Sunday, July 4, 2010

Mother Teresa I'm Not

I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love. ~ Mother Teresa

It's just possible Mother Teresa was elevated to sainthood because she already was one. Her words on loving until it hurts remind me of a dialogue from the television program, M*A*S*H, between Radar and Colonel Potter. When asked how he deals with Mrs. Potter being confusing, the Colonel responds, "I figured out long ago I could either stop loving her or love her more. Since I couldn't stop, I had only one choice." I've always liked that.

Loving differentiates as widely as the origin of species. It's possible to conceive of a loyal British subject living in Maine 234 years ago, in the very house I currently occupy, determined to fight for independence on the grounds it was in Britain's best interest. In other words, imposing unfair taxes and withholding liberty does Britain more harm than good. Since she can't save herself, love dictates one ought to act on her behalf.

My parents used to say, "This hurts me more than it does you," and of course, I didn't believe them. Once I stood in the role of a parenting person, I began to understand how they felt, when the interests of someone far younger who depended on me, took precedence over my own little corner of the universe. Until then, I'm honestly not sure I knew what it meant to love. That's one of the things kids do -- besides giving gray hair, that is -- they get us out of ourselves and introduce us to a relationship like no other.

It's hard when your kid needs medication in order to remain stable or get that way in the first place. When sitting still is impossible because there's an internal motor idling 2000 rpm faster than the rest of the kids in class or when, at 19, s/he starts hearing voices mute to everyone else. If simply having children hasn't rocked your world, this will. It hurts us as much as them, but someone has to step up to the plate saying, "Take this pill or therapy, it's good for you," and if not us, who? And that's love, too.

My own words come back to haunt me more often than I'd like. Those occasions when they should have been carefully clothed in love and weren't, when I ought to have said, "I love you," and fumbled the ball as though I had dipped my hands in a vat of WD-40. We balance those with the times we did say it well, when we took a leap of faith and risked heartbreak in the name of heartfelt devotion. We have to do that because none love perfectly and none are perfect, least of all me. Mother Teresa I'm not. But we keep trying and that's what counts.

May you and the ones you love have a wonderful Fourth of July.

(Creative Commons image "Mother Teresa's Eyes" by mrsdkrebs via Flickr)

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