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Fragility, fear, and freedom

May 12th, 2004 · No Comments

Fragility. The word that comes to mind when I read Wendy Koslow’s post . What she has been writing about her relationship with Joey refreshes me. Her descriptions of how it feels to be in love – and how to know you are in love ring true. “This time, it’s from the core of me, not an ache but a pulling sensation, to the west, where he is.” Laughing on the phone with the one you love sounds all too familiar – and fun. I’m grateful for her honesty, bravery and passion. Her stories linger in me days later or catch me with their accuracy. The way she described her fear reminded me of my own fears. Everyone’s relationship and situation are different. But what Wendy writes can take me back in time to my own fun and my own fears…as I wander into my own memories and musings…of our pre-marriage, pre-commitment days…

I remember that state of being, that strange place of relationship, when you know you want someone but you don’t know how it will all work out. You’ve handed this guy your heart on a platter, you’re in love, you can’t think of life without him but there’s not a guarantee yet that he’ll be in your life in the future. Maybe even past tomorrow. Who can see so far?! It’s scary.

All along when I was dating Ted, I never planned on anything permanent.

We even avoided telling people for a while that we were a twosome; I feared that we would break-up and then we’d have to tell everyone that news too. It felt very fragile to me. I hesitated. I took careful steps. I never thought it would last. Although after a while I wanted to marry Ted. Yet I held each day as a bird in the hand that might fly away any moment. I enjoyed it while wondering (worrying?!) whether there would be a tomorrow. I think I even resisted it when people would call me “Ted’s girlfriend” – that title seemed too permanent to me.

Jay McCarthy recently wrote about seeing a show in New York. The memory that came to mind for me was the New York show I never got to see. Friends of ours were going to see Phantom of the Opera. Years ago, yes. We had to buy tickets months in advance for an August performance. At that time, we had been dating a year. We were in our treading water period, waiting to figure out where we were going. It was awkward. I wasn’t sure we should buy tickets. Would we still be dating in the summer? Who knew?! Ted and I seemed a bit shaky. It seemed to be a big risk to me. There had even been talk about Dating Other People. What if we broke up by then? I wouldn’t buy the tickets. Too big a commitment. But Ted bought them anyway. I took it as a sign that he wanted to stay together. Or maybe he’d take someone else. August came and we were still together. I spent the summer out East instead of going home. We bought a diamond ring. We were all set to go to New York to see the show when the Hurricane arrived and cancelled our plans. Ironic. I had been so afraid of the future. Too scared to plan on Phantom. Yet here we were in August, on our way to the show, engaged – and our trip was cancelled.

I remember that stage well though, how hesitant I was to hang any hopes on tomorrow although I loved Ted. And others had their opinions too. One friend of mine gave me fabric for a wedding gown. It can be hard to see clearly when friends and family have their own strong opinions about what should happen with your relationship. On the one hand, I wanted their advice and perspective. I wanted to know if I was making a mistake. But on the other hand, I knew I had to make the decision about the relationship myself. I had to be willing to “fight” for it, as Wendy says.

I remember the fear. I didn’t like the fragility. It was scary. I like life certain and scheduled. I like to know where I’m going. I like to hold onto things. Having an open hand with our relationship was hard.

Yet I think that all relationships have some fragility to them. Love isn’t love unless you can choose to leave. Ted’s always free to go. Yes we vowed before God and a church full of people that we’d stay together, and now we’ve got a house and kids and a minivan and all kinds of stuff like some sort of tangible cement on our love. I don’t want him to leave. But I also think that loving someone means letting them leave. Caged things die.

So Ted could always leave me. Or he could die. There’s no guarantee that he’ll be alive tomorrow – or that I will be either. If we both wake up breathing, that’s a blessing. I can take it for granted or I can take it as a gift.

Yes, the diamond ring, the engagement and the wedding have given us some stability. It’s not as scary as it once was.

Or maybe it is scary. I believe that perfect love is free of fear, but love between two humans will be imperfect. There will be fears. And in some sense, the stakes go up with marriage. Will he still love me ten years from now? What if I get pregnant and get unattractive? What if he finds someone else? What if we bore each other? What if it doesn’t work? What if we’re miserable in our marriage?

Somewhere between the fragility and fear, there is freedom. Freedom in learning to love without any strings attached. Without (before?) any rings attaching you to each other. No one belongs to anyone ultimately anyway: we each go to the grave alone. There is freedom in faith. In believing in Love. In trusting Love to give what is good tomorrow and living fully in today no matter what the risk or cost might be later.

At some stages of romance, love seems more stable than others. But I think you always have to want to fight for it. And it will always be fragile too. If it’s not worth fighting for, and if it’s not fragile, then it’s not love.

As Wendy wrote:Nothing good is ever easy.

Tags: journal