This has been an intense time for me.
3 ½ months of reading and reading and reading and reflecting and writing and going to church and going to church and reading and deciphering Hebrew and reading and reading and writing and reflecting and researching and reading and going to church and planning a liturgy and reading and reading and writing and reflecting and reading and deciphering Hebrew and reading and then synthesizing all of that into a few papers and exams.
Whew! In a meeting with my faculty advisor early in the semester, he asked how I was doing and I said that I felt as though I’d been assaulted by the readings. He looked concerned and then laughed when he realized I was kidding… only I wasn’t really kidding.
And then… coming home… more intensity… hugging and hugging and hugging and hugging and smiling and kissing and hugging and loving and listening and laughing and hugging and telling and sharing and crying and hugging and listening and smiling and hugging and singing and dancing and hugging and hugging and laughing and laughing and laughing and hugging and loving and kissing and smiling.
Whew! I almost wish I had a faculty advisor for this one too.
It’s curious to watch how I deal with all this intensity. At school, the intensity is, well, pretty intense. I was talking to my dad earlier today about it and I told him that this kind of study is so engrossing that before I knew it, a month had gone by and I missed about 9 birthdays. The temptation is to be so utterly focused on the work and the tasks of the community life that all else is forgotten. It isn’t just heady work either, we are constantly being asked to engage and reflect on the content of the classes. But even given all of that challenge, I thrived in that environment. There is something in that kind of work that makes me fully engage. I love it and can meet it head on.
So what about the intensity of being home? You might think I thrive here too. And I do. However, I’m not nearly as graceful with this kind of intensity because I have somehow made the decision (for reasons that I won’t go into right now) that I don’t have much capacity to engage with it, with this overwhelming love. As a matter of fact, when I’m faced with this kind of love and generosity, I “pucker up.” It’s a useful phrase from a less-than-eloquent metaphor. Puckering up for me does not mean that I’m about to kiss someone. No… puckering up for me means that grab on, hunker down, tense up… it means a lack of flow.
When faced with love, my initial reaction is disbelief. I have to fight most of the time to be able to accept it. Sometimes the only thing that gets me to that place is the knowledge that “this person” needs me to accept their love. It’s not a great way to go about it, but it can be a way to open the door, or to use my metaphor, to relax and “unpucker” just a bit.
So, I don’t do well with this kind of intensity. However, I have to say that I’ve gotten better at it with most of my friends. Much of the time I’m actually able to accept this amazing wave of love that overwhelms me and pulls me under. As with the ocean, it seems that when I stop struggling, I’m able to breathe and just swim. I’m happy to report that most of my friendships are just like this. I get swept up by a wonderful wave and it’s quite amazing.
And then there are people for whom I have deeper, more intense feelings. This never goes well for me. The puckering happens so fast that I never really have a chance and so I just go away. I can’t even look them in the eyes for fear that they will see it… or perhaps it is a fear that I will feel it and it will come spilling out… all messy and unwelcome. I’ve been trying to imagine what this must look like from the outside… a blank stare, a flat affect, an inability to hold a meaningful conversation because of the 10 malicious directives going through my mind about how to be “less than”… in essence, what it amounts to is a disappearance.
Lately though, there is a growing awareness that I cannot do this anymore. A voice from deep within me is beginning to shout, “NO!” I can no longer abide by my egoic insistence that this is how things have to be. I cannot continue this disappearing act. It’s not true, it’s not honorable, and it’s not loving. I am turning 40 this coming year. So, I have to ask the question, am I really going to spend the rest of my life puckering up? At one time in my life, the puckering was important and probably helpful. Now it just causes me pain as I clumsily interact or not interact with those for whom I have deep affection.
But I’m also aware that I don’t know how to do this… How exactly does one un-pucker? With some sort of cosmic plunging device? I’m being a little silly with this metaphor, of course, but the question is the perennial one: How do I stop getting in the way of love?
Any thoughts are, of course, welcome and any prayers if you happen to think of it. And just like the movie It’s a Wonderful Life where the bells signify the angels getting wings, if you hear somewhere the sound of a great plunger making that suction sound, who knows… it might just be someone unpuckering.