The fact is that certain circumstances in my life recently have caused me to question my own ability to love. I find myself pondering the possibility that I cannot really love, but I know so well how to play the part that I have been fooling myself and other people for years.
Florence tells me I am a good person......I am not so sure about that right now. Could it be that I have simply learned how to fake it superbly and really have a heart like an iceberg ? (Does anyone remember that great song. "Hard Hearted Hannah" ..... the vamp of Savannah.....the meanest gal in town.... talk about your cold, refrigerating Mammas....whoops, boys, she's a Polar bear's pajamas....)
But to get serious again, my most recent struggle in maintaining my relationships has caused me to ruminate on Love an general and my ability to love in particular. Perhaps some of you may think it strange for an ancient person such as myself to be thinking and philosophizing about love. Not at all. Don't be silly. Love is the most important thing in our lives. The ability to love others and to be loved/accept love is what keeps us alive. And equally as important,I have learned, is the ability to love ourselves which somehow is creating a conundrum that I am having trouble solving. I have found that there is a certain point at which one must stop being loving or at least say "No" to another's request because it becomes harmful to one's own well being.
Oh, hell, you must know that I am not talking about the love of " falling in love" .......that usually bears little relationship to real love... ... though it may, in some cases, develop into the real thing somewhere down the line. ( The love experienced when you are falling is usually 97% lust egged on by some childish faulty judgment.)
No, I am talking about caring about someone who makes you happy and wanting to make them happy and/or make their lives better. Or something like that. There are so many kinds and degrees of love. At the top, I guess, is unconditional love. The kind that makes people rush into burning buildings to save the ones they love at risk of their own lives. The kind that, no matter what awful thing you discover about a loved one, no matter how they may disappoint or even betray you in some way or another, you can adjust and still love them in spite of it all. I realized that I am not very good at that kind of love. I am too judgmental. There are some things which can make me stop loving a person altogether.... like shaking something repellent off my fingers. I don't think that is acceptable in the field of love and I guess Ishould be ashamed, but I don't think I am.
There is also the slippery slope where love turns into need......a totally different thing. Barbra Streisand you are wrong.....People who need people are not the luckiest people in the world. Need can turn what was once love into subliminal anger and possibly an uncontrolled fear and worrying that you might lose the object of your affection. Love becomes adulterated and burdensome to both lover and lovee..
Then, there is the dangerous path where caring too much slips,without your realizing it, into martyrdom. Been there, done that. Didn't like it and had to give it up. I think I am pretty good about caring, but unfortunately I have found myself caring about and for people so much that it almost killed me. I have had to learn to pull back and save a little bit for myself. And I know I care too much about animals, but I can't help it. They are so pure , beautiful, honest and unsullied that I must love them and care for them as much as I can.......but even there I draw a line. I have refused to bankrupt myself to save an animal that I loved and I have, with much agony, had to give up several beloved cats who had such incurable bad habits that they made my life a living hell. and ultimately caused a fire that almost destroyed my house. I still feel bad about that, but it was a definite case of Me or Them. I guess I am just too selfish to love unconditionally.
So, please, those of you whom I love, don't get trapped in a burning building and expect me to rush in and save you unless there is a damned good chance we can both get out alive and unscorched. Better yet.....just don't get trapped in any burning buildings.
So there we are.....or...where are we? Where can I rate myself on the scale of being a loving person? Hell, to me it looks like about a 2. Sigh. I will have to keep working at it I guess..
Am I Beelzebub or Mother Theresa? Closer perhaps to St Francis?...........Naaaaah. Too dramatic.
I guess I am just Lo who can only love imperfectly.
The New Yorker covers: February 10, 1968
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