Wondering: What Have I Learned? It is a Holy Love

Hello on a Saturday night from my study/home office/Apple TV room,

Yes, this upper room is for me my getaway place. It is the place I do work, practice various languages, try to keep my home in order and I will listen to music. It is one of the places I have Bose speakers for a third time. When I purchased my house, it was the room I somewhat splurged on in terms of creating my little home theater. As I have been working on my Spring classes and reading about digital literacies, I have been reminded of how our access to music has changed so drastically from when I bought my first 45 rpm vinyl record or my first 8-track tape. I had purchased my first CD shortly before coming to Pennsylvania in the fall of 1988. I remember have a lot of vinyl and a pretty serious stereo when I was at Dana College. Music has been both my way to escape and yet my way to remember. Groups like Heart, Fleetwood Mac, Kansas, Styx, the Eagles, or Boston bring back memories that can remind me of the 70s to today. Sometimes I find myself YouTubing the original versions of some music to remember what the musicians looked like when I was attending their concerts. Sometimes the memories of the people who were in my life at those times. And as demonstrated recently, those places and times can cause reactions, not always expected, but simultaneously not surprised by the consistency. The two sides of pulling and pushing remain intact. I can see Don, my grad school counselor, still shaking his head at my optimistic desire to always hope for the best. While my idealistic nature is no longer unfettered, it is still in place.

As I walked down a musical memory lane for a while this evening, I am prompted to ask what have I learned in the 31 1/2 year since I first stepped in Pennsylvania. Certainly, the hair is thinner and grayer. The beard, or whatever form of facial hair is white, so much so that small children mistaken me for Santa on a regular basis. The thing that might best reveal what I have learned the second half of my life is the following statement. Things I thought important at 30 seem less so now and things I deemed unimportant then have more significance than I would have ever imagined. I would like to believe there is at least an inkling of wisdom in that metamorphosis. A couple of blogs back I noted rather openly some of my failings. Amazing how that touched something unexpectedly, and more profoundly (on a number of levels). Undoubtedly, my memories of that time are multifaceted. It was a time of difficulty from so many directions, and regardless what I tried there was little i could do to fix what I believe now was broken. And while you might believe I am referring to the other, I am referring to myself and where I was in life. It can be amazing how our past, and things we have left in the past come back to haunt us.1 am still aware from time to time how the abuse experienced as I grew, especially from someone who I had believed was supposed to love and protect me, has colored or affected by response in particular circumstances. Earlier today, when I was lamenting some of this to an important friend, she noted quite quickly, you have changed that so much from where you must gave been. That is a paraphrase, but her words to me were invaluable and reassuring that even now I continue to evolve.

There are certainly a couple traits that I know I have left behind and likewise some circumstances I refuse to subject myself to. In the first, I do foolish things; in the latter, I am often so fragile that I feel powerless to manage them well. I will not drink alone and I will not drink to excess. That has been something (with two exceptions) I have managed well since I returned to Pennsylvania. More importantly, if I feel that I am being hurt by someone who supposedly cares for me, I know I need to step back, either temporarily or possibly permanently and completely. While we as humans generally respond to hurt with anger, I do so perhaps more profoundly. More significantly, I now realize, when the hurt was over a period of time and recommitted again and again, I did foolish things to try to manage that hurt. It is also possible that I have moved too far at times to respond only through logic, and that is en entirely different issue. What I am quite sure of now is I abhor drama in my life at all, but particularly when it deals with the daily ins and outs of relationships. I remember my counselor again noting that I do have a penchant for trying to argue things logically, and my expectation was that everyone would do so. The first part of that is probably an attribute, the second not so much.

What I find most interesting at this point of my life is that in my most recent relationship, in spite of it ending, is the person said to me recently that the most difficult thing about not continuing a relationship or thing that is most confusing, perhaps, is there was not really anything terribly wrong, and while we were both angry at moments, there is nothing that is sad about how we managed that time. It is just that what we needed from the other was not necessarily what happened. Again, it is a sort of strange and yet successful non-relationship at this point. I think what I feel most positive about is that it demonstrates, undoubtedly, really important growth in where I was and who I was to where and who I am now. There is nothing promised in how growth or change occurs. There is no roadmap in how you move from pain and discord. The impetus for that movement is, perhaps, not even understood. What allows two people to stay committed and involved in a relationship where 25, 50 years or beyond? My students asked me that in a argumentation class last year at some point. I had to think some. As I am prone to do, both think and offer a tongue-in-cheek answer, I said it was because they got married at 13. Then I said, more thoughtfully, “I think it requires an ongoing ability on the day your are angry and you do not like them at all, to be able to dig deep and realize you believed you loved them enough to want to spend your life with them.” To perhaps love them beyond all understanding. It is not by accident that I return to that phrase. It is a holy love, but I think it takes time to learn how to love in that manner. To be the recipient of such a love is both life-altering and life-giving. It is incredibly freeing because it begins with and is grounded in forgiveness. It require an ability to be sure in one’s own self and not be afraid of being less than hoped. I was not at that point in my life when I was married. Of that I am quite sure. If I had been would it have been enough?

I am not sure it would. It would have certainly been an important element toward our being more successful than I was (or we were). The parenthetical here is important. Being two people who can be allowed to be their imperfect selves is essential if a better sense of perfection is to result. While that seems obvious and might sound a tad clichĂ©, it is anything but. I used to say that being in a committed all-encompassing relationship is the hardest job one can have. As I age I realize so more fully how true that statement is. We bring so much baggage to whatever we do; in the case of our relationships, it is not about merely two people it is about all the people in both our present and those from our past. How will all of that influence our responses or dictate our emotions? There is little to really provide that picture more than dimly. There is also is getting set in our ways or having patterns to our lives. There is the realizing that we are all unique characters, but also knowing that being able to share and integrate our jumbled up basket of experiences is an admirable and helpful thing to do. Certainly, the appearance of an ex-spouse has been a complicated walk down memory lane. It would have been 25 years had we celebrated an anniversary last June. Maybe that is, in part, what prompted this act of habituation. What I do know is I do not dislike, reject, or have any negative feelings, in spite of some profound mistakes. In fact, perhaps this intermittent demonstrated an important regularity for me. It also required a time for me again to be accountable. Not so much to the other, though I hope they perhaps experienced my doing so, but rather that for me that accountability offered reflection and honesty to myself. Not in a self-serving or selfish manner, but in a manner that might help anyone who reads this to feel a sense of hope that learning and growing never stop. That love, when healthy, survives incredible odds. It is integral to our being all we can be. Additionally, perhaps another thing I have learned is one can demonstrate and provide love to another without being married to them. One can be intimately involved and supportive of other without being sexually involved with them. All of that takes thought, commitment, and reflection. It requires an ability to be selfless, and yet not losing one’s autonomy or self worth. I think of one who told me I have loved a number of people, but I did not marry them. This was a giving and thoughtful love that taught them how to love. They are still married and in their 70s. They still inspire and teach me. Thanks Lee and Judy.

To everyone else, thank you for reading.

Michael

Author:

I am a professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and the director of and Professional and Technical Writing minor, a 24 credit certificate for non-degree seeking people, and now a concentration in Professional Writing and Digital Rhetoric. We work closely to move students into a 4+1 Masters Program with Instructional Technology. I love my work and I am content with what life has handed me. I merely try to make a difference for others by what I share, write, or ponder through my words.

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