Love is the joy  of  knowing you exist.  Being loving is the  response to you as who you are, even when you surprise the one who loves you. The latter is often difficult for many of us. We have our unmet needs, our fears, our blindnesses, our priorities.  Sometimes, when it comes to loving our self, we surprise our self 
 
 
God gives us life, and He takes it away.  What those who have never been in the position this woman is, or many others with debilitating diseases, do not realize is that sometimes our lives are taken from us bit by bit.  It is that particular situation, not young people in good health with lives ahead of them going through a rough spot, that I address.


We disabled watch those who love us working to take care of us until they are exhausted. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  We watch their financial sacrifices, and watch their enjoyment of life drain from their tired eyes.  The more and more dependent we get on them, the more we think "they could have a better life without me."  We love them and want that for them, especially if they are also getting older, feeling arthritis, experiencing heart disease, depression or other health concerns of their own.  


Ever thought God also gives us the will to continue or the courage to die?  The choice to keep fighting beyond physical, mental, spiritual exhaustion, or the courage to free one's loved one's from debt, struggle and the same kind of exhaustion? It just might be cruel to deny this woman the peace she seeks for herself. 


I speak as one whose life has eroded from beneath her feet for decades. My career.  My dreams of motherhood.  The respect of people who knew me but not my disease.  Suffered the contempt of people who do not know me and do not know my disease; managing to find the love within myself that made it impossible to wish they suffer this one day.


I still fight to make the most of every day, , to find, create, as much joy and laughter to buoy my own heart and those of others,  to do as much as I can for myself, for others, for the world, for love.  I admit that I am growing increasingly less willing to fight as my abilities continue to erode, as  it becomes increasingly difficult to make even the tiniest of dreams come true, and most of all, as I see the stress my beloved husband undergoes every day.  I die by breaths, but the amount of time I can hang on, long after I can do nothing for myself or others, stupefies me.   


I am not there yet.  Yet I see my future, with all its pain, and I do not wish that on my husband.  Some day I will be where Marie is, and anyone who stands in my way does not know the first thing about loving others as we love ourselves.  


My prayer is that Marie and the Irish courts find the wisdom to break free of medieval views on death and suicide.  I'm amazed that any Christian who looks to heaven can willingly insist that someone with no will to live any longer MUST suffer and make suffering for the ones they love until some "critical" body part wears out. 


I could not say I love anyone that  I made endure suffering: physical, emotional, mental.  If you think you can confront God and say "I kept her from killing herself so you could decide when," don't be surprised if He says "I loved her enough to let her decide when she could stand no more, and you didn't love her enough to let her go."  Cause the God I believe in would say just that.  I hope the Irish courts know that God.
 
 
A few days ago, we watched Les Miserables.  As I had both times I saw the stage production, I cried from almost the opening scene.  I had heard from people I knew that the movie did not compare to the stage production. I have other friends who swear both betray the book  Perhaps the fact I saw the stage play nearly 25 years ago, and read the book about 45 years ago left me free to appreciate the simple reality that each medium -- print, stage, and film -- offers its own opportunities to shine and to make a lasting impression.  


To me the book and stage play emphasized the themes of freedom and justice more than any other theme.  The film, to me focused more on redemption, forgiveness, change versus stasis, and love, with freedom and justice in the background.


One of the things that struck me as particularly poignant was Javert's stubborn persistence that "a man such as you does not change," despite being confronted repeatedly by the evidence that Valjean's new persona was a different man than the hardened con Javert insists upon seeing. In the end, Javert opts for suicide rather than change his opinion or methods.  Ironically, while I think most Americans would have applauded the French Revolution and the move to freedom, and while Javert represents the repressive, unjust Monarchy, he reminded me of many conservatives I know who simply seem unable to accept change or to reach out to someone they see as inferior or lost, as the Bishop did to Valjean in the beginning of the movie.

I have also watched a couple of other movies lately, which I recommend with the caveat that if you hate subtitles and don't understand French or Spanish, you may find these films tedious.  


The first of these is "De rouille et d'os" a French film with the English title of  "Rust and Bone.."   This film explores the relationships between a man, his son, his sister's family, and a woman the man meets.  There are some powerful lessons regarding the distinction between chronological and emotional maturity, about perseverance, and about the impact of kindness and of thoughtlessness.  We ran it in Spanish with 


The second was a movie I have seen before Sea Inside ("Mar Adentro").  Somehow, watching it closely after the first two I have discussed, I saw things I missed the first time around.  As a disabled person, though not now nearly as severely, I found myself relating to some of the main character's attitudes and positions to a greater degree than I did the first time I saw it.


Seen in close proximity, these three films set me to ruminating on what love really is and is not, from the love of God, to parental love, to romantic love, to platonic love.  That love can grow from platonic love, that tragedy or a glimpse inside someone's mind can spark it, as well as a glance,.  I was also confronted by the concept of self-love and forgiveness, shame and se;f-protection.  


I recommend them all.  I'd like to own them all.  I would also recommend, although it was not conscious this time, that when dealing with drama films, it's worth viewing several with the same issues in succession.  Some how the themes just get amplified.
 
 
When life boots me out of this world, and my life flashes before me on my way out the door, which days, which moments will be highlighted?  I'm pretty sure that yesterday afternoon will be one of them.


My brother usually comes by our house every other Saturday to pick up the bills, whatever items we have picked up on sale for him (diet sodas, energy bars, cereal, etc), pet the kitties he left with us, dig through his files that are still here, and see how we're doing.  On Wednesday, he emailed me that he was leaving for Austin and would be there the rest of the week, mentioning that his knees were hurting unusually badly.  So Saturday, my very considerate husband suggested that he drop everything off because my brother was probably wanting to stay home after being out of town.  So I called and made the offer.  "ACCEPTED" J. said joyously. Then I decided I'd go along, because I wanted to see my brother's face and get my hug.  I also wanted to wish my sister-in-law Happy Birthday and give her the chocolate bar we bought her at ALDI.  No matter that her birthday is Monday the 15th.


When we arrived, my amazing sister-in-law was crouched in her front bed weeding.  When we arrived, she went to the door to call to my brother, who came out and sat on the stoop with me. The four of us talked about quotidian stuff.  How the acorns that fall on the lawn never seem to sprout, but every one that falls in our flower beds sprouts.  Somehow we started doing little things in the yard.  The guys raked the rest of the lawn.  I pulled some oaks out of the bed nearest me while my sister in law worked on the other side of the porch.  Then my husband and SIL were bagging the leaves while my brother and I talked about his trip to Austin, where he stayed and reminisced about my first apartment there.  Then while we all talked about my step nephew's little fender bender -- as my brother put it, it would really have been minor except for what he hit, a brand new Lamborghini-- my husband started pulling baby oaks to my left, my SIL on my brother's right, while my brother kept calling the two of them "baby oak killers."


Yesterday was the first truly casual visit to their house.  No holiday dinner, no birthday celebration, just Saturday chores.  We spent a couple of hours there, just being family together.  Then we left, stopping at the local Trader Joe's to see what they have and the prices. Way too crowded at that hour, but we did pick up a candy mint and a pineapple mint we didn't have.  I think I'll call and find out when they have the least traffic before I go back.


All in all, it was for me a wonderful, casual, relaxed day that I will put in my memory box with the childhood family beach days, and family road trips, summer evenings with family while the adults talked, and we kids ran about chasing fireflies and tossing stones in the air to see the bats swoop in after what they thought were big juicy bugs. Days spent surrounded by those we love, doing nothing but being together.
 
 
When I was younger, what used to break my heart and make me cry was not being loved.  Then I realized that when people don't or can't love me, it's not my flaw, it's theirs.  What makes me cry now is mostly people who don't recognize love when it's offered to them and people who think those loving them do not deserve decency, civility, and respect in return.  Notice I didn't say "love in return,"  but "decency and respect in return."  You can't expect love from everyone you love, but you can, and should expect decency and respect.  .

Most of those who don't recognize love don't because they have never learned what it IS.   Decency, civility, and respect are certainly part of love, but they aren't all of it.  That "chemistry" is certainly part of  romantic love. It too, is not all of what love is.  

 Sometimes people don't know what love is because one or both of their parents had not learned it and couldn't teach it.  Some of them have not learned what love is because there is something wrong in their brains, some faulty flow of biochemicals across the synapses that makes them incapable of recognizing reality or prevents those synapses from connecting correctly and producing the emotion the rest of us would have in response to the event. Whatever the cause, it makes me cry to love someone who cannot recognize when they are being loved.  I don't mean love just in the romantic sense, but in the relative, friend, fellow human being sense.

It also makes me cry when someone thinks they don't deserve love.  People who think they should not expect loving behavior from others because they're too old, too fat, too ugly, too messed up, too SOMETHING. I cry when I see people staying in abusive relationships.  Let me define to you what I consider an abusive relationship:  any relationship in which an individual is rejected for who they are and experiences verbal, physical or sexual pressures to be someone they do not wish to be..  

 Everyone wants love and acceptance, everyone.  To me, the "right to life" includes the right to QUALITY of life, not just a right to be born and breathe.  To me, when we are doing such a terrible job loving each other, what kind of life can we pass on to the next generation?

I cry when someone thinks it's ok not to love someone else because they are black, or don't speak English (although it makes me laugh when the person saying this speaks or writes English badly themselves!), or isn't rich, or beautiful, or "normal" in some other way.  Yes, some people ARE hard to love actively -- the mentally ill, the mentally challenged, the disabled, the substance addicted, the old, the poor, the psychologically mixed up (not actually mentally ill, just "troubled" like ,many teens and young people),  and those with whom we disagree on just about everything.  How much more blessed I feel when I can reach inside and show love to even these.

I have been crying a lot the last few years.  Some days it seems to me that most of engage in abusive relationships.  I find it increasingly difficult to listen to people put me and my beliefs down without wanting to lash out.  Some days I do lash out.  I hate that.  On the other hand, the constant stream of judgments made about me on the basis of my beliefs and voting choices makes me want to be out of the relationship with the people slinging the abuse.  Unfortunately, it is impossible to withdraw completely from the world, although I have done so as much as possible.
 
 
I went shopping yesterday with a friend. Normally, I ride the electric carts or someone pushes me in my wheelchair.  However, my friend and I figured we could get my wheelchair out of my car, but probably not back in.  So I decided to rely on the kindness of the stores.  At Bed, Bath and Beyond, there is no cart to ride on, not even a manually operated wheelchair.  So I toughed it out and trekked through the store leaning on a regular shopping cart.  At the end of a circuit of the store, my knees were killing me.  The next stop was Randall's, who, God bless them, have several electric carts available for shoppers.  Here, the only problem I encountered was other customers.  You see, like many stores now, Randall's had some moveable stands in the aisles.  The problem was that one of them was placed right by the product I was shopping for..  You may also not realize that a  pair of bifocal wearing eyes has to be positioned just so to be able to read the labels on the shelves.  Unfortunately, that position is more or less right in the middle of the aisle.  Between my cart and the freestanding displays, I was blocking traffic..For the first minute or so, I was alone on the aisle, so there was no real problem.  Then along comes a woman with her cart, in a hurry.  She walks up right in front of my cart, purses her lips and stands there, waiting for me to get the hell out of her way.  Now, for my shopping purposes, it would have been better if I could have pulled forward.  No, I had to put down my shopping list and coupons and back the cart up since she was firmly planted in front of me and clearly not in the mood to back up herself.   Once I moved, she sort of flung her hair, huffed and pushed past me, making her displeasure at having to wait on me abundantly clear.  I wanted to wheel around and run my cart up her ass!  OK so she's gone.

I moved back into position and resumed my interrupted shopping task.  The next person comes up along the aisle behind me.  Oddly enough, I didn't see her as soon as she pulled up behind me.  Instead of saying "excuse me"  she must have stood there a bit waiting for me to move out of her way.  Since I was consulting my coupons and the labels on the shelves, I was unaware of her presence until she coughed.  Sort of the disabled shoppers version of having the person in the car behind you honk if you don't jackrabbit forward as soon as s light turns green..  Again, I put down my list and coupons, interrupting my task again and move out of her way.  For the next fifteen minutes, I experience this sort of thing at least a dozen times, including a time that someone had gone around me and was now purusing the shelf in front of me as someone again comes up behind me and eventually loudly clears her throat.  The woman in front of me seems completely oblivious to what is going on, so I turn around in my seat, and smile sweetly and say "I'll be happy to back up and get out of your way, but you will need to back up and give me some room so that I can."  She looked at me like I had just pointed a gun at her and demanded all her money and the groceries in her cart.  I won't even attempt  to describe the incident with the woman on her cell phone.  The point of this is that what would have taken me a maximum of two minutes to do ended up taking over 15, because every woman who came down that aisle clearly expected the disabled person to get out of their way.  Only one woman who came down the aisle was at all polite to me, saying "no no, I was looking at something, you're fine." when I said "Oh, sorry, let me get out of your way."  Strangely enough, the few men who came down the aisle were exceedingly polite.  One of them, as I stretched to reach a product, took it down from the shelf and said "Is this what you were trying to get.?"  On almost every aisle, this scene was repeated.  On the frozen foods aisle, a woman barged up and opened a door that was clearly blocked by my cart, slamming it into my cart while she reaches in through a 2" crack and tries to extricate an item that's wider than 2"!  At least she didn't glare at me.  She didn't even meet my eyes, just stood there, holding on to the selected item, until I moved out of her way.  

One of the advantages of a liberal arts education, is that one learns about the behavior of rats left to breed uncontrollably in a closed cage, and how they react to each other when resources such as food and water become artificially scarce.  My friends, we have become a society of such rats.  I am convinced.  What was scarce during my shopping trip was not food or water, but time.  Everyone is in a hurry, and the weak are just climbed over by the strong.

Of course, it goes beyond my shopping trip last night.  It is in our social policies and practices, where the poor, the poorly educated, the traumatized young, the disabled, the homeless, the mentally ill are seen as inconveniences and blamed for their situation. While nobody is yet crass enough to say it, the body language and the attitude is clearly that we should just die and get the hell out of the way of the strong.  How dare we hope for financial help.  We should just get jobs and quit feeling sorry for ourselves.  You know what?  I don't feel sorry for myself.  I feel frustrated by people who don't acknowledge reality.  There aren't enough employers willing to make enough concessions, and many of the ones who do make concessions offer inadequate pay as the price for making those concessions.  Why?  Well, there are plenty of healthy rats they can hire!  Healthy rats who will do the jobs of 2-3 rats and take their stress out on....the unhealthy rats like me.  The employers are also in a hurry to get their work done, get their product out on the shelves and sold, under pressure to maximize the benefit for the cost.

When I look out at the wider world, I see the same thing happening in other nations.  I can't help but think it has something to do with the population growth.  If you look at it, Earth is a "closed cage."  Now while I grant that God has the power to suddenly make its surface double in size, He has yet to take any steps in that direction. I am the kind that asks "What does He want of us?  We were commanded to love Him, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to be stewards of earth."  I don't think He wants us to be a society, or a world, of rats, scrambling over each other to make sure each of gets "MY ___"  (money, food, water, dream estate, etc).  To me, the real signs of Christian commitment are how one treats the less fortunate, the sick, the elderly, the disabled,, the damaged -- regardless of whether they have served in the military or not., whether they are "just like me," belong to the same political party, race, age group, economic class, etc.  Perhaps it is also time to ask ourselves if God really wants us to breed without limit and overwhelm this earth to the point that we live in a constant state of war over water and food.  Forget oil.  You can live without oil.  Humans did so for thousands of years.  You cannot however,live without clean water to drink, food to eat and air to breathe.  Think about it, and get back to me. And be warned, the next time I go shopping and am treated the way I was yesterday?  I won't get out of your way.  I'll make you wait, because my time is just as valuable to me as yours is to you, and I am worth every bit as much as you are -- mobility impairment and little electric cart and all.  I am God's child just as much as you are, and while you may not love me (and I 
 
 
Love is really simple.  Oh we often think it's difficult, especially when someone is "being difficult."  It boils down to this:  recognizing that the other person is no better or worse than we are, whatever the circumstances of their life or ours, seeing them as they are and accepting them -- while loving our self.. 

Behaving lovingly is often harder..  Life places a lot of demands on us, and we are often tired and just plain old crabby.  Moreover, we learn, or do not learn, how to behave lovingly from our family, our schools, our churches, movies, books, friends.  Those aren't always right.  So some of us think w are behaving lovingly when we never confront someone else with anything.  Others think we are behaving lovingly by never enabling anyone ever.  Still others think loving behavior is never denying anyone anything.

The fact is that one can have the most loving feelings toward someone, but if one does not behave lovingly toward them, they will not feel loved.  So what is loving behavior?

1.  You must really SEE the person for who they are, not who you want them to be, and they must know that you see them for who they and ACCEPT them as they are. A mother who wants a daughter who is a "girly-girl" and dresses her in bows and ruffles, only to have her "tomboy" daughter go off to play and come home with the ruffles ripped because they caught on a limb when she climbed a tree should probably bite her tongue instead of scolding her daughter for ruining the dress.  That mother should also probably shift her thinking about her daughter's wardrobe.  Similarly, a father who wants his son to share his love of hunting and fishing when the son would rather stay home and read books would do well to never make the son's differing interests an issue of criticism.  Children are, after all, their own selves, not clones of their parents.
2.    Find a way to connect with the person on their terms.  Show an interest in what they are interested in.    Really listen; remember what they say.  Know what is important to them and show that it is important to you for them, even it isn't something important to you at all.  Example:  Astros baseball was really important to my mother.  I'm not a big organized sports fan, although Astros baseball comes closest.  I would make a point of commenting on games, the win/loss ratio, ask "what about that play by So-and-so in the ___ inning?  Wasn't that something?"  The point wasn't to make it look like I was interested, but to let Mother know that I knew she loved it.
3.  Be honest but tactful.  Use humor if possible.  When your wife asks "Does this dress make my ass look fat?"  Don't say no if it does.  Instead say something like "I think the blue one showcases your delectable derriere better, but any dress you wear will make your ass look fat, honey, cause I AM fat!"  If you aren't fat, opt for something like walking up next to her and deadpanning  "You tell me...does it make me look fat?"  Above all do not volunteer criticism if it isn't solicited! 
4.  Express anger, frustration, and other negative emotions brought about a conflict in terms of your self.  Say "I feel really angry when you ....  I think it's because of ___________.  I would appreciate it if you tried not to do that until I have worked through this issue."  Some issues you may never work through, but this speaking pattern tends to defuse volatile situations rather than accelerate them.
5.  Celebrate the events that are positively important to them.  Sympathize with the events that are negatively important to them.  When I published my first article, my mother said "Oh that's nice."  How I longed for "That's wonderful!  I'm so proud of you."  When my first love died when I was 19, Mother said "Well, it's not like you were married to him.  Go take care of your brother  (who was going through a divorce.)"  Now, I know my mother loved me, but I also know she had no clue how to talk to me to make me feel loved.