Posted by: AgingChild | February 16, 2009

Heart Followup: It’s Not About Me

Friend Augusta responded Saturday evening to the email that catalyzed the previous posting here, and weighed in gently on the heart-churning issues that have been occupying me: 

—–Original Message—–
From: Augusta Lovelace [mailto: AgustaLovelace@CondeNast.net]
Sent:
Saturday, February 14, 2009 9:02 PM
To: ‘Aging Child’
Subject: Re: Hi, Augusta!
  

Hi Gene, 

I was very happy to hear that your Mother is leaving rehab within a short time. That is wonderful news. It will probably be an emotional boost for her to be with your sister and get back to a somewhat more “normal” routine. I know when my Mother had been hospitalized and then came home, her whole demeanor changed. It was as if she took a deep sigh as if to say “ah, I’m home”. It did wonders for her to be in familiar surroundings with familiar people. 

Your brother Sarge will be in my thoughts and prayers. What a difficult position to be in. I feel sorry for his wife especially speaking very little English. She is fortunate to have all of you there to help and support her. I wish more people understood and appreciated the sacrifices that our military make. 

As far as the job hunt goes, I certainly hope that you find one soon. It is a difficult time to be searching for one. As i’ve said before, finding a job is like having a job. It takes so much effort. 

Now as far as your “rekindled” friendship with Guinevere. You sound as if you are stressing out more about that, than your job hunt. You are so fortunate – finding her again was a gift! As you have said, she has been through tough times in her life and for all you know she may feel the same way you do but is taking the practical route for the time being by following her head instead of her heart. “Oh ye of little faith”. Have patience – be patient. Many life-long relationships started out as friendships. I never knew of a kind and decent man ever running a woman off. 

As far as you being conflicted with your thoughts of becoming a priest, friar, etc. that is another whole ball of wax. I think that would take some soul searching. Although I believe there are many ways you could serve your “fellow man” that would be just as effective, if not more, than becoming a priest, friar, etc. “The color of the package has no bearing on what’s inside”. If the desire is there it won’t make a difference if you are dressed in robes, a suit and tie or bermuda shorts and a tee-shirt and if the desire is there – you will find a way – and who knows, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a partner along side of you to take the journey. I believe Guinevere came along in your life at this moment for a reason – maybe someone has a bigger plan for you. I say we all need to enjoy what is in the here and now – it will give us some wonderful memories to talk about when we’re old and dodgy. 

So now that I have forced my little “philosophical tidbits” on you, I will close for now and hope that you just enjoy the time you spend with Guinevere and let the relationship slowly evolve. Exhale! 

Talk to you soon, 

Augusta 

Guinevere and I had spoken that evening, and our short conversation lifted the great weight. Augusta‘s email supplemented the peace further; I wrote back: 

—–Original Message—–
From: Aging Child [mailto:AGeneChilde@YouWho.com]
Sent:
Sunday, February 15, 2009 12:42 PM

To:
Augusta
Subject: RE: Hi,
Augusta! 
 

Good afternoon, Augusta: 

And thank you for your kind words and support for the many things pulling hard at my heart and attention lately! 

Yes, Mother‘s certainly been itching for as much of a return to normal as possible – and the possibilities themselves, speaking of which, keep looking better. Her spirit is very upbeat; she has darned few “down” days, and has buoyed us nicely, as we can clearly see we’ve been doing for her. The change of scenery to something even more homelike than the already-homelikeness of her rehab facility… will bolster and encourage her (and us!) even further. 

My brother: Sarge was in greater danger in 1991 when he was over in that neighborhood (mostly Kuwait and Saudi Arabia) during Desert Storm. It was tougher on us then, since it was much harder for him to get word out to us (and harder yet for us to get a note to him). Now he has occasional access to email (long lines, but this is still so much better than before), and reassurances can flow much more easily… both ways, too. 

With a sudden, dizzying flurry of interviews, plus some upcoming shorter-term assignments already committed to, things are looking better for me jobwise – at the very least, several good possibilities are much more closer in reach. And every interview, even at very worst, is still real-world practice for the next, giving me opportunities to further refine how I present myself and sell my strengths to those companies that definitely need them. 

And re Guinevere… well, I was writing after a troubled night of lost sleep, and a heavy, unshakeable dread that my opening up to her that evening might have cast a doubtful light on my motivations for appreciating and valuing our friendship. (I hadn’t meant to unload on you… so thank your for those “little philosophical tidbits“!) More than once in my life I’ve put my foot (or heart) in my mouth at a particularly vulnerable moment, and suddenly found myself, head still spinning, standing in the ruins, alone. 

So the heavy depression – despair, almost – surrounded and enwrapped me so much of the day, and this is the shape I was in when I wrote. But that evening, while I was visiting with my mother, Guinevere called (I am so glad for cellphones lately), and we chatted just a couple minutes. She talked with my mother a little – they’d charmed each other gently and sweetly at Guinevere’s visit up her last Sunday – and remarked in amazement at how more clearly my mother was speaking even than just last week; she was really touched. 

That simple, two-minute call lifted my spirits tremendously, simply through its very mundane nature (other than my mother’s particularly delightful share of it, of course), and that it was a not-in-so-many-words reassurance that all was/is well. 

Sometimes it’s the little things. 

I’ve felt greatly relieved, and so much better and at peace, since then. Inside, I’m also very carefully and delicately seeing what ways I can very gently detach some of my more vulnerable feelings, ones that can stand in the way of simply enjoying the relationship as it is, absent and ignoring the attraction. Small steps, little things… and hands folded. 

Thanks again, Ada, and have a great remainder of the weekend, and upcoming week! 

Gene 

To my astonishment, gadfly “Eric had for some unfathomable reason actually read the posting; he’s as kindly, loving, empathetic, and sympathetic as always; I’m doing him the kindness of not including the Who-Is and email address my blogserver provided on him: 

—–Original Message—–
From: eric [mailto:EricIdol@YouWho.com]
Sent:
Monday, February 16, 2009 1:43 AM
To: AGeneChilde@YouWho.com
Subject: [MT2mb] Comment: “It’s a Heart Ache”
  

New comment on your post #854 “It’s a Heart Ache” 

You seem really lonely and desperate for some romantic love. Have you considered dating (like actively searching for female companionship)? This chick seems really complicated and if you’re so terrified of scaring her off then honestly you should just keep her as a friend and find someone *else* to fall in love with. You obviously badly want and need a woman in your life and the whole priestly celibacy thing seems like a cop-out. Like, if you can’t find a woman then you’re just going to become a priest and then it will be like you didn’t fall in love on purpose. Yeah right. If this “Guinevere” was as crazy about you as you were of her then the whole “white collar” thing would be history. So maybe be a little more honest with yourself about what you want…what you NEED and what you can do to GET it. Crying, blobbing, sending emails, and praying is definitely NOT going to move you closer to satisfaction. 

Quite the gentleman; thanks for your two cents’, sir. Best response might have been to delete his note, or block him out of my blog. So I emailed back, instead… not bothering to point out that some of us men – even those living or contemplating the celibate life – do prefer the company of women who are “really complicated”, and so prefer to engage these women with the emotional and intellectual parts of our being even more than the mere, uh, nether hookups. Or to quote Murray Head, “I get my kicks above the waistline, Sunshine!”. 

—–Original Message—–
From: AGeneChilde@YouWho.com
Sent:
Monday, February 16, 2009 10:32 AM

To: EricIdol@YouWho.com
Subject: RE: Comment: “It’s a Heart Ache”
  

Eric, there have got to be far better and more worthwhile sites and blogs out there for you to be reading in the wee hours of the morning than my own at-times-troubled musings and ponderings. And just about anything else out there is much more interesting. 

The essence of the priesthood is to serve God and His people – both in the Church, and beyond – through bringing and opening up His word to them in the scripture, the Church’s teachings, its sacraments, and ministries. The world is hungry and badly, badly in need of God’s cleansing love and compassion; each priest serving Him stands as one more clear conduit of this love and compassion. 

The key, pivotal word there is “serve”: the priest is serving people in need – all people – and the God who has put us here and is our ultimate destination. This kind of service must be one of selflessness: “Not my will, but yours”, “Ad majorem Dei gloriam (To the greater glory of God)”, and so on. 

By blunt contrast, the pursuit of interpersonal, intimate love is by definition anything but selfless: it is seeking the pursuer’s worldly desires first, and not the needs of another person. Other than the massively ego-driven, who dates specifically to bring God’s love into the world? Those folks “on the market” are looking for one (or more) other person to “complete” their lives – and are in it for themselves first. 

This is antithetical to selfless service. 

In trying to be selfless, the aim isn’t to be a saint, or to be holy, or to clutch for a halo to wear proudly in public. The objective, rather, is simple humility. 

The concept, in fact, is so simple and basic that most people can’t grasp it. 

Here’s another one: that we have hearts and minds, feelings and dreams, clearly shows that we were not created for this world, and – as the cliché goes – are briefly passing through, entering empty-handed and leaving the same way. We are told, and not just by Christian teachings, that here we are to prepare ourselves for what comes next, and to not get lost in the distractions and demands of this life. 

Most of us still get lost. Why? Through stubbornly casting and following our paths to serve our own wants and needs, putting others no higher than second place. By seeking what we see as our own greater good first. 

So my struggle over Guinevere is to, first, ensure that the focus of my feelings and appreciation for her remain heavily on the non– self-serving side of the slate, that I be a trusted friend, sounding-board, advisor, confidant, listener, sharer-of-time. It’s not about me. (Try saying those four words yourself, Eric, about anything/anyone of importance in your life: “It’s Not About Me”. Say them again. And again. Can you? Do they sound stupid to you? Why do you think that is?) 

It’s not about me. It must not be about me. Or I am not a friend. 

Second, part of the struggle is, yes, to rein and direct my own, very human and understandable feelings of attraction over to more selfless ones of what I can do to make her own struggles more bearable, to lighten the things that worry her and keep her up at night, and to be of a good, positive, supportive role in her life. 

That itself may be, or become, the environment within which a healthy, one-on-one love could indeed grow and be nurtured, if we both so desire it. Can it be done selflessly? I think so. But it takes two, and it’s not about me. It can’t be. 

So: Conflict One for this Aging Child is to be a friend first and foremost, and not be focused on myself when I’m with her (whether in person, on the phone, online, and so on), or when just dwelling on my thought of her. This is not easy, not for anyone with genuine emotional depth, even with a clear inner commitment to respect her first… or how else am I to maturely respect myself? 

Conflict Two follows on that: if Guinne and I both decide to open ourselves to something far deeper than the friendship we each need, then I cannot be the priest/monk I’ve wanted to be for some years now. 

I want to skip that celibacy non-issue for now; you and I will have at it some other time – I’ve been meaning to for a good many months now; concerns of my mother’s health and my own intense job-search are of greater immediate need of my attention, as are other family issues, and pondering/taking further cautious steps (together with Guinevere, and alone) with this friendship I’ve been discussing. 

For now, in a nutshell: A married/dating priest by definition cannot be a selfless servant. His life-partner will be shortchanged, or his God and destiny will be. 

My challenge for you, Eric, is to do something today for someone else. Want to toughen the challenge, if that sounds easy? Do something particularly kind for someone who has been mean, rude, even hateful, to you. Further challenge: give something you value (money, property, time) to a complete stranger… especially someone in no position to give back. 

Take a peek at selflessness. And then look more closely. Can you step up to it? 

Regards,

A. Gene Childe 

Maybe I should also have inquired politely how many years now he’s been happily married. But that would have been petty. 

Further, on the “then I cannot be the priest/monk I’ve wanted to be for some years now”: I was many years reaching the point where I’ve been more and more prepared to turn my life over to the Church, and serving it. This is a facet I would not release easily, though I find, most interestingly, that some part of me remains open to doing so, if I can still serve the Church and my God through a non-avowed/-professed life; this is referred to as “lay ministry”, and does include the deaconate (which is a professed-religious life); deacons may be married. 

Oh, and Mr. Idol: don’t give me a hard time over the word “lay” in “lay ministry”. Grow up, sir.

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Responses

  1. You’re probably right that there are better or more worthwhile blogs out there – but it appears that God has guided me to yours.

    “It’s not about me. (Try saying those four words yourself, Phosphoro, about anything/anyone of importance in your life: “It’s Not About Me”. Say them again. And again. Can you? Do they sound stupid to you? Why do you think that is?)”

    You are correct that these words sound stupid to me. And I know exactly why. Anything/anyone of importance in my life is a thing I regard as a value. It is a thing that I actively work to keep in my life because I have identified it as furthering my life. Certainly a thing that hurts me or seeks to destroy me would not be a value – by definition. Thus, for you to ask me to say something that I have identified as valuable in my life is in fact “not about me” – or NOT valuable to me – is a simple contradiction. We apparently have a different definition of value.

    Let me ask you this, then. Think of something or someone of importance in YOUR life, Aging Child. Guinne, for instance. Why is she important to you? Do you value hr? If so, what is valuable about her? The answer is that you have identified virtues in her that promote life – characteristics such as kindness, honesty, and intellect – You seek to spend time with her because it enriches your life. I hope you’re not so dishonest as to try and say that it is a one-way street – that you’re only Guinne’s friend because you’re providing some sort of sacrificial service to her that you derive no pleasure from…And I don’t think she would appreciate being told that she is the recipient of your charity, either. You seek her because IT’S ABOUT YOU, because she is VALUABLE and you NEED human beings of VALUE and VIRTUE in your life…No greater compliment to receive, in my opinion, than to be valued and sought after.

    If I’m wrong, tell me now that it makes no difference to you whether you deal with a genius or a fool, whether you meet a hero or a thug, whether you marry an ideal woman or a slut.

    “My challenge for you, Phosphoro, is to do something today for someone else. Want to toughen the challenge, if that sounds easy? Do something particularly kind for someone who has been mean, rude, even hateful, to you. Further challenge: give something you value (money, property, time) to a complete stranger… especially someone in no position to give back.”

    You ask me to aide those who seek my destruction and to sacrifice my values to a non-value. You’re asking me to immolate myself, to approach death, to sip from the cup of altruism – that is, the cup of self-abnegation and self-destruction. WHY?

    Unlike you, I love life, and have a rational code of values. Your morality is evil and spells doom for whoever consistently practices it. Take a peek at selflessness yourself, Aging Child. And tell me you don’t see death.

    -Charles (Phosphoro)

  2. No response=I win

    • No, sir — not a contest here: nothing to win, nor anything to lose. If you can’t think in those terms, picture, perhaps, Obi-Wan Kenobi refusing to battle Darth Vader (“Star Wars” Episode 4), or Yoda tending to Anakin and Obi-Wan (Episode 2) and letting Dooku buzz off: higher purposes and more immediate concerns.

      Guinevere and I are fine (visited with her most of the afternoon and evening this past Saturday); and my own head, heart, and soul are on straighter than ever. Matters of personal urgency/attention have drawn my focus away from this blog, and will continue to do so for a bit longer. Some details likely once I take the e-treadmill back up again. Might even share with you.

      Regards,
      A. Gene Childe


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