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

 

 

Are Relationships Hard?

I was having a conversation recently about a couple who are in the midst of some turbulent times in their relationship. It’s possible that they may not make it to the forever they promised one another. It’s commonly said that in any relationship it will not always be ‘peaches and cream.’

Well it’s true that life in itself is at times very challenging. Externally there are things going on all around us that grab our attention. We have goals, wants, needs, and desires. Sometimes it’s as simple as survival. From where will come our next meal? How will the rent get paid? Whether goals or stresses, these will abide no matter what. I’ve heard it said that in life we are either going through something, about to through something or recently came through something. We don’t need to be coupled up to have these challenges. They will be with us regardless.

So what does this say about relationship?  Are they hard or are they easy?

As I think about it, I don’t believe relationships are hard. I believe WE are hard. It’s easy in the beginning to find favor with someone we like, care for or love. We even know going in that the object of our desire is not a perfect person. We know that he/she has faults. If we are self aware we also understand that we are deeply flawed or at least far from perfection in a human sense. There will always be room for growth no matter what stage in life we are in. And yet when someone has our favor we are graceful towards our partner’s imperfections. Some of us overlook them altogether. Some of us who are a bit wiser recognize them yet view our partner’s imperfections as an opportunity to step up and really show love and compassion towards him/her. Either way, it’s not the relationship that is the problem. It’s us!

At some point in relationships it is us who change. We become less graceful towards our partner. We become stubborn, resentful, unforgiving with a hardened heart. We become rigid, impatient, judgmental, prideful, lazy, and self absorbed. We forget or refuse to remember the first fruits of what attracted and connected us in the first place. We stop putting in the work of developing our own character to grow and be a better person and by extension a better partner.

It’s easy to love when ‘things’ are good and going our way, right? However, love is strengthened through trials and tribulations when we as people decide that no matter what is going on externally, we are determined to remember and maintain a basic foundation of humanity and decency when we think of and address our partner. When he/she misses the mark in our opinion, we can choose compassion instead of spite. We can choose soft words or if necessary temporary silence in the midst of conflict or pressure. We can choose to remember that our partner is a person who needs the same grace and kindness that we desire when we are not our best selves. We can decide to never ever remove the emotional security blanket that assures our partner that he/she is never alone and will always be received and accepted; without question. We all have and will always have faults as well as external distractions. Through love and devotion our partnership can grow us under the tent of a security that says, “No matter what, I’ve got your back.”

Always remember, nothing great and worthwhile happens by accident. Love is an action word. It is achieved, maintained and perfected intentionally!

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

She (Great Intimacy, Great Risk, Great Love)

Great Intimacy, Great Risk, Great Love;
One thing about receiving true love that I have found to be true is that we cannot experience it unless our hearts are truly and totally open to receiving it. This is generally a difficult thing to do because we naturally tend to self protect. Well, actually we don’t start out self protecting. If we are blessed to have loving relationships from the beginning at birth, certainly this infant is not shy at all about any form of self expression. The infant isn’t scared to be open about it’s needs and desires.  It’s only after rejection do we begin to put up defenses.
As we get older and experience life, disappointment, or betrayal we tend to develop as a survival tool the ability to open little cracks here and there of ourselves.  We learn what we are comfortable with exposing and during that process especially early on we stand ready with the proverbial STOP button when something doesn’t feel right about it.  Some things may hurt a little or piss us off. But the button kicks into gear with phrases like, “I knew this was going to happen.” This just adds another chink to the heart armor and take that suit to the next encounter.
Well, it is only when I take off my suit of armor do I receive this gift.  I must open myself up, my heart, my conscious.  And I leave nothing in the way of protection or survival.  I must trust her with my heart.  As life goes on I’ll learn how this looks as we experience new adventures giving us opportunities to develop character within our relationship.  I want the best intimacy that God/The Universe has to offer.  And though we are fully grown adults, full of love and experience… experience that I expect us to use in wisdom to help us grow; still I must give her all of me so that she can give me her wonderful unconditional love and acceptance.  That she can embrace me in all of my glory, and all of my shortcomings.  To know that I am never judged, but I am always loved to the bitter end. This kind of love inspires me to be better and reach all of my potential. 
 aajb1jk
When I played sports. I was very competitive. And there were times when coaches or teammates were really forward in correcting something I did or didn’t do. Depending on how I felt about the coach or the teammate, revealed how I took that criticism.  If you had credibility in my life, then you can really get on me and I’ll receive it.  But even more so… is after that criticism, argument or fight I am the type of person that the more faith you express in me the more I am apt to accomplish even more than I thought I could on my own.  I am a person who loves to encourage by nature. And when the right people encouraged me, I go above and beyond because of my natural bent towards loyalty.  I believe in loyalty so much!  I’m happy to prove that confidence in me will be rewarded, not disappointed.  
So in relating this to such a precious friendship, relationship, bond, commitment promises, and covenant, she is to be my ultimate teammate, partner, life coach, intimate soulmate.  She has the credibility to teach, correct, adding input to my life, my character, my manhood.  She can challenge me in love and help make me to be all the man I need to be.  In turn, because my heart is open, because I trust her with me knowing that she will never leave, forsake or betray me, my only response is to take heed to her intelligence and insight, and work my ass off to earn her praise. Then as she praises me even unexpectedly, when I least expect it, I am humbled and blessed, thankful as I waddle in her love.  For you see she has my heart in her hands.  She is in charge of it.  She will keep it safe.  And I love her for taking on this heart of mine.  

Throw Back Thursday – Dedicated to My Grandparents

Genrations

PHOTO: Christmas circa 1981 in New Kensington, PA (suburb of Pittsburgh) I was 14, to my left was my father Otis McCaleb, (R.I.P.) Below L-R Grandfather Leo “The Lion” Moore, Grandmother Georgia Moore, (R.I.P) and my sister Darcel (McCaleb) Tyson.

This was the last time I saw my grandmother alive. Still breaks my heart that I couldn’t be present to help lay her to rest. Grandma was a strong willed woman who loved cooking and Falstaff Beer. When my sister and I visited her every summer, she cooked every single night except Friday. On Friday, it was ‘Mustgo.’ I used to ask, “Grandma, whats Mustgo?” She’d yell, ‘Whatever didn’t go yesterday, MUSTGO today!  It took me years to figure what that meant because she phrased ‘MUST GO’ as one word!  She rocked a gold cap on her upper tooth, smoked and drank on the weekend listening to The Bucs (Pirates Baseball) on KDKA radio.

Grandma never missed a Sunday Service either.  Deeply religious and equally superstitious, she would never let me split a pole when she and I often walked to the ‘5 and 10 Store,’ downtown.  (Yea the 5 & dime she called it.  Used used to buy me those pajamas with the feet in them. Loved those things.)   But I digress: She would never ever allow a female to be the first person to walk through the front door after the New Year.  She said that was bad luck!  As New Years struck the year pictured above, I had the pleasure of walking out the back door and around to the front to ensure the year wouldn’t be doomed towards destruction! The night of January 1st however, I thought the opposite was going to happen after Dan Marino thew that 35 yard touchdown pass to John Brown to beat Herschel Walker and Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.  I jumped with joy thrusting my fist in the air shattering a bulb from her prized chandelier!

Grandma - Georgia Moore

As far as discipline goes, she was the bad cop!  And she did it well too!  No matter what I’d try to get away with when she wasn’t there, she always, and I mean always found out about it.  She worked at a nursing home by day.  I wasn’t allowed to go outside or have company over till she got home from work.  But my girlfriend Vonda lived next door.  As a matter of fact, we each lived in a brick double-connected 3 bedroom townhome that her grandmother owned.  Her grandma, Lucille Brooks lived at 490 McCargo St.  Our side of the building was 488.  Our families were literally close like family, not just neighbors.  Anyway, I would check, check, double-check all of the windows and peek around the doors, give the all clear signal and my girlfriend would bolt form 490 through my back patio door.

Sure enough, at 4:15 when grandma walked in the door, she’d come home and be like, “Christopher Keith?!!  (I knew I was in trouble when she started using my government) “Didn’t I tell you not to have that girl over here?  Yes I did… and yes she was!  You had her over here from from 11:30 to 2!”  I’d try… “But grandma, we was just watching game shows.  Like The Price is Right, and the $20,000 Pyramid!”  She’s come back, “The price is right for me to beat yo ass with a pyramid!”  I’d think to myself, “Now how in the hell?”  I swear I think that nursing home thing was a front.  She had to be NSA!  I mean, just look at her picture above.  Does this woman look like a joke to you?

One of the reasons I love old people today is because of my granddaddy. (who we called Leo as kids)  After serving in the Korean War he was a race car driver in his hometown of Meridian Mississippi! When I was a shorty, before he got into buying luxury cars, he had a bright red 1970 Ford Torino stock racer that was his everyday coup.  It still had all the racing gages and stuff in it too.  (Like some Fast and Furious stuff!)  And yes he drove it around town like he was his name was Wendell Scott. 

GT

During the week, Granddaddy was straight laced to the bone because it was a work night.   In the evenings, he’d come home, read his newspaper, eat dinner, watch Gunsmoke and Bonanza, calling it a night promptly at 9pm.  He wasn’t mean, but you couldn’t get more than two sentences out of him at a time.  He was just that locked in.  Now come Friday night?  That was another story.  It was like a metamorphosis.

If you’ve ever seen the movie A Soldier’s Story, two of the characters were at extreme odds against one another.  Sargent Waters, (the upwardly bound Negro looking to forge a new way for Southern Blacks through discipline, becoming Eurocentrically bourgeois, and less backwoods colored) vs. CJ Memphis (the good ole simple country boy who loved to sing, dance, and entertain people.  CJ loved everybody.  And everybody loved CJ, except Waters).  My grandfather was Sargent Waters during the week.  But instantly transformed to CJ Memphis from the moment he clocked out Friday night through Sunday before going to bed.

He’d sit me on his lap and sing songs to me;

“Goodbye Joe, you gotta go, meo-myo!  Son of a gun we gonna have fun on the bayo!”  or “Imma dance with the girl with the hold in her stockings and her knees keep a rocking!”

I mean he was the funnest dude in the world!

Waters

He took me with him on his many trips to the local bars and taverns. He would say, “Come on grandson. I’m going to get a shot!” We’d roll and in those days you could walk an 8 or 9 year old right up to the spot. (Always in the day time of course) He would get his ‘shots’ and I would listen as the old men told stories while laughing with one another…which I just LOVED!  I’d look at their faces and as far as I was concerned, they could have been from the 1800s.  Their faces held such distinct characteristics with the various shades and wrinkles.  I pretty much thought they knew EVERYTHING!  Add to that the fact that these men of distinction always treated me with such high regard and respect.  They’d talk to me to see how if and how I’d speak back.  Did I smile, was I unafraid, yet respectful?  Saying things like, “Oh your grandson is smaaaart!” or He gone be something…(looking at me) aren’t you young man?”  ““Yes sir!”  We’d bar hop for several hours doing the same thing…. every weekend!

And don’t let it be a week where I had to go to the barbershop.   That meant an excuse to stay out a couple more hours long way past the time it took to actually cut my hair.  Which meant more bars and taverns!   The guys in the barbershops told awesome stories themselves.  They’d pat me on the head, tell me to keep my grades up and be something!  

Of course when we’d get home and granddaddy was lit up like a Christmas tree, she would give him all he wanted!  “Leo you old crazy fool!  Drunk ass!  Git yo hands off me!  I don’t want no kiss!”  Grandad would say something like, “Now Georgia stop all that damn fussing at me!  I’m grown!  Fix me some dinner!”

This was standard operating procedure every weekend and all summer long!  And it was the best of times!

CJ

Grandma died in 1984 after doing some Thanksgiving grocery shopping.  She collapsed at the local Food Mart while waiting on a cab.  She never drove a car.  My grandfather was at work.  Oh do I miss her till this day.  She never got to see me as an adult, or to see any of my own children.

Granddaddy has since remarried, and has long retired as an electrical engineer from ALCOA Steel.   His wife Judy, who is a lovely woman, is an AME Minister in Pittsburgh.

Real Love Is Just That, Real

It’s not unusual ever day when my wife and I wake up and for one of us to say, “I love you,” first thing in the morning.  As a matter of fact, it’s most unusual if neither of us does. However, earlier this week I changed it up a bit.  Not because I was trying to.  It was just that another phrase came more naturally that morning.  I said to her, “I adore you.” 

Her response surprised me a bit.  When I tell her I love her in the morning, she always smiles and says, “I love you.  Normally without any hesitation.  If she beats me to the punch, my natural response is usually something like, ‘I love you too baby.”  Changing the phrasing provided an interesting response.  I can’t remember the exact wording, but it was something akin to, “I’m glad to know that though I often don’t see what you find adorable.” 

Her response gave me pause.  I felt the pain at what must be a hurtful feeling regarding how she saw herself, (though I can certainly empathize with doubtful feelings of self value.) Not to mention how that affected how she viewed my sentiments towards her.

I asked her to elaborate.  And she went on to give me the reasons that she didn’t see herself as adorable.  I used this opportunity to share the details of what I felt within when I expressed those words.

I said something like:

“You are adorable because you are.  And adoring you has nothing to do with only appreciating everything that is so called right or good about you.  Our lives are a journey.  Each of us has virtues, gifts, talents, and yes even baggage and faults.  Navigating through baggage and faults are a part of our journey.  I have never expected you to be perfect.  But I do love you in your weaknesses while recognizing your strengths and celebrate your growth in a number of areas.  When I say, ‘I love you’, or that ‘I adore you’,  that means I love and adore all of you.  Not just that which has been refined.  Think of it this way: We love and adore our daughters, and yet we can quickly name several areas where growth and development is needed.  Love and adoration doesn’t wait for perfection.  Instead, they team to nurture, protect and make better what has already been created perfect;  A child of God, more valuable than anything the world has ever or will ever see.”

I didn’t say these words to her as if I were to teach her something.  I was also talking to myself. Oh how great a thing it is, to adore, and be adored, just the way we are.

I hope we both learn the lesson~

Love-Life-and-the-Universe

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.