Brian: "You have to be different." The Crowd: "Yes, we are all different!" Small lonely Voice: "I'm not different."
Thursday, September 23, 2010
To Love and Courage
I think this perfectly describes what I've come to know about love and what I'm still learning how to do (minus the ball scratching). It's not honesty, but courage that you need when it comes to love. To trust that the other person will take you just the way you are, that you're worth it.
I was mistaking sincerity for honesty — a young man's mistake, really. And I could not access honesty, because that would have called for courage. I needed to tell her what I really thought: that we were in my bed, in my apartment, that it was clear she hadn't heard a word I'd said since ball scratch No. 1 and ball scratch No. 2, and that she couldn't stop herself from insulting me and my family, all because her sensibilities were offended by the thought of my fingernails coming in contact with my own scrotum. And me — feckless, cringing me — the only work I was doing was working to access a more believable tone of voice.
I'm all for compromise, but I should have shown a little courage and told her what was what. But I know I was afraid of what she would think, what she'd tell her friends and my friends, and I'd be known forever as a ball-scratcher. I should have just told her what I was thinking, that it might not be her business at that point. But even then, on that very first morning, I wanted to love her, and I wanted to be loved. I believed then that love was simply a matter of submission and apology. What a dope.
The only thing that matters in love is courage. Everything that's good about love is borne out of it. The truest revelations of self require it. There is no honesty without it. It takes courage to put the needs of another above your own. You can't tell the most important stories about your past, can't reveal your imperfections, without it. You can't see the flaws in your own expectations of love without being brave enough to admit they are misguided, damaged, even boneheaded, then do the work to adjust them to the love you come to discover. It is courage that allows you to step into the jaws of trust.
For years now, I've thought of that moment with the ball-scratching — a small incident, magnified by years of the same pattern on my part. Why did I apologize? Why didn't I object? I can only say this would have saved me years of desperately trying to please this woman, and women in general, by apologizing for what I am — a talky, generous, misguided ball-scratcher. A guy who, also for years, worked under the assumption that apology represents a desirable form of intimacy in itself, a guy who lacked the fortitude — the courage — to risk a little loss in the declaration of self.
I still have a lot of trouble telling people, loved ones, how I really feel. The fear of rejection, of being wrong, of need for apology being something the other craves has been ingrained in me. I want more courage and slowly with the help of people who love me I've been gathering it up, slowly but surely.