing children who have respect for others as well as courage, ambition, and the ability to solve problems or by pursuing a career that puts the issues they most care about at the center of the conversation.

Whether women get in touch with their ability to stand in their fullness through silliness or seriousness is as much an individual choice as any other choice they make. I'm all for having a great time and not letting anyone dictate how to define that fun. We should never let anyone, even another woman, make us feel like how we choose to express our womanliness is somehow lacking. We need to stand full in our choices and simply say to the world "This is the woman I choose to be, you can love her, hate her, embrace her, leave her, admire her, ignore her, but I'll be damned before I let you disrespect her."

When I embrace what makes me feel most like the woman I want to be, the woman I am in my heart and soul shines for all the world to see. Try it, it just might work for you, too!