The look of love is in your eyes,
a look that time can’t disguise.
The look of love is saying so much that words can every say,
and what my heart has heard..it just takes my breath away.
The look of love is on your face,
a look time can't erase.
I can hardly wait to hold you, feel my arms around you,
how long I have watied.
Waited just to love you...now that I have found you, don't ever go.
-Sergio Mendes & Brasil ‘66
Far more frequently you’re wearing perfume,
with, you say, "No special place to go"
But when I ask if you’ll be coming back soon,
you just say, "I don't know.”
I'm a man of many wishes,
I hope my premonition misses
What I really feel, my eyes won’t let hide,
‘cause they always start to cry.
seem like we’re waging an invisible war,
strange manuevers keeping silent score....
this scar is here to stay, opening up a little things you do or say...
you always want things to be as before, but I make you angry, so you plead and ignore...
every day I seem to lose you more
Three people in last 48 hours (with whom the depth of friendship varies from close to simple acquaintance) have described to me their level of despair about the breakup of a relationship.
What struck me about each story was how besieged each person was by the choices they have made, or must make. The pain coming from them was a tangible thing. When Mr. X finished his story, I asked him, "Do you need a hug?" It just flew out of me. I know he thought I was crazy--but, his story of being denied opportunities to see his children, being lied on by his ex-wife, and wiping away his son’s tears got to me.
The other stories were from women in various stages of break-up. One was living in that Gladys Knght inspired "Neither one of us wants to be the first to say it,” stage, and the other in "Let the door knob hit ya’ where the dog shoulda’ bit ya’ stage.”
The common theme was pain. A deep, groaning, soul-splitting pain. And, I am willing to bet you that each of these couples once promised undying love to the other. It's funny how life goes.
In my third year of art, I took a class with a Louisiana girl whose Mom was married to the cousin of a guy who co-produced a couple of albums for Stevie Wonder. (That's how it is in L.A., everybody is related to someone who knows someone in the entertainment biz!). She told me that Stevie wrote the lyrics listed above when he was going through a break-up with a woman whom he believed was his soulmate. From that day forward, the song took on greater meaning because I knew it was hooked to something real. A guy immersed in horrific pain because the person whom he loved, and thought loved him, was slipping away.
Those who know me well realize I have a odd fascination with cancer. As one who survived it, I am drawn to reading about it-- kinda like a moth to a flame. The first time I saw microscopic cancer cells, I remember thinking, "This is some hideous sh-t." Those half-formed, grotesque cells have a macabre, evil quality to them. If the devil has a signature disease, it is cancer.
When was the exact moment on a particular day that the DNA in a specific cell went from behaving normally to behaving abnormally and started destroying other cells? Clearly, I'm no oncologist, but there must be a beginning point to cancer at the core level of DNA code disruption.
Does the same thing happen to marriages and relationships? What I mean, I guess, is whether there is specficic moment on a given date that the relationship begins to turn malignant. Can couples, on reflection, point to the day that began the end?
When I teach--and, these days, it's either on leadership development or about basketball-- I spend time talking about the cause/effect paradigm emanating from unmet expectations. This, always, yields Disappointment. And, from what I've seen about the human condition, the next train stop after Disappointment is marked Frustration. The next stop: Anger. The next stop after Anger: Resentment...the last stop...Retaliation, Separation and Termination.
How many expectations have to remain unmet or unfulfilled before the train starts creeping out of the station. And, once the big locomotive is churning down the track, can it be stopped before reaching the next sad destination?
It's possible to achieve a turnaround before reaching the train stop marked Frustration. After that, it is simple a matter of marking time, waiting for the inevitable to occur. Frustration breeds a kind of demented internal aggression causing you to scoff; you begin questioning motives, and accepting of the subtle waning of your personal attachment and dedication toward the other person.
It is not hard to love, love is a choice you make; but it is exceedingly complicated to co-exist with another in these times. Why? Because life is hard. Working is hard. Rearing kids is hard. Managing a family is hard. Dealing with people at work is hard. Resolving issues with your parents is hard. Not having enough money is hard. Having too much money is hard. Watching your dreams erode like sand through an egg timer is hard. It is no wonder we turn to events like 'March Madness,' 'Nascar,' a 'Soap Operas,' 'Casino,' 'Bacardi' et al, to help us get through. Sometimes, 'getting through,' can only be actuated with a diversion. And, our society is masterful at providing diversions of every color, theme, and category.
Once you've embraced the exploding power of unmet expectations, as I see it, you've reached a defined beginning point of understanding-- the willingness to be honest with yourself.
One of the cool things about getting older--one of the FEW cool things, I might add-- is that you start accepting things about yourself. That doesn't necessarily mean that you like what you see, or that you are averse to personal change, but you become, indeed, acutely aware of what you lack. This kind of recognition cracks the door, ever so slightly, to an anteroom where one can have a discussion with another human about expectations. If one cannot face truth about themselves, it is unlikely they'll be able to talk about expectations--frankly talk about them-- with another. (Yes, this means kids, parents, siblings, bosses, employees...not just lovers and spouses.)
Many of the young basketball players I work with have designs on playing college or professional basketball. I always challenge them to do things: First, accept the fact that there will be pain. Embrace the pain, don't run from it. Excellence requiers sacrifice. Second, I have them invite others to tell them what they think their weaknesses are. That act, alone, forces one to move into an area of vulnerability--which is, quite often, a crucible that can enable and accelerate growth.
After the above discussion, I always ask this: What are your expectations?
My friend, Dena Evans, a remarkably gifted teacher of basketball asks players this: "Do you practice according to your aspirations? The first time I heard Dena ask a kid this, I remember having a flashback to my own heart-wrenching basketball career. Oh, how I wanted to play at UCLA...but, I possessed neither the training nor the discipline when I was that age..and, sadly, not one person was interested enough in me to help me discover either of the two.
I was a kid with a dream that had zero chance of ever coming true.
Now, I take us back to my earlier questions on relationships. Dena's question, I think, bears repeating. As it relates to whatever relationship you value, "Do you practice according to your aspirations?" If your aspiration, for a particular relationship is to survive, grow, and thrive, do you practice accordingly?"
It's always struck me that encapsulated in the word "intimate" is the word, "time."
We all, through our lives, treat time as something of which there remains an unending supply. A diagnosis of cancer is an amazing wake-up call to this fallacy. If we knew what a thimbleful of time we actually have, we would live much differently.
The valued relationships would receive much more attention-- the moldy, toxic ones would be ripped from our existence with energy akin to a meteor burning up in the atmosphere. We just woudn't tolerate them.
But, we think that time is something we have a lot of. So, we wait to do what must be done, thinking that it'll somehow magically "work out OK," or simply go away.
Personally, if I can't give someone 'benefit of the doubt,' one hundred percent of the time, I choose to have zero expectations of them. Not a single one. No expectation, no possiblility of frustration and all the cascading horror that follows on the wind. I won't recommend my way to others. I will say, like Buddha, it is 'a way,' but not necessarily 'the way.'
Recognizing, though, that the dynamic power of unmet expectations presents an open descent into horror is worth remembering-- particularly on this, Good Friday. That is, if it's a relationship you value.