Real Lesson On Love

Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all. – Michael Masser & Linda Creed (Songwriters)  

This is a common saying among our culture. And it’s true that self love is something we as a society/culture struggle to learn. However, I believe the most significant love lessons are those directed towards others.

You see when we love someone, be it a lover, a friend, or a relative, there is an inward pleasure that comes from giving and sharing the love that is inside of us. Humans are made to give, receive and share love. It’s a natural interconnecting and cyclical exchange which gives us purpose beyond ourselves. Love, being an action word, causes movement and pushes us past mere self interest. It involves sacrifice. Love says, “I will give my child the one piece of bread in the house and I will go hungry.” Or, “I will buy my lover an outfit, or his favorite cologne with my spending money instead of buying something for myself.”

You know the funny thing about love? Is that the so called sacrifice actually becomes pleasurable. There is no real suffering when your mind and heart are motivated to give. The satisfaction on the inside from giving to the object of your affection is reward enough. It’s easy!

Love will make you do right. Love will make you do wrong. Make you come home early. Make you stay out all night long. – Al Green

But what happens when the one you love doesn’t love you? What happens when the child you loved, raised and provided for rejects you? What happens when the friend you love betrays you? What happens when your lover cheats and breaks their promises. What happens to your love then?

Love is an investment of the heart. It requires intimacy and vulnerability. Vulnerability carries with it the potential of great pain. Pain causes grief. Anger is one of the 5 stages of grief. (along with denial, bargaining, and depression…) Acceptance is the last of the 5 stages.

If she is amazing, she won’t be easy.  If she is easy, she won’t be amazing. If she is worth it you won’t give up. If you give up you’re not worthy… Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.” – Bob Marley

When someone you love causes you to experience the 5 stages, this is the ultimate test of whether love is real. It’s easy to love when love is requited. But when it’s not, when the one you love isn’t going to return that love, or for that matter do the opposite of what you desire he/she does, and you achieve acceptance granting them their wish, then you will know that your love is truly love.

And this is the secret of love as well as some of the most important lessons we will learn in life. True enlightenment can’t be learned in a book. Ideas may start in theory but they aren’t anything but philosophies and mental treaties until you walk the walk. In this case, when your loved one puts you through hell and back, is performing at their worst, or is in a position to offer you nothing and yet you continue to love, then the true lessons of love have been achieved.

I always knew this in ‘theory.’ As a matter of fact, I have prided myself on loving the important people in my life when they are at their worst. After all, that’s when love is needed the most. I’ve proclaimed it and desired that same kind of love for myself. We all need that kind of love. I’m glad to say that I have both given and experienced this love beyond theory. Neither side of it was pretty or easy. But they were both real. To me, this is the greatest love of all.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. –John 15:13

 

 

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I Am

I am brilliant

I am kind

I am considerate

I am loyal

I am a giver

I am talented

I am patient

I am compassionate

I am empathetic

I am loyal

I am fierce

I am confident

I am bold

I am a survivor

I am inquisitive

 

I am bashful

I am unsettled

I am fearful

I am angry

I am possessive

 I am lacking in knowledge

I am stubborn

I am sensitive

I am foolish

I am conflicted

I am introspective

I am vengeful

I am in pain

I am blind

I am human

Radical Acceptance, Desire, Suffering, And the Ways of the Universe

As a child I had a great sense of fairness in my mind in the way I thought things worked in the world.  For one I was a good hearted kid.  I liked people and found comfort and strength in relationships.  I was also raised in church.  From the pulpit things always seem to turn out right for God’s people by the end of any given sermon.  The preacher never hooped and hollered a sad ending when climaxing the point of his message.  Then there was Hollywood.  In movies and television, the good guys always won at the end.  Justice was always served.  I recall the first time I saw the good guys ‘lose’ and a bad guy get away was in an episode of “Hill Street Blues.”  Though I don’t recall the exact details I do remember feeling jarred emotionally with a sense of loss and injustice.  Nowadays that’s pretty common for TV.  Seasons 1-5 of “The Wire” crystallized the realities of life more than any other show in television history.

For me there has always maintained this inner struggle between right and wrong, truth and justice, fairness and hardships.  All of these factors mentioned above made muttering through life mentally and spiritually difficult many a day.  I struggled with questions like why do people hurt others on purpose?  Why do good things happen to bad people?  Why do bad things happen to the good people?  Why would an elected official do evil things to the people he/she serves?  Why would a friend betray you or someone hurt you if you gave them your all?  All my life I’ve heard that doing the right things, working hard and treating people justly will bring good fortune and a good life.  I’m almost 45 years old now and through the study of history, events from around the world and life in general, it feels as if I’ve seen it all in some form or another.  And all that I’ve seen show that life is way more complicated than this.

The above mentioned formula didn’t seem to work true to life.  And most of my internal struggles have been an attempt to decipher the ways of how I fit in within the schemes of constant contradictions and suffering through good intentions.

It was my counselor and life coach Mrs. Francis Thomas (Miss Francis I call her) who first introduced to me the concept of ‘radical acceptance.’ Sitting in her office she forced me to consider ‘Letting go of fighting reality and accept your situation for what it is.’  Sounds simple doesn’t it?  Folks have a term for it nowadays.  “It is what it is.”  How many times have we heard that one?  Taking a closer look however, the concept of truly accepting things as they are is not natural to our culture.  There is and always has been a push and pull to try to influence or change reality.  And why not?  That what this country has been since immigration.  People came to this land to be what they wanted and live in a fashion empowered by personal ambition.  Those causes weren’t altogether pure either in that often living a chosen life rarely included allowing others to do the same.  And so there was and is conflict for the remaining up and comers, even till this day.  (See Colonization, Slavery, The fight for Civil Rights and Immigration)

And so we live, we love, we compete, and we pursue a vision not for what we accept but for that which we desire personally, vocationally, culturally, and institutionally.

This is our living.

And yet the midst of pursuits in happiness there is always a fly in the ointment of the oil that flows through what we call life.  Suffering.

No matter what we do, suffering seems to be inevitable.  I’ve tried to minimize mine as much as possible by following the golden rules.  But that’s too simple in the scheme of things.  So I sought knowledge.  How can I eliminate or reduce suffering?

Buddhist teaching reveals that the very cause of suffering is the attachment to ‘desire’ or craving.  The Second Noble Truth for instance include:

The Cause of Suffering– samudaya
The principle cause of suffering is the attachment to “desire” or “craving” (tanha). Both desire to have (wanting) and desire not to have (aversion).
1. Desire for sense-pleasures–kama-tanha
The desire for sense pleasures manifests itself as wanting to have pleasant experiences: the taste of good food, pleasant sexual experiences, delightful music.
2. Desire to become–bhava-tanha
The desire to become is the ambition that comes with wanting attaiments or recognition or fame. It is the craving to “be a somebody”.
3. Desire to get rid of–vibhava-tanha
The desire to get rid of the unpleasant experiences in life: unpleasant sensations, anger, fear, jealousy.
The clinging to desire comes from our experience that short-term satisfaction comes from following desire. We ignore the fact that satisfying our desires doesn’t bring an end to them.

Part of the Third Noble Truth simply says:

The end of suffering is non-attachment, or letting go of desire or craving.

In my spirit I totally understood and resonated with the substance of these words.  I sensed a light or a glimmer of hidden wisdom that I had never seen.  This was especially enlightening because by nature I am a doer, a man of action.  If I want something to be a certain way, I did what I could to make it happen.  I used action in an attempt to gain the reaction I desired. (Good deeds, hard work etc.) The thought of letting go of desire seemed to be a game changer.  A freeing experience if you will.  I started the process of embracing this concept slowly in my life.

Reading this may give the impression that by letting go of desire we are to just stand pat and allow whatever happens to happen in our lives.  That brings me to another teaching form Miss Francis.  “A life or inner peace will not consist of embracing an all or nothing paradigm.”

My journey of living is a continuous evolution of learning that the colours of life are rarely black and white, but shades of varying schemes that paint the world.  If there are no desires, there is no progress.  I believe we were created and the Universe calls for us to make contributions towards giving and receiving from the earth, as well as it’s inhabitants.  We can’t make a difference without having a ‘desire’ for something better.  Our humanity provides that we are creatures with feelings and emotions, as well as creativity and logic.  We not only want to survive, but thrive in serving and fulfilling a purpose all the while enjoying pleasure and senses of accomplishment.  The key is balancing all of life’s journey with a certain brevity and perspective.

In the bible Paul deals with this dichotomy.

In Philippians 3:14 he says he continues to press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ.

In Philippians 4:11 he says he’s learned to be content with whatever state he’s in.

Ecclesiastes 3 goes in great detail identifying the cycles of seasons and change in our existence.

The reality is that as long as we are living there will always be this struggle in understanding the push and pull of life; What to try to change and what to accept, how to love in the midst of hurt, pain, or rejection; Whether we are indeed living in a season or if it’s within our power to change the climate.

For in our flawed sense of justice through our blurred lenses the wicked do often prosper, good is not always rewarded, the good die young, love is not always returned gracefully.  Neither the good nor the bad are always what they seem.  And even the very best of us are often guilty of doing to others that which hurt us the most.

I submit that walking in the balance of universal harmony in the midst of it’s seemingly continuous contradictions is impossible for the natural life.  Indeed it requires a supernatural experience and existence which must be practiced if not perfected.

We should desire to be significant though not necessarily popular.  (Though being significant can bring fame.) By focusing on the process of living as well as the intent and ramifications of our actions rather than the results, in the end, I believe the Universe will balance and pay, and regulate accordingly.

And if not,… well then hey, it is what it is.

How Come You Don’t F*&! Me Anymore?

No that is NOT the new Prince jam.

I ran across this article the other day while surfing the net.  The heading of the link said, “What we don’t tell our husbands.”  I’m a married man so why wouldn’t I be interested?  That’s not an indictment on my wife’s level of honesty, but more about covering my bases.  I perused the various links within the story covering different marital topics from a woman’s point of view.  Catching my eye was a link titled “Mom Confessions.”  Ahhhhh!  My wifes a mother too so I may get a double dose of knowledge that us men generally never hear about.  Everybody knows that women can be like closet racist.  They reveal some things to their husbands, (the other race) while revealing others to those of their own species. (other women) It’s called ‘girl talk.’  I’m thinking since these moms are anonymous in this survey I may learn something.  Several links within the columns caught my eye.  For this post I’ll focus on one in particular; Top Ten Secret Mom Confessions”

Confession #5 Says, She’ll take sleep over sex.  *It goes on to say:

 Nap or nookie? Once the kids are asleep, almost 53% of moms would take a good night of sleep over mind-blowing sex any day. Being tired is an almost universal complaint among the moms we surveyed…

I ran this past my wife as she sat on the couch watching one of her favorite ‘shoot’em up killem’ can’t find’em’ mystery whodunit shows.  She agreed that most women including many of her married friends feel the same way.  I was surprised to say the least.  I spoke out.  “Are women less tired when they are single and having sex?  Why are mind-blowing sex and a good nights sleep mutually exclusive anyway?”  She stuck to her guns. “The average married woman enjoys sex, but only prefers it every so often unlike a man who prefers it a helluva lot more,” she said.  “And if he’s really good to her, she may even suck it up and give him a little more than what she would otherwise care to have.” 

Needless to say this was mind-blowing to me.  I know I’m a guy, right.  But still.  Most married couples I know started off having plenty of sex before marriage.  They also have plenty initially after the wedding.  But then something changes.  The message seems to be that after kids and life kick in, women lose a certain interest in sex.  I’m generalizing but not much.  I also noted that in today’s society there are many unmarried mothers who are divorced for intance, working, have custody of their children and still manage to carry on a vibrant sex life without the full time help of a man.  In spite of all of these challenges, she manages to get it in.  So fatigue seems like a cop-out.

The Mrs. agreed on these facts but I could tell by the look on her face she felt as if I just didn’t ‘get it.’  “And why does she have to suck it up if she enjoys it in the first place?, I asked.

We went back and forth before she pointed out that she was sure that most married or committed couples who live together with children are not having as much sex as I may think.  I wasn’t ready to conscede, but even if that were the case I still wondered why!

So I asked a friend of mine (a married male) some questions:

a) How many times do you and your wife have sex during any given week/month?

b) How does it differ from when you were dating?

c) Are you as a man satisfied with the amount of sex you have with your wife now?

This friend told me that he and his wife had frequent hot n’ wild sex the first few years of their relationship including marriage.  Now, it’s down to an average of maybe 3-4 times per month.  (they have 2 children) Strangely enough he expressed that he was just as satisfied with this amount as she was.  “Sex makes me too tired,” he said.  Knowing this brother for many years I remember a time when he would confess that he was definitely not satisfied with the amount of lovin’ he was getting from his wife.  But now his desires are on par with hers.  I told him that she must have worn him down to her lower standard.  It’s not merely a question of being being ‘tired.’ 

To prove my point, I said, “You may think you’re satisfied with that little bit you get at home, but what about the finest woman you know at work?  Would you be tempted to hit that if you could with no consequences even if you were tired?”  He acknowledged the temptation.  So I asked, “Then what in the hell is the problem?”  His answer?  He compared it to his favorite dessert.  He said that if he had his favorite dessert in the fridge at his disposal all the time he wouldn’t find it as appealing.  “Ahh!  So it’s a matter of availability?,” I inquired.  Since his wife is available all the time, she’s like his favorite dessert unlimited.  He can just take it for granted as if it’s there today so it will be there tomorrow…. and the next day, and hell the next week, month or year for that matter. 

I found that quite unacceptable. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I understand that life happens.  I understand that kids and responsibilities happen.  I understand there isn’t necessarily as much time to be romantic when there are little people running around the house.  What I don’t understand is why is sex such an important part of a relationship while in its building stages but not a part of an abiding program?  If a couple is doing it 5-7 days a week before children, why not at least 3-4 afterwards?   The frequency of indulging in certain pleasures may fall away as couples take on more responsibility.  But why does sex fall so significantly on the priority list? 

History shows that most couples, who endure a marriage or long term relationship that doesn’t last, end up starting a new relationship where sex again is a priority.  Men have reputations for having affairs, but nowadays more women are stepping out than ever before.  Within these affairs they are definitely having frequent sex with ‘the other guy.’  That doesn’t make sense if the original excuse for not having sex in the first place is fatigue.  It takes much more work to carry on and sustain a secret affair than to simply handle one’s sexual needs at home.

So what’s the deal?

Now let’s be clear.  I know there are differing challenges to each relationship though not all are uncommon.  For example; Some men are not interested in pleasing their women but rather only interested in their own pleasure.  And there are times when life just happens and sex is not the focal point for a period of time.  For the purposes of this expose’ I’m assuming that the marriage is good and that the man is not selfish but is also aware and proactive in meeting his woman’s sexual fantasies.

Speaking to another friend of mine, a woman who does some marriage counseling as a profession, she said, “Sex is 5% of a good marriage.  But its’ 95% of the problem if the two parties don’t agree.”  I saw her point but I thought she hedged the numbers a bit.  I would say sex is 8-10% of a good marriage depending on the couple.  But again I know, I’m a guy who happens to not be an expert on human sexual behavior.  She also said that single women tend to have sex to relieve other stresses in their lives.  “A woman who is happy and secure in her relationship may not need to have as much sex as her male partner,” she added.  That may be true, but I sense what seems to be a type of love/hate relationship with women and sex.  (That is another blog for another time.  I’m focusing on the love part for now.)  With that I still believe that there is a disconnect somewhere.

All theories seem to come back to the original point in the article;  Men want sex a lot, but women even in happy marriages don’t prefer much at all.  Is this really true mostly across the board?  If so why?  Or is this off base?  I would like to know what you all think.

How can you do this?

Well there are a couple ways.  First off you can just comment in the ‘comments’ section of this blog.  For those reading on Facebook you are also free to comment there.  If you prefer more privacy, you can comment on the blog anonymously, and I can repost responses to Facebook as anynomous.  I realize that some may feel comfortable with speaking freely while others may not.  I don’t want a anyone’s identity to interfere with total honesty.  Here are some of the questions I am looking to have answered:

1) Are you male or female

2) Married or Single

3) How important is sex in your life vs. your partner’s/past or present

4) Are you/were you satisfied with the state of sex within your relationship?  If not, why not?

5) Have you become sexually lazy or apathetic? (Be Honest)

I realize this won’t be the most scientific study of all time.  I’m just curious about how many people see what I call a dilemma.

I think the hottest steamiest and most vibrant sexual experiences should not belong to the promiscuous, the sneaky and the uncommitted; as if great persistent sex is only for the naughty.  I think it should be the opposite.  People who commit to sharing lives together should be knocking the hell outta the boots!  Period point blank!  Sure it may take imagination, a little more work, but that’s because it’s not cheap and passing.  All great things take work to maintain greatness.  Casual sex may be pleasurable, but the mentality to engage in it is different.  Committed sex is based in a security that the couple’s lives and principles are based in things that are far more important.  And that makes it even better.  Is anybody with me? 

I’m promoting a sexual revolution for the married/committed!

Suicide, Is It Ever a Viable Option?

Suicide:  Let’s talk about it.  I know someone who recently had a suicide in their family.  As the family started to put the pieces together, they learned that the young man had elaborately planned his demise.  This in spite of the fact that his secret was revealed prior to the day of decision and help was offered. 

So I have a few questions as it relates to this:

Is suicide ever a viable option for the hopeless?   What would you say to someone who told you he/she was contemplating suicide?  Would you try to convince them not to go through it?  If so what would you say?  Would you use bible scriptures or call the authorities? 

Have you ever thought about or considered suicide?  I am not ashamed to admit that I’ve been there.  I have strongly considered it before and planned it as well.  I consider it a miracle that I am here today. 

Have you ever thought about it or planned it?  Will you share?

From what I see, the stories of these kids who have killed themselves because of bullying have been sensationalized.  But several folks young and old end their lives daily and we hear nothing of it.

 Suicide is real and it’s here in a serious way.  So let’s talk about it!

Where is Cmac? or a Drastic Change In Direction

Well back to the blogs!  At least this is what I desire as I know I have not written in quite a while.   It’s because I’ve been through quite a lot.

Without getting into all of the gory details I will share some things that perhaps will help someone else.

After months, heck years of struggling greatly with depression and a variety of other mental challenges I had a complete nervous breakdown on Christmas Eve.  I had given up on life and was perfectly willing to leave this world behind.  Some of the problems I had I brought on myself with series of bad decisions and just flat-out wrong thinking.  Other things were put upon me all the way back from childhood. 

During the holiday things came to a head and I ended up spending Christmas in the hospital.  Boy what that an adventure.  I volunteered to go only because they said it would be better for me when it was time to get released.  My family pretty much took things over.  Between my sister who showed up at the door totally by surprise, my mother of all people flew in from Los Angeles via the red-eye the night before and came in right after her, I had no choice though I had totally hit rock bottom.

The experience in the hospital was wierd.  Sometimes I was calm and enjoyed the quiet.  But most of the time I was just reeling, bored and worried about life after the hospital.  The staff was minimal because it was Christmas.  I wanted to get some help since I was there.  But of course there weren’t any doctors and counselors around to treat us.  We were just kept. 

I met some cool peeps there.  Victoria was this sweet lady who wore a hat cause she had lost some hair.  She’ll talk you to death.  I tried to chill to myself most of the time but she was persistant.  One day she just broke out on me.  “Christopher, you are a wonderful man.  God has something special for you to do and your going to do it!”  She was just too sweet.  She tried to buy pizza for everybody on Christmas but Dominos wouldn’t take a check.

Delphine was cool.  A tall black woman who seemed to regulate the entire ward.  She wasn’t forceful but she had this presence about her that said she’s cool people but don’t cross her.  She knew the lowdown and seemed comfortable in the hospital… a little too damn comfortable.  I figured out she was a lesbian because when I told her I was to see Dr. J, (a female psychiatrist) she said to me, “Oh you’ll know her when you see her.  Cause she is the finest white woman you’ll see walking the floor!” 

In the meantime I read Andre Agassi’s book, “Open” and waited for my mother to visit me every evening.  On one occasion  in particular I remember sitting in a room with her alone and crying on her lap like a baby.   I’ll talk more about her later in another post but it was all a part of the bottoming out process.  I had not lived with my mother since I was 14.  Again I’ll explain that later.  The point is, here I was a 42 year old man just brought down to pieces laying in his mommy’s lap in pieces.  But I got nothing but love from her.

After the hospital there was intensive outpatient therapy.  After the first day where I mostly observed, I decided that I wanted to go all in on this therapy stuff.  I wanted to open up and be so honest that it hurt.  I wanted to go places where I was always afraid to go to before.  Places inside that I was afraid to admit even to myself about the way I felt about myself.

I learned some things.  Things like that as much as I wanted to be loved, I was not able to accept or receive the love that was offered to me.  I heard people talk about ‘loving yourself’ and I asked the question, “What the hell does that mean?”  Nobody could answer my question but finally my social worker in group therapy gave me some insight.

Change the word love to ‘accept.’  Once you learn to accept yourself and who you are and what you are, the love will be there.

Finally, I could understand that!

Group therapy was great because I also got to hear about what others were going through and I got to share in their pain, offer support and sometimes advice.  We all did that for one another. 

While I was in therapy I didn’t work at my 9-5.  I only did some basketball games and was mostly able to focus on my healing.  In that time I leaned on my family and the people who really care about me.  Thats one thing that you learn when you bottom out.  You learn who is really down for you and who is not!  Very few people know what I’ve been through or what really happened for the last 30 plus days till this day.  But I learned a lot about the circle of people I kept around me.  I learned what love and acceptance is all about.  I learned what condemnation and guilt was all about too. 

I just went back to work on Monday.  That in itself is a source of stress that I won’t get into. 

But I will say this.  I want to live.  I want to be happy.  I want to live right and reach my full potential.  I want to be ferociously honest and tremendously free.  I want to help and inspire hope and greatness in others. 

With that I have made some decisions that I believe are best for me.  Not all of them were easy.  But I know that now I have been more courageous than I’ve ever been before.  I have also sensed more blessings than I’ve ever experienced too.  I pray and believe that the rest of my days will be better than the former. 

Writing and sharing in this blog is special.  I’ve missed it.  And while ill I couldn’t create and write just as I could not listen to and enjoy music.  (my other love)

But I’m back – I want to be back.  And I want to share in this space.