The poetic, playful and prophetic musings of quintessential voices trying to keep up with life

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Pain of Love...And Why We Want It So Much

Feel free to listen to this before, during, or after you read this post.  It's just a good old-fashioned love song :)
I struggled to think of something to write for this week’s post.  Seriously, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t come up with something that would make a significant piece that would be worth writing...let alone reading.  But then, as I lay on my couch watching 27 Dresses it struck me…I could write about love.  I’ve written about love before, but that was more about loving everyone in a way that would keep us from being assholes to each other.  This time, I want to write about the one-on-one love (mostly romantic, though I am not discounting friendships and familial love by any means) that both fascinates and terrifies us…that drives us towards committing ourselves (whether for the rest of our lives, or for just the present moment) to another person.  I am writing this as someone who has never actually been in love, but has observed it enough to have some sort of understanding of how it works…I think. 

Love has actually been on my mind for a while now.  I have quite a few friends who are getting married, engaged, in serious relationships, or have reached a point in their lives where they are ready to intentionally search for a love in a way they hadn’t been before.  I’ve also been watching a lot of romantic comedies lately (I am currently unemployed and have a lot of time on my hands).  Now, I know that Hollywood’s depiction of love and romance is not always right…and not always healthy…but I think there is some truth in what is portrayed, at least as far as reflecting society’s obsession with love and finding love.  We sing about love, we write about love, we read about love, and we flock to see love portrayed on the big screen in various scenarios.  Love makes us laugh, cry, hurt, and feel more joy than we probably ever thought possible. 

Love can be impossible.
Sometimes, we scoff at love because we don’t want to seem squishy and sappy (as I write this, I find myself wincing at some of the sappiness that is leaking through…but we plunge ahead!).  We harden ourselves to it because our world is sometimes so cynical, there seems to be no room in it for love or the desire and hope for love.  We can have the wrong ideas and expectations of love, thinking that it’s supposed to be this force that makes us happy all the time, every day.  The reality, though, is that real love is oftentimes one of the most painful things we can ever experience.  Love is terrifying.  It makes us vulnerable and opens us up to a special kind of hurt that only that person who we give our love to is capable of inflicting on us.  We face heartbreak, hopelessness…and outright rejection.  Love can make you want to curl up into a little ball and never face the world again.  It can make you want to lock away your heart and never give it away, so that you never have to feel that kind of pain.
Complicated: Check.  Scary: Check.  Doesn't Always Go the Way You Hope: Double Check
For all the pain love can make us suffer, however, we still obsess over it.  As mentioned before, I just finished watching 27 Dresses before sitting down to write this post.  I love that movie for several reasons, but one reason is because it shows that sometimes you find love where you weren’t looking for it.  Love can be complicated, and I always appreciate movies that portray this.  I also watched Love Actually for the first time, and, well, I loved it (teehee).  I liked that it showed different kinds of love…and that not every couple ended up living happily ever after.  It’s closer to real life.  While I do love the stories where the couples overcome every obstacle to be together (I’m a hopeless romantic at heart), I recognize that that is not always the case.  Love can be gritty…and sometimes it can be hopeless.  Another movie I watched that reflects this is My Best Friend’s Wedding.  Sometimes, no matter how hard you try or how much you wish it, your love is not always returned and it does not always win.  It’s sometimes a harsh reality, but it doesn’t mean you give up on love.  You just can’t let the heartbreak stop the rest of your life from continuing on. 
Love isn't always where you think it will be.
Ultimately, though, love and being able to love is worth fighting for.  I don’t think any group of people demonstrates this better than the LGBTQ community.  I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to walk in the Boston Pride parade not that long ago, not as a member of the community myself, but as an ally who believes no one should have the authority to tell someone who they can love and what kind of person they’re “supposed” to be.  I think it is an amazing testament to the importance of love that people are willing to fight so hard for their love to be acknowledged as equally important and as worthwhile as others’.  I think we could all learn something from the LGBTQ community about the importance and commitment of love…because I think the rest of us too often take advantage of love and too easily throw it away.

Despite all of the pain and fear that love can throw into our lives, however, it is a truly beautiful thing.  To truly find love is to not settle for the shallow, feel-good love that ends when the honeymoon phase is over, but to strive for the kind of love that causes us nearly as much pain as joy, that gives us the courage to fight to keep it, to throw all of our cards in on the person we think we can make a real life with.  If you are lucky enough to find this kind of love, the love that meets the test of time, the kind of love where you lay everything you are out in the open for the other person to see, the kind of love you are willing to fight and work for…then you are the reason the rest of us keep hoping, keeping searching, and keep risking the pain on the off chance that we’ll also find that joy.  Love is never neat and clean, and it shouldn’t be.  That much emotion, that much dedication, should be something that challenges us every day and makes us grow as individuals and as couples.  I am not in love, and don’t think I can honestly say I have ever been in love…but it is something I hope for, and will continue to hope for.  Not everyone feels the same as I do, and that’s okay.  Love can come in all shapes and sizes, and people might not always want to find romantic love.  But I think it is one of our greatest capabilities as human beings, and despite what real life often shows me, I will always be secretly sappy and I will always cheer for, and hope for, love.              

A little treat for all those hopeless romantics out there (like me)...and because I watched this movie this week as well :)
With love,
Erin B.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Family/Story: Claiming a Hybrid Identity

When was the last time you filled out a form or application and were asked to identify as a particular race or ethnicity? Do you remember your answer and, depending on the format, the categories/boxes that were available to be checked? What about the 'Other' category? What does 'Other' mean anyway?

More importantly, why does that matter?

Until taking a class in my (recently completed) first year of seminary, I really didn't think a whole lot about those questions. And why should I? After all, checking a box doesn't actually define who we are... Or does it?

Few people know this about me (and you certainly wouldn't guess it by looking at me) but I was born & grew up in the Caribbean for a little while and was one of few white children in my pre-K/Kindergarten classes. At that time, I probably wasn't aware that differences in skin color meant anything...because they shouldn't...but 5 year old Erin was just a kid, doing what kids do, and didn't care that my white skin turned red in the sun and other kids' skin didn't noticeably change color.

But when I moved to Iowa, everyone looked like me... But I knew I was also not quite like my classmates. My last name is Guzman and that's not really common in Iowa, especially not in my small town where so many families are related.

When I took my first standardized test as a 1st grader, I came across the 'Race & Ethnicity' question. I remember not understanding what they were asking of me, so I confronted my teacher with what box to check. I knew that something about me was different, but asking me to "identify as something"did not compute. After a moment of consideration my teacher told me to check 'White/Caucasian.' --First grade Erin could not have anticipated what the repercussions of filling in that bubble would mean nearly 20 years later.

#RealTalk: Seminary is/has been really great, but it also has the ability to mess things up for you/your routine. Some would argue that's a good thing -- dis/rupt the hab/it YAH! Others will tell you that's entirely undesirable, especially when trying to discern a laundry list of things to help prepare you for your future. For me, it's both and... In my Pastoral Care & Theology class, we were asked to create a genogram (an overly detailed family tree) to examine the ways in which our families have shaped who we are as people/pastoral care givers. I knew the project was going to be hard... What I didn't expect to discover was that I had been living the majority of my life under some false impressions.

Here's what I learned:

American (left) - Mexican (right)  borderland
My grandfather grew up in Southern Texas, basically in Mexico. In the 1920s Mexicans experienced a great deal of discrimination based on how they look (GEE, THERE'S A HUGE SURPRISE!). My grandfather, having grown up in the wake of such treatment, resisted/tried to protect his family from further discrimination by saying he was Native American rather than Mexican. This defense mechanism is not exclusive to my family, but is a common way of identifying oneself as part of the "dominant group"of a given society to avoid negative treatment. Today, many Mexican-Americans refer to themselves as "white" rather than fully embrace their heritage for a variety of reasons, one of which is self-preservation. This disassociation with our Mexican roots was subsequently passed on through our family for a variety of other reasons related to their circumstances and into my naive self-perception.

It wasn't until I interviewed my aunt that I made a discovery: I'm a 1/4 Mexican.

As I began putting these threads together, I felt all sorts of confused and hurt. Why had my dad not told me the truth in 6th grade when I did that project about his ancestry? Why had no one acknowledged the fact that all of my aunts and uncles have significantly darker skin than other folks in the family? Why did I somehow not find offense in the "dirty-Mexican" jokes that spread like wildfire through my hometown whenever migrant workers came in from working in the cornfields? I also felt an enormous urge to reconnect with this part of my heritage. Yet, because I've been immersed in "white culture" for the majority of my life, how genuine of an effort would it be to actually reclaim this identity? Because I don't "look the part" would I ever be able to truly identify with this part of me that is now inescapable?


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