To me, love is everything.
The name of my blog, “the space between,” is a reference to that belief. Everything in this life that means anything at all happens in the context of relationship, that “space between” people. And not just people: creatures, groups, nations, objects, ingredients, skills, elements, atomic particles, nature, physics, heavenly bodies, theories, emotions, opinions and ideas are what they are by virtue of their relationships. They may be relationships of love, friendship, opposition, attraction, admiration, reflection, negation, celebration or humiliation, but they are relationships nonetheless.
Nothing and no one exists in isolation. Everything and everyone is in relationship.
Our opinions and beliefs inhabit our relationships. Our convictions affect how we treat the people in our lives.
My most deeply-held convictions are expressed in a set of guiding principles by which I strive to live. Relationship is at the heart of those principles. I try to live a life filled with love and compassion. I seek and honor the goodness that is in every person as a reflection of divine love. I respect the dignity of every human being, whatever my relationship with them might be.
This is not some insipid, vacuous, feel-good idea. Love is a challenge. It is an urgent, important challenge. If I believe that the universe is built on relationships, what will I contribute to it? What world, what life, what relationships will I create? Will I love only those who love me? Can I love those who hate me? Can I find the presence of divine love in those who do harm? Can I respect the dignity of every human being, even those whose convictions arise from malice?
Yes, I can. It requires no small amount of mindfulness. But yes, I can see and honor the goodness in every human being, even when – like most of us – it is just one ingredient in a mix of hatred, pain, greed, fear, rage, and who knows what else. Human beings are messy. But there is always goodness in there. There is always something in them to love. I make the conscious choice to find it, honor it, respect it, and keep my attention on that above all else.
I do not turn a blind eye to hatred, deceit and malice. I do what I need to do to protect myself and those I love, and to serve justice. But whether or not I agree with someone’s ideology has little or nothing to do with my love for them. My loved ones represent a very broad spectrum of beliefs, opinions, and convictions. To quote Kent Keith and Mother Teresa: we are all unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. I love anyway. I hope my loved ones love me anyway, too.
With maturity, one learns not to reduce humanity to white hats and black hats. One learns to tolerate ambivalence. I do love, and will continue to love, people who agree with me and people who disagree with me. I will consciously choose to respect the dignity of every human being, regardless of their beliefs and opinions. I will seek and honor goodness in all. I will love those who are given to me to love. I will strive to live a life of compassion and kindness, and nurture relationships into which I will pour every ounce of love I have to give.
Only in this way will I be the person I want to be.
To me, this is the foundation of everything.
When we met, you told me that what I need is a strong Master. And that you are one. You were absolutely right, on both counts! And you were exactly the right Master for me.
Thank you for everything you have given me and done for me.
Here’s to many more happy years together! I love you, Master 🙂
I want to reveal something personal about myself. It is not an easy thing to understand. I will do my best to explain it. I ask you, gentle reader, to suspend judgement until you have read my entire post, and do your best to understand, and, if necessary, forgive.
No matter where I start my explanation, it will be very easy to jump to conclusions. If you read one sentence, or even one paragraph, and quickly believe that you understand… please bear with me, because you probably don’t understand. Even if you think it’s simple, trust me, it’s not.
Let me start with a caveat: people are different. I know that seems crushingly obvious, but I need to say it. What is right and good and healthy and natural for me, may be completely different from what is right and good and healthy and natural for you. Just because something works for you does not mean that it works for anyone else. So please keep that in mind if you find yourself thinking that there is something “wrong” with me. Okay? Okay. So, here goes.
I am blessed to enjoy a handful of intimate relationships with some remarkable people. I give thanks every day that I am lucky enough to have these people in my life. I strive to show them the same love, compassion and respect that I have received. I am also blessed to be part of a wonderful community, to which I happily give time, talent and energy, because I enjoy doing so, and as a way of returning thanks for the many gifts I have received. I am very glad to be part of the community, part of a family, and part of a D/s relationship that is, quite simply, life-sustaining for me.
All of that is absolutely true. It is also true that I am sustained by solitude.
Since some of you will read that and instantly have a negative reaction, let me unpack it for you. Solitude is not the same thing as loneliness. Solitude is not isolation. Solitude is not withdrawal. Solitude is not depressing, painful, or unhealthy in any way.
For me, and others like me, solitude is serenity. Solitude is tranquility, a restful peace. Furthermore–and this is important–solitude is not the opposite of relationships. For me, solitude is fuel. Solitude is what enables me to love.
This is not true for everyone. In fact, it is not true for most people. Most people draw energy from being around others, and when they are alone, they feel lonely and isolated. They seek out company because being with people recharges their batteries.
I enjoy being with the people I love, and I seek out their company because I like it. I like to laugh and share and be intimate just as much as anyone. But for me, it takes a lot of energy. I like it, but I can’t sustain it. At some point, even if I am enjoying myself, I will begin to feel drained, then exhausted. And then, in order to recharge my batteries, I need solitude.
While I am alone, I am refueling. I am centered, focused and grounded. I may be working, playing, reflecting, studying, meditating, daydreaming, praying, planning, or indulging in small pleasures. But unless something unusual has happened to cause it, you can be certain that I am not sulking, pining, standoffish, hiding, lonely or withdrawn. I am most likely content, and happily immersed.
That doesn’t mean that I hate interruptions, or that I don’t want to be around people. If for some reason I need to protect my solitude, I will; that is my responsibility, not yours. So don’t worry that you will bother me if you interrupt me. And if you interrupt me and I say, “not right now,” it means exactly that–it doesn’t mean forever. It means that in this moment, I need to be recharging my batteries, but later, when I’m recharged, I’ll probably be up for spending time together.
A few years ago, I wrote about the difference between introverts and extroverts. I am an introvert. My source of energy is reflection, deep thought, solitude and intimacy. I need these things so that I can sustain essential relationships, work, activity and community.
That is who I am. If I am not like you, and if that bothers you, I hope you will forgive me. After several decades of self discovery, I know with deep certainty that this is who I am supposed to be.
Aging, in many ways, has caused me to look at myself with wry amusement.
The creaks and groans. When it takes longer to rest than to get tired. When children I taught have their own kids going off to college. When pulling an all-nighter means not getting up to pee.
For most of my life, I was younger than everyone else around me; always a year younger than others in my grade at school, the youngest of my cousins, younger than almost everyone else in my graduate school class. Now, in many situations I am one of the oldest, if not the oldest person in the room. This amuses me. In the classic three stages of womanhood — maiden, mother and crone — I have become the crone. I honor and embrace my crone-ness.
Advancing age has brought on what I have called the “Never Again” effect. It’s a moment when you come to the realization that you have probably experienced a certain thing for the very last time in this life.
It’s not so much about deciding not to do something ever again. This is more about the realization that you will never have the opportunity again, even if you wanted it.
We all have a private bucket list of things we want to accomplish or experience in this life. “Just once before I die, I want to…” My bucket list included, among other things, five musical works that I wanted to sing at least once. It didn’t seem an unreasonable goal, as I was a member of two professional vocal ensembles that might have done any of those works. But age eventually got the better of my voice, and my singing career ended before I was able to sing any of those five works. No amount of effort or determination will restore my ability to sing. Physiology is what it is. Aging happens. I realized one day that I will never again be a professional singer. I will never again have that opportunity. That was hard to accept. I had spent most of my life in pursuit of, and immersed in that life. It was not easy to think back on the hopes and dreams I had in grad school in my twenties, the energy and optimism with which I embraced the journey, and to realize that now, whatever was going to happen, has already happened. That life is finished. It is over now.
That is just one example. There are many others. A few of them, in the past few days, have been very painful. The number of endings in my life is beginning to outweigh the number of beginnings. I am by no means unique in this. I’m guessing it happens to everyone. But in this journal I can only speak about my own experience.
In young adulthood, with decades ahead of me, the future was an intriguing mystery. With the arrogance of youth, I felt that anything was possible. I could select any path I desired, and pursue it with confidence and hope. Now, in my seventh decade, some of those paths are forever closed to me. I have been blessed with intelligence and ability and have always had a lot of drive to accomplish my goals. It has been extremely difficult to accept that some of those goals now will forever remain unmet.
Sometimes, I say “never again” with a sense of relief. About certain things, I think, thank goodness I never have to do that again. I grow increasingly aware of the things that are a waste of time and energy, and as I grow older and my supply of time and energy shrinks, I’m unwilling to spend any of it on pursuits that ultimately mean nothing.
A few things escape the “never again” effect because no matter how old one is, one can never be certain they’ll never happen again. Who can say for sure that one will never fall in love, or never witness an astounding event? In June 2014 I was pretty sure there would never be another Triple Crown in my lifetime, but the very next year, I was proven wrong. Sometimes you just never know.
But the list of assured “never again” grows longer with each year. It’s increasingly unlikely that I will ever be wealthy, own a nice home, have children, travel to far off lands, learn to sail, buy a new computer, etc. etc. My limited resources, my dingy little apartment, my solitary life, my physical limitations… this is it. This is what I get to have now. Whatever I have now, is what I’m going to have from now on. My ability to change it has diminished.
Should I mourn? Or celebrate?
There was a time when I had ambition. I had the vision of a hopeful future, and the energy to make it happen. Gradually, life’s defeats and disappointments took their toll.
Now, where once I had vision, I have understanding. Where once I had ambition, I have acceptance.
These are not bad things. Perhaps they add up to that elusive quality called “wisdom.”
I can no longer chase a bucket list of accomplishments I will never achieve. But I can love the people who are given to me to love. I can no longer sing as I once did. But I can embrace moments of joy and laughter.
I can’t escape the storm of passing time. But maybe I can learn to dance in the rain.
With apologies to proponents of cognitive therapy, I think the head is ultimately powerless over the heart.
Using logic in an attempt to control feelings is ludicrously futile. “You have no reason to feel that way,” we say to ourselves. As if that means anything at all.
Maybe I have no reason to feel what I feel. Nonetheless, I still feel it. I am an intelligent, reasonable, rational person. Yet if I am heartbroken, all the logic in the world will not mend me. No amount of rational thought will ease my pain.
Oh, the battles we fight with ourselves over this conundrum. We try to hide our feelings, to give the appearance that rational thought has won the day. We seek various cures that are supposed to produce “serenity” to keep our emotions in check. But if we are really honest, we have to admit that those feelings are immune to the power of rational thought. We feel what we feel. Logic has nothing whatever to do with it.
We should just swallow our pride and admit to those embarrassing hurt feelings. At least to ourselves.
Back in the 1990’s, when it was still new to many people, my work involved conducting workshops about online communication. Twenty years later, most of what I taught then is common knowledge. But there are still a few points that might usefully be revisited.
One principle is that “silence cannot be interpreted.” When we are missing information, often our imaginations fill in the blanks with our fears and suspicions. Alternatively, our imaginations might fill in the blanks by creating a fantasy of that which we wish were true. Neither tendency is reliable. Without solid clues, you can’t know what is in those blanks.
Without the cues of body language, tone of voice, facial expression, and observing real-world actions, written communication leaves out a lot of information. People feel very deep emotions through the written word and very deep connections to other people. Thoughts put into writing can go very, very deep and be very expressive. But they are still only partial.
Imagine the phrase, “Thank you,” as said by the following:
- Growled by a surly clerk at Motor Vehicles after stamping your paperwork
- Squealed with glee by a child who just received a wished-for toy
- Sneered with sarcasm by someone calling an insult to your attention
- Whispered tearfully by your lover in an intimate moment
The words are the same, but the meaning behind them could not be more different in these situations. You discern the meaning—and the sincerity—not from the words, but from the non-verbal cues—cues we don’t always have available online. Without that information, our imaginations make assumptions that may or may not be correct.
Some of us compensate for this lack of information by trying to add expression to our words through emoticons, or just by writing more elaborately. That can be very helpful. Unfortunately, it can also be a trap. It’s helpful when you are communicating something genuine. It’s not so helpful when one is communicating something false.
From time to time, one will encounter a person, quite skilled in the use of language, who seems to be very friendly, courteous and kind. Sadly, based only on their words, we cannot know for sure if they are genuine. They might say to you:
- [Name] smiles softly. “Thank you, my friend.”
At first glance, this seems to communicate warmth, and friendship. It might inspire trust. Alas, you cannot really know whether this person really is smiling softly, or if they are blank-faced, or yawning, or laughing derisively behind the screen. I hate this, because words like those above appeal to my own fantasies about warmth and kindness. I really want them to be true.
For my own self-protection, over the years I have learned not to form opinions about people online based on what they say, or how they say it. Instead, I form opinions based on what people do—how they treat people, the choices they make, the actions they take. I love words. But actions mean more.
I admit I am disappointed when I meet someone whose words project an image of kindness and nobility, but whose actions reveal them to be manipulative, self-serving and deceitful. I really want them to be that kind, warm person, and it is a big disappointment to learn otherwise.
It is far better to place my trust in someone whose real-life actions repeatedly demonstrate generosity, honesty, kindness and real caring.
Being “nice” is only a façade if it goes no deeper than words and expressions. Buying into the appearance of niceness is a great way to get hurt.