Love’s Mutations

No, not mutants… mutations.

“You understand that you can never own love, right? No matter how much someone adores you today, no matter how much you adore someone, you can’t force that unique state of grace to keep its shape forever. It will inevitably evolve or mutate, perhaps into a different version of tender caring, but maybe not. From there it will continue to change, into either yet another version of interesting affection, or who knows what else?” Rob Brezsny

I love this gem from Brezsny. It challenges us to accept that we cannot control the metamorphosis of love in our relationships and it reminds us that we are sometimes infected by the frenzy of a desperate shapeshifter, wrestling and kicking against what cannot be controlled.

We want reliability. We want what we experienced in the beginning. We want the rush. We want the comfort. We want not to have to adjust to what is, well, mutating.

The mutations of love in a marriage immediately come to mind ‘though mine ended years ago. I still love the man who made it possible for me to grow without fear, the father of my children. But that love morphed into something no longer capable of sustaining a growing marital bond. We’re both able to live with that truth, apart from each other, but together in parenting. The whole “’til death do us part” thing doesn’t always honor what love becomes, in spite of our best intentions. But commitment is a beautiful cauldron for love’s mutations, keeping us standing in love regardless of the shifting nature of those bonds we thought we had all figured out.

And then there is parenting and the mutations surreal, the growth witnessed on levels incomprehensible at times. We fall in love with newborn, newborn begins to crawl, our love expands, deepens; toddler calls to the sweetest memories and hopes and sometimes the worst pain too. Our love shifts, taking on hues far fiercer than we imagined possible. And on it goes. We turn around and there is this mini-adult who doesn’t agree and laughs and scoffs and well, challenges what we had known of the sweet lil creature in the beginning. But the truth is, as much as that infant was the future mini-adult, the difference is akin to welcoming a new person. Yes, these changes are gradual but can evoke an unnameable grief. We cannot go back to the 16 month old and cuddle, hold the essence so unique to babies. Or the 5 year old with the inquisitive wonder. I have come to believe that many parenting woes originate in the inability of the parent to accept that the cutie pie was always going to be someone to stand shoulder to shoulder with, to concede in argument with and look up to many times. We aren’t prepared for the changes, the introduction of so many phases of one person’s development evoking such a confusing variety of response. And we feel the quality of that love shift, taking on new shapes, subsiding in some ways, expanding in others.

Then there are the downright ugly moments.

Love bears the marks of teeth-gnashing agony at times. Resistance to these precious and sometimes wildly dramatic shifts threatens the best of love’s growth and is such a common reaction. The inner seize siege for damage control begins: “Brace yourself, close up, close off, resist, run. Turn away.” But. What we need is a willingness to nurture a vibrant resilience and receptivity, a tender kind of toughness in the face of the more daunting roundy rounds of relating, knowing we’re giving room for the mystery of love to unfold in some of the most unbelievably demanding ways.

But sometimes, we just have to walk away,

sometimes for a season, sometimes for always.

And how beautiful it all is, made more precious by the challenge and more rewarding by the tenacity.

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