Regarding Love, a re-Blog

Over on the Book of Faces, I wrote a few Notes about Love. I’m republishing them here in one large post. Here goes…

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A friend of mine has something in their profile on another social networking site that resonates with ideas and thoughts that have percolated in my head since, well, at least junior high school. Yeah, a long time.

It’s about love. To be specific, loving unconditionally. Here’s what was written:

“One of the most difficult-to-grasp concepts is the notion of loving and expecting nothing in return. That doesn’t mean you should make yourself a doormat or let people take advantage of you. (While real love is unconditional; relationships do have conditions.) It means love for the pure joy of loving. Love is a creative act, and like making art or music, there should be joy in the process. Does it matter if your doodles never end up in a museum or you never perform the song you sing in the shower at Carnegie Hall? If your love is not reciprocated, at least you’ve loved with an open heart; taken pleasure in making another person happy; uplifted the souls and spirits of people with whom your life intersects. Ironically, the more you practice loving without expectation, the more love you will receive…yet that can’t be your goal. (It’s a Zen thing.)”

I think the only thing I disagree with in that paragraph is the first sentence. The concept is not difficult to grasp. In and of itself, the concept is very simple. It’s the practicing that is incredibly challenging. I know—I’ve tried. And failed. And succeeded, I think.

Now, it’s probably fair to say that many parents feel something close to this ideal in relation to their children, if not for their whole lives then at least a significant portion of the child’s growing years. But unconditional love for someone who is not your child is another matter altogether. Even the most secure people can feel strong jealousy at times.

Jealousy springs out of possessiveness, though, not love. Love doesn’t want to hold onto the other person, though it revels in their presence. Love puts the happiness and needs of the other person before your own . . . and finds joy in that act. Those who love (or who are in love, which I view as a slightly different concept) almost always expect, or at least hope, that the person they love will love them in return. That is the way we, as a society, feel it’s supposed to work. But it doesn’t always happen that way. Thus, we have “unrequited love,” where one loves the other hoping to receive love in return, but is simply left hoping. There is rarely much joy in that situation.

Unconditional love removes that hope, removes the need for that hope. The act of love itself is all that is required to bring joy and satisfaction. But in our brains, love is almost always tangled with other things. Physical attraction. Want. Need. And we are confused, mixing these other things with love and mistakenly making them part of love. They are not. Love does not want, love does not need. Love is.

This is where the difficulty comes in. Divorcing need, want, and attraction from love is, again, a relatively simple concept. But just try doing it! Sorting out the tangle of emotions may be something that is beyond the abilities of most people.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t try.

Now, I mentioned above that I think of “love” and being “in love” as slightly different things. Until I wrote that down, I hadn’t really tried to quantify the difference. It got me thinking. “Love” has already been discussed, so that leaves the other.

Being “in love” is, perhaps, like a cocktail. Several things all shaken (or stirred) together. Its main ingredient is love, but there are other emotions and feelings involved. One of which, physical attraction, I mentioned before as being apart from pure love. I still feel that it is a different thing. But it is a component of the “in love” cocktail. A feeling of romance is also part of the cocktail, and is, in a way, a linkage between love and physical attraction.

The third facet is sex. These thoughts are driven by several things, but are mostly prompted by an interview (here: http://fanboy.gaymer.info/post/1252849523/lgm-exclusive-samuel-r-delany ) with my favorite author and good friend, Samuel R. Delany.

My thoughts here relate to a few of the many thoughts Delany touches upon in his interview. Especially his long response to the final question. And, in particular, these four paragraphs:

“A certain order of fidelity in a mate is supposed to make you feel good and of worth. But as soon as we learn a sex partner’s behavior has deviated from that, even if he or she is miles away in another city, you should feel hurt and disrespected—and anyone who hurts and disrespects you is supposed to make you suffer unbearably.

“Well, my personal worth does not depend on whom my partner fucks or sucks with, when he’s not with me. Nor does his worth depend on whom I fuck or suck with, when I’m not with him. We’ve been pretty happy together, now, for twenty years. I’ve been gifted with someone I love so much it still can block my throat, make my belly and chest feel like they just exploded with electric happiness, and my eyes water, at three o’clock in the morning, when I turn the light on and see him sleeping next to me, holding my hand.

“Or when he sends me an e-mail or leaves me a note signed with love.

“The primary want in my life is for him to be as happy as possible, and if having sex with someone else besides me would make him feel good, what else can I reasonably  want other than for him to do it? He claims he feels the same way about me. Our own sex is one of the most reassuring elements of my own life, and it’s been that way for a couple of decades.”

That’s about as open as a relationship can get, and they’ve been together longer than most married hetero couples I know. My brain goes in so many directions when I read this. Certainly I do not question the validity of his statements. What comes to mind most, however, are questions. Is this the (or one of the) ultimate act(s) of love–to be happy with whatever makes your partner happy, regardless of what that might be? Is this something that only a few people are capable of? Now, obviously, Delany is gay and I have noted amongst my myriad friends in the LGBT community a certain departure from what most hetero couples would consider to be “faithfulness” in a committed relationship. I’m not trying to tar all with the same feather, just noting things I’ve heard from many friends. So, with that disclaimer in mind, is this more of a gay thing? Or perhaps it’s a male thing?

I am brought back to my statements above about jealousy and possessiveness. I wrote those original statements in 2008. Delany’s interview took place in the summer of 2010. Surely my thoughts were somewhat along the same lines; clearly I did not take it to it’s ultimate conclusion. I doubt I would have been able to.

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I Am No Longer A Soulless Bastard

Had you called me a Soulless bastard this time yesterday, I would have had no choice but to agree. My Kia Soul was still in the hands of the Collision Factory, held hostage by the machinations of “Bogus, Drag-Our-Feet, Scam-You Insurance” (they advertise as Fred Loya Insurance). Ah, but just after 1pm yesterday afternoon, my Soul was returned to me. (YES!) There’s still a small amount of work to be done. Collision Factory will take care of it in the next couple of weeks. They’ve been very nice. I’m happy with the work they did, and it’s guaranteed for life. As to being a bastard, there’s not much I can do about that. My mom and her first/third husband did not realize that quickie Mexican divorces are not recognized in the US. So, technically, my mom and dad weren’t married when I was born. What can I say? I may not be Soulless, but I’ll always be a bastard.

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Don’t Trip On That Guilt You Just Dropped In Front Of Me

I am a very emotional person. While I try to be slow to anger, some things do set me off. At other times, I experience joy and sadness very powerfully. I love fiercely. I can be extremely bored or amazingly excited.

I have had people try to manipulate my emotions. Guilt is a big one. I’m becoming more and more immune to guilt trips. In fact, I’m finding that being on the receiving end of a guilt trip actually puts me closer to irritation and anger. You wanna piss me off? Try a guilt trip. I may or may not feel guilty when you’re done, but you can be pretty much guaranteed you’re setting me on a path to being angry with you.

Lately, though, I’ve been in three different situations where, from my perspective, someone has tried to tell me how I should feel. No. You may have the right to tell me how to act in a given interaction with you. But no one has the right to decide my feelings. They are mine. I will boil in my own anger. I will enjoy my happiness–I’ll share it if you want some! I will feel love for anyone or anything I so choose. I will be sad, joyful, melancholy, agitated, expectant, bored, excited, or any of the myriad emotions I feel–regardless of whether someone wants to be the recipient or not, regardless of whether or not someone thinks my feelings are appropriate. It’s there, it’s mine. Take it or leave it if I give it to you. But never try to make me let go of or otherwise invalidate my feelings. Just because I put them out there does not give anyone the right to tell me what I may or may not feel. What am I feeling right now? Righteous Indignation that anyone would think to tell me how I may or may not feel. How dare you!

A Taste Of Things To Come

Just to whet everyone’s appetite for more of my Mom Stories, I thought it might be fun (or slightly evil in a teasing, tempting way) to name off the next six titles I’m working on. Then I’ll come back here and make them into live links as I post them. So, without further ado, here are some future Mom titles:

Mom vs. The Backrest

Mom vs. The Water Beetle

Mom vs. Days Of The Week

Mom vs. Trader Joe’s

Mom vs. The Parked Car

Mom vs. The Postwoman

I hope they will all bring you much joy and laughter in reading them. At least as much to equal or exceed the amount of embarrassment and face-palming I experienced when they happened.

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The Imminent Return Of My Soul

I’ve been without my Soul for too long.

It’s been three weeks since my car was hit. Nearly two weeks since Scam Artist Insurance gave preliminary, but not complete, approval to get it fixed. I was hoping to have it last Friday. Then Monday. Today is Wednesday. Scam Artist Insurance dragged their heels throughout the process, slowly approving each stage of work. I don’t get it. They’re paying for (an admittedly crappy and, I’m sure, very inexpensive) rental car for me. The longer they take to approve, the more rental days they’re paying for. I want my car back. I like my car. It’s a black 2010 Kia Soul. You know, the hip-hop hamster car. I’m sick of the POS rental I’ve been driving for nigh on two weeks.

I hope I get my Soul back today. I really do.

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It’s Not Rocket Science

I’m not asking someone to design a webpage. I don’t need them to program a database. I need someone to receive an email (at the email address they provided to me–I copied and pasted it) from the online training system used by the industry I work in. Click. Enter the username and password provided in the email you received, and login. Read the information that comes up, take the 30-question (multiple answer and true-false) test, and boom, done.

This is apparently far too much to ask of most people. From what I can tell, just getting logged in (no, I’m not even talking about getting to the test, oh hell, no!) is far more complicated than a Rubik’s Cube to a monkey and more painful than splinters under the fingernails. Because no one seems to figure it out. Seriously? I mean, SERIOUSLY? These are BASIC SKILLS, people. Basic. Skills. If you are going to function in modern Western society you need to know how to receive an email. You need to know what I mean when I say “check your junk folder.” (The proper response, by the way, is not “huh?”) In fact, you should know to check your damn junk mail folder before you call and say you haven’t received the email. You’re not a baboon. You are a human being living in the second decade of the 21st century. Pull yourself out of the 1980s or get a job mopping floors. But DO NOT WASTE MY TIME IF YOU CAN’T FIGURE OUT HOW TO CLICK ON A FRIGGIN’ LINK!

An Impromptu Jam

Just before the weekend, my long-time friend Greg asked if I was going to be at “Birdstock”, the street fair in Bird Rock. I hadn’t even known about it, but it looked like fun. So, Sunday afternoon I cruised into my old neighborhood. Met up with Greg (who is an excellent guitar and keyboard player), his kids, and another long-time friend, Jeff. Jeff was actually the very first drummer I knew. We–Bart, Jeff, and I–had a few jams in our early teens.

It turns out they had some sort of performance lined up around the time the street fair was scheduled to close down, and they asked me to come over and play a few songs. Years ago, Jeff had bought me a really thoughtful gift: a Union Jack pickguard . . . for a guitar I no longer owned. Naturally, I insisted he keep it. On Sunday I got to play the guitar he put it on. It felt, played, and sounded great as I cranked Smoke On The Water through his Marshall JCM800 half-stack. No mic was set up yet, so I just sang at the top of my lungs. It’s such a fun song to belt out.

I had a great time, whether it was playing, singing, or simply hanging out listening to the other musicians having fun.

Turns out Greg is putting something together band-wise for next week’s high school reunion. I’ll be playing and singing a song or three there, now, too.

Time to get the lungs going for a little Who, methinks.

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Mom vs. Def Leppard

My mom talks about me a lot and to pretty much anyone who will listen. It can be nice at times, embarrassing at others. She almost always mentions that I’m a musician. Her hairdresser, the woman at the dry cleaners, the clerk at 7-11 where she buys her lottery tickets, the mailman, bank tellers, and clergy are among the many who know I’m in a band due to the fact that my mom tends to go on about it. As things go, that’s actually good. Promotion!

On one of her trips back home to London, she was telling the flight attendant on her Virgin Atlantic flight about me. Here’s where it gets interesting. Now, my mom would fly business class on the old company’s dime. She had legitimate business to do and as the president of that company always flew first class, he did not balk at a business class ticket for her. Virgin Atlantic, however, does not have first class. They have Upper Class. Business Class pricing with better-than-first-class amenities. Go mom!

So on this one particular flight, she noticed several guys who looked a bit . . . ragged. Torn jeans, etc.. Just not the normal Upper Class attire she was accustomed to, whatever that may have been. Back then (early 1990s), Virgin used to pass around a guest book for all the Upper Class passengers to sign on each flight. When the book got to her, the raggedy guys had already signed. Next to his signature, one of them had written “We Are Def Leppard!” This was totally lost on my mom. No idea. Clueless. But she decided to go talk to them.

“Are you guys in a band?” Yes. “Oh, do you have any records out?” Yes. You can probably find one at HMV. Well, she felt so bad for them, in their raggedy clothes, that she was certainly going to go buy one of their records to help them out. Which she eventually did. (And which is when things dawned on her… but I’m getting ahead of myself.)

What she did not do, however, is mention that her son is in a band. That’s right. Tell your hairdresser, tell the bank teller, let the flight attendant know, because all of these people would be so incredibly helpful in furthering my musical career, but do not tell DEF FUCKING LEPPARD! Seriously? SERIOUSLY?

I learned of all this via a phone call from her hotel room after she had been to HMV and figured out they MIGHT be slightly famous. (Apparently, the fact that they were flying in UPPER CLASS did not impact her assessment of things.)

She did ask me one thing. “Now, dear, I know that it was the fashion several years ago to wear an eye patch even if your eye is good, but that one boy, well . . . is it the fashion to pretend you only have one arm?”

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Mom vs. Not-Andre

For decades, my mom has had a good friend whose name is Marjorie. “Margie” is what everyone calls her. Margie married a Frenchman named Andre. As he aged, he became slightly more round (as most of us do), and his hair and beard went bright white. Picture that . . . okay, good. Now understand this: my mom tends to notice things and act quickly before taking in the whole situation. Andre, or, to be specific, a gentleman who is not Andre, is a perfect example. You see, there is at least one other gentleman in town who looks fairly similar to Andre. At least from the corner of your eye. When you look straight at him, it’s completely obvious that he is not Andre. But by the time my mom gets a chance to look straight at him, it’s already far too late.

This is because as soon as she sees him out the corner of her eye, typically across the street or outside the window of a shop she happens to be in, my mom immediately begins to wave at him: “There’s Andre! Hi, Andre!” Then comes the actual observation, followed by a muted, “Oh, that’s not Andre,” and a called out, “Sorry! Thought you were someone else!”

It wouldn’t be so bad if Not-Andre was not always with a woman I presume to be his wife.

Yeah. Not good. This woman stares daggers back at my mom every time. Gee, I wonder why. (For the record, she looks nothing like Margie, so it begs the question why my mom didn’t wonder why “Andre” was out with some other woman.)

The last time I recall this happening, Not-Andre and his wife were passing outside the window of the restaurant where my mom, my wife, and I were having lunch. Same routine: as she notices, the arm begins to go up, her face brightens, and between the words “oh” and “look” she has already begun to wave. “There’s Andre!” Then she quickly averts her eyes, brings her arm down, pulls in her shoulders, and makes herself smaller. “Oh, that’s not Andre.” Then she sort of waves again through the window and mouthes “sorry!”

This time, we could see the fury on his wife’s face as she lightly struck him on the shoulder and I could clearly read her lips. “Who is that woman? How do you know her? What is going on?” He shrunk back from her blows and the verbal barrage, shrugging, hands raised, palms up–I could not see his lips, but his body language was obvious. He had no idea in the world who my mom is, nor why she kept waving at him. Poor Not-Andre. Getting accused of an affair and not actually getting the benefits of one.

It’s over now, though. The real Andre passed away last year. Margie is dealing with the loss as best she can. My mom is there for her, so that’s a plus.

I do hope, though, that Not-Andre was able to salvage his marriage.

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Mom vs. The Remote Control

Mentally speaking, my mom lives in a world apart from the one where we are physically present. Technical things are a mystery to her. Take, for instance, that most common and omnipresent of objects in the Western household, the remote control. After several years of owning a particular TV, my mom’s remote control began having issues. Based on previous stories, one might be tempted to think a hot caffeinated beverage might be involved. Not this time, at least.

Eventually, the remote control gave up the ghost and stopped working altogether.

I was at her place the day she had bought a new universal remote from Radio Shack. She opened it up and asked me to set it up for her. I read the instructions and then asked her for batteries.

“Batteries? Why would you need batteries?”

“Because that’s how they work, mom. The batteries supply the power to send the signal… Mom? Did you try replacing the batteries in the old remote before you got this one?”

“That one doesn’t take batteries.”

“No, mom, I’m positive it does. How else would it work?”

“I thought they worked by magic.”

(Arthur C. Clarke had not yet died when this happened. His adage was proven right within his own lifetime.)

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