After spending most of my Thanksgiving weekend writing, I took my story to writing group. “So what do you think?” I asked.
There was a heavy silence that said, “Not so much.”
‘Not enough love’ was the takeaway. Thinking about this, I wondered if my definition of love was getting in the way. While waiting for my cardiologist, I remembered a therapy session from two weeks.
“Define love,” my therapist said.
“Well you say you want it and I’d like to know what is you want.” (Damn therapist doesn’t let me off the hook.)
I took a deep breath and out came, “I define love as a freefall slamming onto a floor of obsidian stalagmites puncturing my heart and brain.”
“Yeah. That might be a challenge to work with,” he said sitting back. He rifled through my thick folder.
“But let me explain,” I said.
“Uh huh,” he said. He put the folder back on his desk, planted his feet on the floor. “You have my full attention.”
“Doesn’t love feel like a freefall? If you give it your all, the bottom drops out from under you. For a while you are floating on air then you plummet.”
“What prompts the plummet?”
“Is there a love out there without some episode of betrayal or lying or cheating? Not the big Bs, Ls, or Cs but the lowercase little hurts that we do everyday.”
“Is there more?” (I could hear him saying under his breath, “I wonder if she is hearing voices … ”)
“YES. Yes. How the lovers deal with these kerfuffles is what is important to me. Do they have the skills to put things back together, say they are sorry, reach out to the other person, put aside their own shame and guilt long enough to hear the other person? Do the lovers know when to get themselves to a therapist?”
“Well you’ve been an ongoing source of income for me,” he said. (I have resigned myself to an ongoing contribution to his retirement account.)
“I like the image of stalagmites. Stalagmites are formations of droppings from the ceiling composed of sand, minerals, ice, lava and other materials. Perhaps they are records of my tears and debris from relationships that did not work out or ended badly. Because the truth is – most relationships do not work out and some end badly.”
“Your relationships end badly?” he said.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. These are growth experiences. Frankly, I have grown enough.” (I’ve been in therapy for a long while.)
“If you say so,” he said.
“And obsidian is a great material and image. Mostly black in color but with some variations. Sometimes with snowflake crystals in the rock – could be hope. Obsidian’s sharp, sharp enough to be used in scalpel blades and knives. It would puncture if you fell on it. Who hasn’t felt like their heart and brain were punctured?”
“You’re telling me you feel like you’ve been punctured by love?”
“Not to get too Freudian about it. Yes. And if you are not going to take off all the protective armor around your heart and open up your consciousness to new experiences then what’s the point of love?”
We sat there in silence. A therapeutic smack down.
“It’s a stark image,” I said to my therapist.
“You think?” he said.
“I stand by it.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Maybe love is stark. Maybe it’s not the roses and sweet nothings of the movies where every challenge is overcome in ninety minutes, maybe two hours if it is epic. Maybe love is an all day, each day terrifying vulnerability with sporadic times of comfort and safety. A logistical Rubik’s cube. And sex.”
“Hmm,” he said.
“I don’t buy the Disney sanitized version of love. I want mine messy and real, even dangerous. With a mix of snotty tears and belly laughs, the ho-hum dailiness and the breath-snatching seconds.”
Maybe I just need to rewrite the damn story with all the stark messiness and real danger of my definition of love instead of trying to fit my story into a Mickey and Minnie Mouse construction. Quite possibly that’s why the story didn’t work.
Love, be a story tonight.