Vintage Magpie: Choosing the Beast

Some thoughts on love for Valentine’s week…(originally posted 9/08)

Choosing the Beast

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I sat in silence for the first time in a long time today. No television on as background noise, no music, not even the warm tumble-thump of the dryer. Just the candles and a tub full of warm water, and the sounds of my noisy mind slowly settling into stillness.

There is a way of holding still without becoming stiff that only happens for me in the womb like waters of a bathtub. As I have no bathtub here in my Danish expat home, this watery stillness is a much longed for and uncommon occurrence. Today, in my borrowed claw foot basin something came to my side. A revelation:

The choice to love, to really love, is incredibly, ridiculously brave.

It is not a surrendering of self but rather, a time when you scramble a bit to find your footing, and then you stand in your own power and look the Vast Beast in the eye and say, “I choose this.” I choose this thing that can both protect me and tear me apart; that can and will bring me my most enthralling joys and my most excruciating and unanticipated pain. I choose the risk. I choose the possibility of endings. I chose to be as simpatico as old souls and to be equally, heartrendingly misunderstood. I choose to be at intervals rashly taken advantage of and unexpectedly worshipped. I choose this terror and this beauty. I choose love.

There are many times when we step into this place of love in naiveté—in the blithe flush of new crush and happy mutual adoration, blissfully unaware of the awe-full power we are inviting into our lives. We do this when we marry; when we choose our children; when we accidentally fall in love with a jubilant soul, with the idea of beauty, with wanting to be a writer or a painter or a poet; with a country we did not even know was part of our bones. When this happens, we live in that place for awhile with ease and contentment, unable or unwilling to see the depth of the pact we have made, not acknowledging that some part of our soul was the currency used in the bargain. Sometimes this joyride continues through the long luxurious length of our journey. But more often the fearful awesomeness of what it really takes to sustain the choice to love looms in front of us and we find that we must be very brave. Brave enough to say, “I choose this still.” Brave enough to stay the course, to maintain the bond even when it becomes painful to do so. Brave enough to say I will bear the ache of watching you grow up, of watching you be sick, of watching you grow old. I will bear the confusion over what to do, over how to love you best. I will love you through this whirlwind, through this firestorm. I chose this beast called love.

I am in a place right now where I must very intentionally choose to love: to love people who are far away; to love my challenging tween and teen; and most challengingly to love my own ill and tired self. And I am watching others commit brave acts of love: surrendering to a first love; watching someone die; tending to a baby soul born at midlife; loving someone through the sickness part of “in sickness and in health.” These acts, these making of stands on the high ground of love are so real, so raw, so terrifyingly powerful they make me want to shield my soul from the solar-flare burst of it all.

But I won’t. I don’t. Instead I stand in the choosing. I stand in the heart of the flame and I try to remember, “if you are never afraid you can never be brave.” And then, I chose love.

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Are you ready to chose love? Come be dangerously compassionate with us!

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