Wednesday, September 14, 2016

"I suffer, but cannot remain silent."

Draper's Mourning for Icarus 

Part of me is embarrassed by how I've felt in the past two months. Every insecurity I have has come to the surface. My greatest fear is that I'll drive people away with them. They are my imperfections that usually have caused relationships to end. Though, truth be told, the people who couldn't accept that I'm not perfect aren't the sort of people I should have been around anyway.

Part of me is reminded of what Samuel Beckett once wrote, "I suffer, but cannot remain silent."

Another part of me wishes I'd just kept my mouth shut, and stayed calm. Like I should have known better by this stage in life.

It wasn't just my mother's death, but everything else that has followed it. The uncertainty has caused me to shift from my usual, rational self, to being somewhat irrational. I don't want people to see that side of me, ever. Sometimes I can't help it. I think I've experienced so much judgement in the past over my faults and neuroses, that I'm afraid to express them; for fear of alienating people.

Right now I'm shifting between wanting to stay the course, and put my life back together, or continue to feel despair, and believe that all is lost.

What I need now is proof, not just faith. But faith (NOT religious faith) is all that I have since so much is uncertain.

...And I cannot remain silent

Text copyright Riley Joyce 2016 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016



Sometimes I'm not fair. For as selfless and giving as I am, I can also be selfish at times.
For example, I know a young woman that I care for deeply. She's currently in a phase in her life where demands on her time are many, and free time is scarce. So scarce in fact, that she's living a semi-cloistered life as she takes up her studies.

At first, I felt snubbed. I thought, “What's taking her so long? Why doesn't she have five minutes to write to me? Did I do something wrong? Is it me?”

I then realized that I wasn't being fair. I wasn't being sensitive to her needs, or her time frame. I also wasn't being fair to her struggles. Where she is now, I once was. Sometimes, I'm still there. Sometimes I forget what hurdles I've had to overcome just to function in daily life. Maybe that's a defense mechanism. If so, it's one that can distorted reality. I need to replace it with a mechanism of compassion, instead of, “Here, now, hop to it!” I was seeing everything from my viewpoint, and not allowing her vision to come across.

I'm extremely sorry for that, and humbly apologize.

I'm in a similar situation to her, as recent life demands have given me a sense of urgency. I'd rather not go into detail, but since the death of my mother, my life has been very chaotic. It's been Quixotic as well, as I feel like I'm charging at windmills. In my mind I'm on some heroic journey, but in reality I feel stagnant. I feel like the world around me is collapsing, and I'm trying to hold it together. I don't know if I can hold it together, but I'm doing to try. If I could see into the future, and know that everything would be alright, then I'd stop worrying so much. But I can't see that far ahead, and so I worry.

And I think about her, and what she must be going through.

That's when I realize, yes, she has her own struggles. I wish I could help her with those struggles, but there's factors that limit how much I can currently help her. Instead I can support her emotionally, and try my best to encourage her to face those struggles. I want her to succeed, and begin to create the life she's wanted to have for long, but wasn't able to have. I want to be there for her when that happens.

Does she want the same for me?

Yes, I know so. We've given each other support through many difficult times, and we've grown closer because of it. Now is one of those times where things are difficult. We'll get through it. I think we'll be closer and form a stronger bond because of it. The key practice I need commit myself to now is patience.

I'm a very patient man, but in all honesty, I'm more impatient than people think. Sometimes impatience is a good thing. In the past I was too patient, and too passive. Now I'm at a stage were patience is something I've grown. I need to learn a balance. When to be patient, and when not to be patient. Now, she's teaching me a lesson in patience.

She may not know it yet, but she's also teaching me lessons in compassion and fairness.
In my own past, when I experienced depression I could barely think straight. Sometimes I couldn't even read a sentence. I may spend a half hour trying to read a single page. I spent a fair amount of time lying in bed, and recounting where my life went wrong. It wound up being a futile exercise. It wasn't until I entered therapy that I was able to make any progress.

Sometimes I try to forget what it was like to be depressed. I don't have the pervasive symptoms anymore. However, I can sometimes get close to those symptoms. I sometimes feel myself backsliding into depression, and then have to stop myself before it's too late. These instances are few and far between, but they've been more frequent because of recent events in my life.

I also experience anxiety. I had a panic attack recently, and I recognized it immediately. I talked myself through it, and was able to calm down. But I know that anxiety isn't entirely gone. I'll have episodes of anxiety again. In fact I one earlier tonight.

C.S. Lewis once talked about moral law and fair play. He basically said that we expect people to be kind. We expect them to be polite. When I visited Britain recently, I understood more so what he meant. In the U.S., I'll give up my seat on the bus for other people; women or men. I once gave up my seat so young couple could sit together. I'm not self-promoting, but just giving an example. In Britain that sort of courtesy is built into the culture. It's a true stereotype, but one to be proud of. I'd encourage us all to be like that.

When I was walking the train station in Warwickshire, I stepped aside for a young lady on her bike. She said, “Thank you!” I didn't expect that. People on bikes don't do that in the U.S. I found that anywhere I went, people reacted similarly. A woman on the train from Oxford gave up her seat for me. She was sitting next to her husband, saw I'd been standing for a while, and gave up her seat. That shocked me! People on in that train car, total strangers, talked to one another! That also shocked me. I returned the favor on another train ride, when I slid over so a young man could have a seat. He smiled, said, “Cheers, mate.” Again, I did not expect that.

Those are examples of fairness, and kindness in small measures. I like to think I'm that good, or that kind, maybe I am. Maybe sometimes I'm not? There are times when I know I can be selfish. There are times when I can be demanding. When that happens, I have to take a step back, and say to myself, “Is that me? Am I acting like my father?”

The answer is, “It's something rotten in the state of Pennsylvania; passed down from father to son.”

You can tell my mind is still in Stratford. Next I'll talk to that glow-in-the-dark skull that sits on top of my TV. It belonged to a fellow of infinite jest. By the way, there's a cool statue of Yorick in Stratford-Upon-Avon. I often wondered what he'd look like.

I digress...

I remember times when my parents weren't compassionate to my depression. My mother didn't really acknowledge my depression or anxiety, until I had moved away. My father completely denied either existed. He just felt I was being lazy, and told me often. The truth is that I wasn't being lazy at all. I didn't want to be depressed, I didn't choose it. I eventually did something about it as an adult. Living with him as a teenager didn't help. I think he wanted to keep me depressed as a means of control.

That wasn't fair or compassionate. That was being selfish.

I would never wish any mental illness on anyone. For that matter, I wish I had the power to heal those with illnesses of any kind; especially emotions ones. I wish I could just hold someone, tell them, “You're okay,” and then magically heal them. It doesn't work that way. A laying on of hands doesn't even work for faith healers, why would it work for psych students? I wish to God that it did work.

I feel that sometimes people who do get better feel a sense of superiority. They feel like, “Well, if I did it, so can you! Here's how!” Just picture that in a dodgy salesman's voice. Why? Because it is dodgy. Everyone's struggle is different. As the cliché says, “The struggle is real.” Different methods work for different people.

Those of us that have benefited from therapy should never cop an attitude with those who haven't. We should never belittle them, or tell them cliches, or say, “You have to love yourself, or no on else will!” When we do that, we make them feel worse. Instead, we need to realize that treatment does vary per person. We need to give them the same compassion and understanding that we wish we had before.

We also need to give compassion and fairness to those we love.

That sounds like an obvious thing to say, but it isn't. Sometimes we get so intoxicated with our own needs, that we forsake the needs of the other. Maybe they need time, air, or quiet? They need our hand to hold them, instead of pointing the finger at them in blame. They need to hear words of encouragement, and understanding, instead of anger and frustration.

Two of my great fears in relationships is that I'll drive people away by being selfish. Or, I'll drive them away by being too loving; opposite ends of the spectrum. One takes, the other gives. I'm a giver, mostly. I just have to make sure I give equal amounts to what I take. I'm not always adept at that. It's something I need to learn. I'm flawed like everyone else. 

I want to experience unconditional love from others. I also want to express that same love. This could be a time for me to learn more about that. It's a time to learn more about fairness, compassion, and love without terms and conditions.

I will try my best. I will also try my best to learn the lessons that have been offered to me.

Text Copyright Riley Joyce 2016

Below is an animated recreation of one of C.S. Lewis' wartime talks. Moral Law, part of his work Mere Christianity. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Yew Tree and the Viceroys

The Yew Tree and The Viceroys

I expected to have dreams about my mother after she died. While I haven't actually seen her this way, I have had one dream.

I dreamed that I had gone to Ireland by boat, in order to plant her ashes into the ground. In this dream I dug a small hole into a field near the sea. With the sound of the waves in the background, I carefully placed her ashes into that hole, and then covered it with dirt. Within a matter of seconds a yew tree stood where her ashes had been buried. It was about as tall as me, and the branches were full, and sprouted berries.

I took this as a sign of growth and rebirth. Just as the ancient Celts believed that life with return with every spring, I saw this dream as a similar promise.

Currently, my sisters and I are in disagreement on what to do with mother's ashes. She had wanted to be buried, but we couldn't afford it. So, eldest sister suggested either burying them, or placing them in a mausoleum. I would prefer to scatter them somewhere. It may be one of the most difficult tasks I were to undertake, but I'm more than willing to do it. We have time, as no decisions have been made yet.

I had contemplated taking some of her ashes, and scattering them when I visited England, but I'm not sure how to get them past TSA. If they find a vial of a powdered substance, they might think I'm smuggling Charlie, not Lonnie. That's not something I want on my passport.

As for the viceroys.
The day of the Lindsey Stirling concert (the second time I saw and met her) it rained. I remarked that it rained the first time I saw Lindsey as well. This was the day before the funeral, so it had added significance.
Somehow, a small viceroy butterfly fly through the rain without being clobbered. It flew across my path as I walked to the bus, and landed in the grass. The viceroys have significance in this case because of their color. They are yellow, with black trim on their wings. Black and gold are the colors of Pittsburgh, and all our sports teams. My mother dyed her hair blonde, so I took the viceroy as a double meaning.

I remarked that it was odd it would fly in the rain, and saw it as a good omen. I had a great time at the concert, made a new friend there, and then went to the funeral the next day.

The funeral is another story, for another time.

I didn't see any viceroys the day of the funeral. However, a few days later, as I made my way from work, I felt very demoralized. I wasn't sure where I was going to live, how I'd take care of the cats, or myself.

There were, and still are, many unanswered questions about my future. Just as the bus rounded a corner, only ten minutes from where I live, another viceroy flew in front of the bus, and then beside my window seat. I then flew away.
Since then, the viceroys have appeared when I'm going through periods of great stress or uncertainty. Oddly enough, I was deathly afraid of any insect when I was a child, except for ladybugs; which my mother was fond of. Yet, when I see these viceroys I take them as a sign of comfort.

When I flew to England I had a layover in JFK in New York. As I sat in the departure lounge I was told there was a delay with the flight. It pushed everything back by an hour. And as I was upset, another viceroy showed up. This time, it flew against a strong wind. I could see it right through the departure lounge window. It landed on the gantry that connects the passengers to the plane.

When I was in Leamington Spa, I was feeling upset about something. I took a walk through the park near the bowls club. A viceroy flew past me, and over my head.

When I returned home, and was concerned about a personal matter, another viceroy flew past me. I took that as a sign that all would be well. Just the other day, two viceroys flew side-by-side, only to branch off in different directions. It was as if one were teaching the other to fly. I took that as a sign that mom taught me all that she could, it was up to me now.

I am reminded that butterflies, like certain birds, are psychopomps. These are animals that are believed to carry the spirits of the dead into the afterlife. While I'm not certain how this belief came about, I'm also reminded that the Greek word for butterfly is psyche; which means, “animating spirit, or lifeforce.” This is also the Jungian and Freudian terms, respectively, for all that makes up a person's identity and personality. It's also the root of the term “psychology” itself.

Make of this what you will. A skeptic would say that I'm fulfilling a need with a fantasy; wish fulfillment. Maybe I am. If so, why is that a bad thing? A person of faith might say that God is sending me a message. A person of a more New Age persuasion might say that I'm being sent a direct message from my mother; a flying telegram, so to speak.

My own opinion is that whatever it is, it reminds me of something my mother would tell me often. “You have to have faith.”

That's what I'm trying to do now.

Text copyright Riley Joyce 2016

Author's Note: Yew trees were commonly used to make archer's bows in the Middle Ages.  

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Meditations on Westminster Abbey

Meditations on Westminster Abbey

I'd first read of this place when I was a teenager. I used to confuse one of my high school classmates by having him guess who was buried there. He never guessed right, not once. Whereas I'd memorized a large portion of those who claimed it as a final resting place. Not to sound ghoulish, but I'd wanted to visit this former cathedral/burial place for some time. It was a key location on my recent visit to England, and I was glad I took the time and effort to walk to it. It was the highlight of the time I spent in London. It wasn't about spending time with the dead. No, it was about what the place can teach us about life.

Westminster Abbey was built some 1056 years ago. It's probably the oldest building I'd entered during my U.K. Holiday. On this trip I'd visited Leamington Spa, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Oxford, and London. All of which I'll talk about in later entries. Westminster Abbey is one of those places that had the most impact on me, you'll see why later on.

Outside the Abbey was young man, presumably a historian. He may have been a teacher, as he talked to some young people. I stood by, and listened to what he had to say.

He pointed to the ten statues that stand above an entrance to the Abbey.

He said, “Among those statues is one American. Can you see who it is?”

I said nothing, but instead scanned those figures with my eyes. I instantly saw who he referred to. It was the figure of a robust, broad-shouldered man. He wore the robes of a Southern Baptist preacher. He was a man who had a dream, that all men would stand as brothers.

“That's right!” the historian said. “That is Martin Luther King, the civil rights leader. He is honored here as a martyr because he died for his cause. There is a child at his feet. The reason for that is to show that though he died, his cause lives on.”

I have to confess, I cried a little when I heard him say that.

I then wondered if the child at his feet was Emmett Till; the young African-American man who'd been murdered for talking to a white woman. He too is a martyr in my book.

The first thing I wanted to do there was take a photo of Sir Isaac Newton's tomb. You're not allowed to take photos in Westminster Abbey. I was a bit annoyed at that, but I understood why they'd not allow photos. First, it is a working church. In fact I was encouraged to attend a service there, as was everyone who visited that day. Attendance is free, of course, but tours are not. There were two separate lines; one for tourists, the other for churchgoers.

Another reason why I feel you're not allowed to take photos inside the Abbey is because it's sacred. Granted, Trinity Church (where Shakespeare is buried) is also sacred, as is the chapel at Oxford. Westminster Abbey is a bit different. It's not only a royal peculiar, it's also Britain's equivalent of Arlington (where America's hallowed dead are buried). I would also imagine that's because they want people to take the tour, and not spoil it for others. Fair enough, nobody likes spoilers.

When I entered the Abbey, I was presented with an electronic device, a sort of media player. It reminded me of the electronic game Merlin from the 1980's, only this was much smaller. It had a tiny LED screen which allowed me to keep track of what part of self-guided tour I was on. Different recorded track numbers corresponded to different rooms in the Abbey, which were labeled on a map. I put the device to my ear, and was instantly surprised. The voice recording in English was that of Jeremy Irons! Scar was giving me a tour of Westminster Abbey! Well, the Lion King is based loosely on Hamlet, so it made sense.

The first graves I saw were those of Darwin and Wallace. A bars-relief of evolution's co-father clearly marked his final resting place. I saw co-father, because both Darwin and Alfred Wallace developed the same theory, but published his work first. It also helped that he was a fellow of the Royal Society, whereas Wallace was not. I remembered the words of Mr. Kort, my high school bio teacher, who said, “Wallace got the shaft!”

I looked to the floor, and found I was standing in front of the grave of John Herschel, son of William Herschel. Both men were scientists. His father discovered Uranus (stop tittering at the back! It's pronounced “Oo-ran-us!”). Whereas John was an early pioneer of photography. He also named seven of Saturn's moons, and well as four of Uranus's moons. Darwin is buried right next to him.
Near the altar rested Sir Isaac Newton.

Contrary to what you see in photos, the big statue of him does not contain his corpse. He's buried in the floor next to the altar! That means he's massively important. There's no birth or death dates on the slab that sits over his grave, just his name. He's so famous that he doesn't need an epitaph. I stood within millimeters of that slab, but didn't want to stand directly on it. I wondered if it was rude of me to talk on the tombs of other hallowed deceased in the Abbey. In some places, like the corridor were Darwin and Herschel are buried, you can't help by step on their graves.

I bowed my head, paid my respects, and then moved on.

The RAF chapel impressed me as well. It is small, but humbling. Dedicated to the people who fought in the Battle of Britain, it bares the names of those who commanded the air war against Nazi Germany.

It reminded of stories my paternal grandfather told me about the Blitz. He said, “The V2 rockets sounded like lawnmowers.” It must have been one of the scariest sounds of all time, especially when there was more than one rocket being fired. I then thought of the dogfights that happened over the heads of British citizens; who'd watch spitfires take on Luftwaffe planes above their own homes.

In Westminster Abbey I was able to do something that few living people were able to do centuries ago; stand within inches of kings and queens. The room were Elizabeth I is buried is vary narrow, so I had to hug to wall. Even Jeremy Irons warned me, “The space here is confined, so please keep moving.” I did as he said, and nearly brushed against her tomb. I saw how regal she would have looked, and yet she was small-framed. Small, yet powerful. She reminds me of another redhead I know, but that's another story.

Her half-sister, Mary Queen of Scots was laid to rest to the chapel across from her. I too stood within millimeters of her; something no commoner would have been able to do in her lifetime.

While I was in the St. John the Baptist chapel, I had a profound experience. I saw the tombs of nobles that died young. Well, young by our standards. My mother passed away at age sixty-nine, so that's still all-too-brief a life in the 21st century. However, to the people of Elizabethan England, that was a good age. There were nobles in that chapel that passed away at age forty-six! It put my own thirty-seven years into perspective. I was already aware that people back then died much younger, but it got me thinking. If I were one of those people, I'd be preparing to enter the Abbey on a pall, not on my own feet. Then again, people back then died of all sorts of easily treatable things today. Add to that the lack of hygiene, sanitation, and antibiotics and you have ready made death. I felt fortunate to have been born nearly six-hundred years later.

After my brief visit with Gloriana, I pressed on.

Poet's corner was the last stop on the tour. It was also one of the most profound.

Now, just to clarify any misconceptions here, Jane Austen is buried in Winchester Cathedral. Shakespeare is buried in Trinity, in his hometown. D.H. Lawrence rests in New Mexico. Not all of the writers and poets honored in Westminster Abbey are actually buried in the Abbey. Some of them are interred in other places. Those who are not buried there have their actual resting places marked on their plaques. Poet's Corner isn't just a place to lay the great writers, musicians, and actors to rest, it is also a place to remember them.

I smiled when I saw the tomb of Rudyard Kipling. I nodded to him, and thought of If, one of my favorite works by Kipling. I loved his work when I was a child, and a teen. I noted that his gravestone was modest. It had the Bear Necessities. I'm sure he would have appreciated that joke.

I saw the marker for Sir Laurence Olivier. I remember when he died in 1989. Rather than think about his death I remembered Clash of The Titans, The Marathon Man, Spartacus, and Sleuth; all these great movies where I'd seen him.

I thought to myself, “Zeus,” and smiled.

I then saw the tomb of Handel. Yes, I did hear the Hallelujah chorus when that happened.

After that point my tour was at an end.

The last two things I saw were The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, and the Coronation Throne. The throne is behind glass, and kept in a small room. The flag that draped the coffin of The Unknown Warrior hangs overhead.

I reflected at The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. I read the inscription, and noted that a Congressional Medal of Honor, and the Victoria Cross, were both on display. Both had been awarded to this man, who was “known only to God.” I then recalled that Duchess Kate placed her bouquet on his tomb after her wedding to Prince William. A kind gesture, for a man that may not know how important his sacrifice was.

One thing I missed was I neglected to find the tomb of William Pitt. I probably walked right past it, and didn't realize it. I wondered if it was painted black and gold, and if the epitaph read, “Here we go Steelers! Here we go!” I have to confess, I didn't know he was buried there until after the tour had ended. I've seen his family crest my entire life. It shouldn't have been too hard to spot. I presented my friend Justine with a Terrible Towel, though. I think that gives me some Pittsburgh cred overseas.

I left Westminster Abbey a bit shaken, but in a good way.

I thought about the tombs of all those I'd seen. I felt honored. Though I felt a bit icky when standing next to the tomb of Edward I. He was the king that fought William Wallace. I must have given him a dirty look for that, but didn't let it bother me. You don't know how many times I saw Braveheart when I was a teenager. I kept my composure, and resisted the urge to quote it at his tomb. I was fine with everybody else I visited.

Three things occurred to me as I walked to Parliament.

There are three basic things that all humans want. All three are expressed at Westminster Abbey.

First, to be loved.
Second, to be remembered.
Third, to live freely.

There is both love and honor in that place. It is a place where those who built an empire, and sustained a nation, are commemorated. The people who rest there influenced not just Britain, but the entire world. William Pitt didn't know the colonial city named after him would become the steel capitol of the world. Rudyard Kipling didn't know he'd influence generations of children to read. Queen Elizabeth I didn't know she'd make Britain one of the world's first superpowers, or that literature of her time would still influence us now.

It's not just those three people either. Everyone who is buried there, or honored there, did something to make the world. Sure, I thought of Clash of the Titans before I thought of Olivier in Hamlet, but that's a complement as well. I remembered a movie from my childhood, that I loved, and he was in it. I read about Darwin in high school, and we're still arguing about his findings, even today. Newton pretty much invented our concept of the modern scientist. The list goes on and on, more so than I have time to write here.

I was glad I got to see it. Even now as I write this, I feel like I'm there. Speaking of which, there's still some pebbles in the treads of my sneakers; some which had to come from Britain, along with the dust of Westminster Abbey. I feel myself fortunate to carry that with me.

I feel honored that I was able to pay my respects to the hallowed dead. Because of them, the world has its shape.

Author's Note: You are allowed to photograph in the Chapterhouse, and some outside corridors. However, no photography is permitted inside the Abbey proper. When a tourist asked if she could photograph The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, the docent on guard politely told her, "no." This is also the only grave you cannot walk over. 

The interior photos you see are of the Chapterhouse, and a plaque dedicated Sir Edmund Halley.

Text Copyright Riley Joyce 2016

Photos also Copyright Riley Joyce 2016 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Just Say "Yes."

Just say "Yes." 

I'm reminded of something my uncle Tom told me after his brother died.
It was the winter of 2002, and on Christmas Eve, he shared with the family the last conversation he had with his brother, James.

He said, “As Jim was dying, we started talking about regrets. He told me that the one big regret he had was not marrying this girl he dated back in the 60's. He wanted to marry her, but we were Protestant, and she was Catholic. Our parents wouldn't have stood for that.”

He fell silent after that, and didn't say more. I could see by the look on his face that he was disappointed for his brother, but not at him. James died without ever marrying, or having children. He lived alone, and worked as a environmental scientist. He once wrote a scholarly work on the history and uses of the soybean. For vegetarians that might be considered pornography. For the rest of us it's far from Fifty Shades of Tofu.

James was a physically fit, intelligent, and had a great career. Yet, he died alone. If it wasn't for me writing this down, the world might never know he existed. I didn't know Jim. Or, if I met him, it must have only been once or twice during one of cousin Stephanie's many weddings. Perhaps I honor the dead by mentioned him here. I'm a gentile that just performed a mitzvah for a stranger. There's my good deed for the day.

I've been thinking recently about all the strange reasons people say, “no,” to love.

I think fear of getting hurt is the main reason. We've all been somebody's ex at some time. For every kiss we've shared with a partner, we know their lips touched someone else before us. We know we've shared our respective bodies with a partner before. We've shared secrets, and our thoughts and feelings. We perform these acts of love and vulnerability, only to have them either cherished, or disrespected. We want to believe that the other person would never hurt us. What happens when they do hurt us? How deep is the hurt? How willful was the hurt?
Our minds run through a whole litany of reasons why they may have hurt us. Is it my fault? What did I say or do? What's wrong? Will they tell me what's wrong?

I think few of us want to go through that again, so we sometimes build barricades. Maybe we peek over the parapet for a moment or two, just to see who's approaching. But we have a difficult time letting the drawbridge down. We don't want another Trojan Horse in the courtyard.

Sometimes the reasons are cultural, just as my uncle pointed out.
A Catholic might not marry a Jewish person because one speaks Latin on Sunday, the other speaks Hebrew. One may convert, even in name only, to the other person's faith. A Mormon won't marry a non-Mormon, because they are told they can't be “equally yolked” in Heaven. One partner will go to the cheap economy section of the afterlife, and the other will go to first class. A Catholic might not marry a Protestant because of...well, I don't have the space to get into it here. If my last name is any indication, I'm well aware of the enmity that traditionally surrounded both sides of religious aisle, and Emerald Isle. That's another discussion entirely. But it is one of the many bogus reasons people shut out a potential partner.
There's also the prejudice against ethnicity, LGBT people, and the list goes on. Unfortunately cultural pressures do play a large factor in why some people say, “no.”

The factors that I've been thinking of are more personal, rather than universal. Fear of getting hurt is a big one. Fear of rejection is another. What if this person finds out something about me that I don't like? Will it be a put off if they find out I'm on medication? Will a history of mental illness bar them from loving me?

I've never been on medication. However, I do have a history of depression (which I was successfully treated for) and anxiety. I had a mild form of OCD at one time. I also have occasional panic attacks, racing thoughts, and insomnia. I come from a background of an abusive childhood. I witnessed domestic violence as a child as well. I hate being angry, because I don't like how it makes me feel. So I don't always express anger, even when I should. I also don't always say what I feel immediately. I sometimes like to think it through first. Sometimes I wait too long to say something. Though I try to be more assertive these days.

Are these attributes that bar me from being loved? If a woman finds out I have those “negative” aspects, will she run for the hills? I think I've dated a few women that did run for the hills because of these things. I've never judged anyone else for having them. When I find someone that has experienced these things, it somehow makes them more relatible to me. However, being anxious or depressed are not prerequisites for me to be attracted to someone. I don't see them as “negative” attributes either. I just see them as being part of the person. They may be parts the don't like about themselves, but I accept them. As Jessica, my first therapist used to say, “All parts of you are welcome.” I mean that.

Sometimes people are afraid to love because...the other person seems to good to be true. How many times have you been with someone who seems madly in love with you, only to find out they hate your guts? Or, they hate so many things about you, they try to change you?

I once dated a girl that literally yelled at me for wearing a plaid shirt. I don't know why she yelled at me, but she really hated plaid. Maybe she dated a lumberjack, and it ended badly? Oddly enough, I gave the same shirt to a woman I dated in 2015. She admired it, and wanted something with my scent on it. She also became my ex soon after. Since then I've not worn plaid. I think the message is loud and clear, unless it's a kilt, don't bother. Flannel be damned as well!

Fault finding is something that can destroy any relationship. Yes, we all have our faults. The question then becomes, “How great are the faults?” Is it worth breaking up with someone over plaid? Do they have annoying habits? The answer to that is always, “Yes, they do.” We all have bad habits. Not putting the toilet seat down is minor, compared to coming home drunk, and putting your fist through the wall. Consider yourself lucky if your partner has lame bad habits, and not life-threatening ones.
Therapists John and Julie Gottman talk about this sort of thing extensively in their work. You can love someone, and still accept their foibles. No partner is perfect. But no partner should ever make you feel less than human on any occasion. You should lift each other up, and not tear each other down. If you do accidentally wound one another, work on fixing it. I may take time, but it can be done...if both parties want to commit themselves to the work.

I think what I'm talking about here is lack of acceptance, and the desire to control. Let a partner support you emotionally, but never let them control you. Love isn't about control. Possession about control. The two are not the same thing.

So where does this lead us to?

I think, despite all the examples I've given, it all boils down to one thing: fear. We fear judgment of the other person. We fear losing them. We fear they will leave us for someone better, or more stable, or more wealthy, or better looking, etc. We fear rejection for the parts we don't like about ourselves. We fear rejection over our own bad habits, and how the other may perceive them. Ultimately , we crave the praise and love of the other...but we fear their judgment.

The solution to all of this is unconditional love.

I don't expect you to be perfect.
I don't expect you to always please me.
I don't expect you to agree with me on everything.
I don't expect you to never misunderstand me.
I don't expect you to never disappoint me.

What I do expect are the following...

I expect you to be fully you.
I expect you to forgive, and be forgiven.
I expect you to be honest, even when it is difficult.
I expect you to work with me to make things right.
I expect you to just be.

What I want from someone I love is for them to tell me anything, everything. Even if they think it'll scare me. I want them to feel the freedom to be themselves, and to be open. I want them to know I won't reject them for who they are. I won't hurt them, or run away. I won't see them as damaged goods. I will see them as human. I will see them as imperfect, and yet striving to be better. They will practice, but not become perfect. They will try, and they will succeed and fail at different times. But most of all, I just want them to be present in the moment, and always.

Say, “yes,” to these things, and trust me.

Copyright Riley Joyce 2016

Elliot Smith. The title of this track lent itself to the title of this blog entry.