For Love

As the big day for romance approaches I am filled with love. It has been said that we are only able to fully love when we acknowledge that the world is a terrible place. It is. And yet…we have chemistry on our side. Oxytocin, the so-called cuddle chemical (L. Phillips) fills me as I write this from my firelit room in freezing Michigan, far away from the sunny little one who caused this physical reaction.

owen.me.Photo on 2-5-15 at 6.36 PM #2

This is Owen. No matter the distance, my love for him persists.

I’m a fortunate person. All my life I have had one goal: to be a good wife and mother. And while I have not always met my own expectations, in fact, have often failed, I am grateful to have lived to see both my children grown and beloved and happy. Recently, I have also found my own hard-won happiness. For the first time in my life, I am putting myself first. I love my family. Visiting my son, his wife, and my grandson makes that love feel very immediate. So I have many reasons to feel fortunate, although they all come down to one thing: love.

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A friend gave me the picture frame above. Family is Everything. Is that true? Certainly I’ve lived my life as if it were. But what about friendship? I really love my friends. And I feel such compassion for all the lonely people without family or a beloved or a best friend. Because their circumstances leave them without close connections, are they nothing? Do they deserve nothing? I think they deserve everything. Love is everything and everyone deserves it. Unless they, you know, rape and pillage and so forth. Those people, I don’t know. They probably never got enough love. Or they were born defective, without empathy, which is the definition of a psychopath.

I don’t really like to talk about my family and psychopaths in the same post. It’s an unfortunate and uncomfortable truth: the world can be such a sad, bad place but also full of joy and wonder.

This weekend we have official permission to dwell on love. I measure life a success if you have happiness and love. The two seem to me to be twins, mirroring each other, shining like glitter on fresh snow. But ah, there’s the catch: snow is cold and icy and so too is a life without love, or a life that is lived loving someone who will never return your feelings.

Unrequited love is much on my mind as we come to Cupid’s special day. I think of all the sad lovers, the unhappy lovers, the unrequited lovers in the world. For so many people, this weekend is going to be full of tears. I have been in that place. Is there anyone who has not?

If you came to this page because you’re alone on a day when it hurts more than usual, I can tell you again: love yourself first. Love can transform itself. You can love someone without them returning that love and it is still good to feel that love inside yourself. Turn it around and give it to yourself. It feels a little weird at first but it works, I swear it does.

Photo on 10-20-14 at 5.39 AM

You can be alone with a box of chocolates and love yourself, not by eating the box empty, but by feeling that love you have for another as a good thing. Let it expand and fall back upon your own self. Love is why we are here: to love ourselves well and to love others. Feel love, send love, speak love. Even if you are sad and alone and have the flu. I in fact have the flu at this moment and perhaps that is why this post seems a little effusive. The DayQuil made me do it!

Love yourself well. Take rest and allow your heart to heal if it is broken or bruised or heavy.

Like attracts like and if you let love reside without prejudice, it will return to you. You will be loved. Love is not what you think it is. It is not always hearts and flowers and that sweet rush of pure junkie joy that comes from the new. We get addicted to the high of new love like we get addicted to chocolate and grandchildren. After my time with Owen, I wanted someone to make me a perfume that smelled like him: milk and baby lotion and that special Owen-ness.

Sometimes love can be quiet and strong and giving. Give love freely even when it flies right out the window, right past the heart you aim it at. Love anyway. If you are broken, let love heal your heart. And if you have the flu, take two NyQuil and call me in the morning.

Post-Romantic Stress Disorder

PRSDBeen reading this awesome book by the father of the “inner child” movement that helped so many of us recover from childhood wounds. Bradshaw looked to experts in the fields of love, relationships, and science to infuse this book with smart advice for writers of love stories– unintended I’m sure–probably wrote it for actual real people in love or falling out of love fast and wondering what the hell happened.

fMRI imaging makes it possible for scientists to actually view the different areas of the brain and pinpoint the exact chemicals our bodies produce when we fall in love. I wrote them down somewhere but basically there are two or three hormones that kick into overdrive, one being testosterone (easy one:) and two others which act on the body like amphetamines. Thus the reason why we sleep and eat less when falling in love. Great for a diet, not so great for optimum clear-headedness.

Crazy in love is more than just a cliché, as it turns out.  These chemicals bath our brains, saturate specific areas, suppress serotonin. That drop in serotonin is what creates obsessive thought patterns where you just can’t get that beloved other off your mind. Every waking moment is devoted to thoughts of them. Or, if you’re together, you can’t keep your hands off each other.

This chemical reaction called being in love is natural and was meant to keep the species procreating and populating the planet. But that was back when we didn’t live so long. When people say “forever” these days, they might be in for a shock. About 17 months in, that “in love” feeling wears off. This confounds most people. Some think their marriage or partnership is at fault and divorce or split. “We just fell out of love” they say. Some stay together, but aren’t happy. Most marriages fail, something like 70%.

The lucky 30% make the necessary adjustments into mature love and live (mostly) happily ever after. But the rest of the population live basically miserable lives. Because we are programmed by genetics to form pair bonds. That’s just the way we’re built. Some people turn into love junkies, swinging from one 17 month high to the next. They might stay with their partner but have affairs or engage in other risky behaviors.

Bradshaw sets out to show everyone in a loving, committed relationship how to stay that way. As someone who has been married three times and in love more than I can reveal without embarrassing the hell out of myself, I recognized many of the dysfunctional patterns Bradshaw illustrates. And as someone who wants to stay married, and faithful, and while I’m at it, blissfully happy, I’m interested in his methods for attaining this Nirvana on earth. (I didn’t get to that part yet, will report on methods when I do!)

I needed this book way before now, but somehow have managed to keep my third marriage alive, if not always finely tuned, for 29 years. We’ve had our ups and downs and always have been able to repair damage done. Still, I’m one of those types who wants to know why shit happens. I write a lot about love but before this believed it to be an unfathomable mystery. I wondered what was wrong with me. What happened to the young woman who would do anything for her man? Why was I different?

Not so different after all. 70% of other people wonder these things, too (or at least the ones given to introspection). The answer is easy: it’s all in your head. The chemicals inside specific areas of the brain, to get technical. And thanks to science, we now can learn how to undo those obessessive patterns and blast new and healthier pathways through the brain. Which seems to me would be helpful after the in-love phase ends and that hungry for fattening foods and other bad-for-you- things feeling returns. Stay tuned for those fixes for our love-starved brains when I finish the book:)

Celebration Central

love.photoFinally opened my rusty heart. Hadn’t known it was closed, although all evidence pointed that way. For several years, I eschewed invitations to family holiday parties hosted by  friends because they made me miss my own family and the days back when, every holiday, my house was Celebration Central. Why did I say yes this year when Donna invited Al & me for Easter dinner?

I didn’t think about it, just did not shut down as per usual when the words “family” and “get-together” are mentioned in the same sentence.  As I filled an Easter basket with goodies, I thought about this new thing I was doing. How would it be, seeing grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren? Would I be sad? Would my heart seize?

Patrick.girls.I was not and it did not. I have known this family since my own boys were small. That’s Patrick and his daughters: Juliette on his lap and baby Lilianna in her chair.  Pat and my son Mike were great pals.

When I remarked to Donna’s sister that we hadn’t seen her in too many years, maybe since the cruise, her husband piped up to say they’d seen me up at the cottage not all that long ago. Yes, I remembered. That was the last time I danced on a chair. So it was a little while ago. We’d all matured, some more than others.

Dan had a devilish gleam to his eye. I blushed and shook my head at how silly I had been after one too many glasses of wine. Even full of wine, I remember walking after midnight with Donna to the dock. We settled back to watch the stars, Stony Lake pooling under us, surrounding us, stars from the sky reflecting on the water’s surface. So many stars. Like heaven opened up and shook out an extra handful just for us.

Yesterday, four generations gathered, two dozen in all. We knew every face, every story. These were friends who had turned into family a long time ago, without me noticing. But my heart noticed. And Celebration Central turns out to be located within the heart as well as around the dinner table.Easter.photo

More Love, More Joy

More Love: Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

I grew up and live in Metro Detroit. The Motor City. Motown. So when I went searching for a new theme for this old blog, Smokey Robinson popped into my head. And he was singing this song. Click for video, read on for powerful lyrics that I feel more now than I did as a tween listening to the Motown sound every day on WCLK.

“Let it be soon/don’t hesitate/Make it now/don’t wait/Open your heart and let my love come in/I want the moment to start when I can fill your heart with/More love and more joy/than age or time could ever destroy/Oh honey, now my love will be so sound/Gonna take about a hundred life time/To live it down, wear it down and tear it down

This is no fiction, this is no act/This is real it’s a fact/I’ll always belong only to you/And each day I’ll be living to/make sure I’m giving you More love and more joy/than age or time could ever destroy/Oh honey, now my love will be so sound/It’ll take a hundred life times/To live it down, wear it down, tear it down

As we grow older/no need to fear/when you need me I’ll be here/I’ll be beside you every step of the way/A heart that’s truthful and keeping it youthful with More love and more joy/than age or time could ever destroy/Oh honey, now my love will be so sound/It’ll take a hundred life times/To live it down, oh wear it down and tear it down…”

Just like Smokey, I wanna give you more love and more joy…you my family, you my friends, you who are reading these words. Whatever I can put out there positive to push back all the negative, that’s what I want to do now.

Need You Now

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“It’s a quarter after one, I’m a little drunk, and I need you now.” Music knows. Now that I’m coming off some incredibly disruptive medication, I have been remembering my dreams again. The ones we have at night when we go to sleep. Those dreams.

I had it again last night, the dream I’ve have for forty years. A man from my past, he was a boy then, and I was a girl. His girl. If I thought I got over him during daylight, at night I knew I never really would. We connected in our dreams.

Dreams are funny things. We pretend they are beyond our understanding or control but  they aren’t. I used to have bad dreams, scary dreams, dreams where I was defeated by unspeakable evil. I learned how to wake up inside those dreams and change them. I became the warrior I needed to be. I changed the endings.

Lucid Dreaming is real. Anyone can train themselves to do it.

I didn’t know that when I was 16, 26, 36 even. Back then I thought dreams were just symbols, or messages. So when I’d dream about him, I’d call. It didn’t matter who I was married to, I knew he needed me, so I made contact. All those years, we never made love. I never cheated on my partner with him. But we knew each other so well and no man has ever spoken to me with as much light-filled truth. But he can be cruel, too.

In the dream last night, I didn’t wake, but I behaved my dreamself. I finally saw him in all his beautiful deception. And I knew who I was and to whom I owed my loyalty. I turned away. I woke thinking I needed to call, but this time it was not him I wanted to call. It was the right man. I finally made amends.

Science doesn’t know much about dreams. It isn’t even clear why we dream. Lots of theories out there but not a heck of a lot of fact. One thing science does know, a recent finding, is that our minds don’t recognize the difference between dreaming and daytime thought. Half our lives, completely beyond our control. If you think that’s true, it will be.

We all have longings and we all have our quarter after one moments, but it’s what we do with them that counts.