Photo by AYUMi
By Mark David Gerson
The black jeep drives out of the Denny’s parking lot in Gallup, New Mexico, my daughter Guinevere waving from the back seat. It turns south on Muñoz Drive, then west on I-40 on its way back to Sedona, Arizona.
For ten minutes, I sit numbly in my car, unable to turn the key in the ignition and follow Muñoz to I-40′s eastbound ramp, for the two-and-a-half-hour trip home to Albuquerque. When I do, it’s a long time before I can turn on the radio or call a friend, the two distractions that often ease long drives for me.
Today, I need silence.
I’ve experienced many versions of this sadness since December 2004, when I drove out of Sedona in the wake of a marriage breakup and launched the 30-month road odyssey that ultimately landed me here in New Mexico. But this is one of the most intense, and it takes me several days to figure out why.
Over the next two days, Guinevere emails me a half-dozen YouTube video clips from Easter Parade, Meet Me in St. Louis and Singin’ in the Rain, the three classic movie musicals I introduced her to during our March Break visit, each accompanied by a love note. But, unusually, I don’t hear from her at bedtime.
On the third night, I call. Her mom explains: Guinevere was more distraught than usual at leaving me and was afraid that talking to me would make her even more upset.
I understand. In those early months after I first left Sedona, I too hesitated to call Guinevere some nights for the same reason.
The next night, I have a seemingly unrelated experience: Someone I would never have considered pursuing romantically because of the yawning gap in our ages, pushes many of my buttons by flirting with me.
My first instinct is to recoil. Then I remember both the counsel I’ve given friends on that same topic in recent months and words I wrote just two weeks earlier in an online discussion thread on the subject. I was writing about two men. But the words apply to any two potential mates, regardless of gender or orientation:
“Dating someone young enough to be my son,” I wrote, “would push all sorts of buttons for me. But I wouldn’t walk away from the potential for a deep, abiding love based on numbers alone. Love is too rare and special to make up artificial rules that ignore the mystical, magical illogic of the human heart.
“When love comes calling, I’m not going to ask for a birth certificate. I’m going to explore the heart connections that make love so wondrous.”
When love comes calling….
Suddenly, I realize that what I’ve been experiencing is isn’t only about me and Guinevere. Nor does it really have anything to do with this guy, who for reasons other than age may not be mate material. It’s about how open I truly am to love — however it chooses to come calling, whatever form it takes.
Back in January, I overcame some of my antipathy to The Secret movie and watched it again. The most profound thing it left me with was a call to write out all the things I was grateful for — both those already visible in my life and those I desired but had yet to see or experience. The result was a comprehensive, four-page, ever-evolving list of statements related to every aspect of my personal, professional, creative and financial life.
I’ve been reading it aloud daily ever since.
When, Tuesday night, I get off the phone first with Guinevere and then with this young guy, I run to the computer and add this gratitude/joy statement to the others:
“I am so happy, joyous and grateful, now that I fully embrace and am unconditionally open to all the love directed toward me and flowing to me — now and in all dimensions of time and space.”
At first I think it’s only about allowing myself to feel the fullness of my daughter’s love and allowing myself to let in the kind of “loving, physically intimate and committed relationship” I’ve described in one of my other gratitude/joy statements. Then I realize that, as the Beatles so simply put it, “love is all there is.”
Love is the energy that fuels everything and is the true source of every item on my four-page list. The only way to achieve my personal, professional, creative and financial goals is to keep opening my heart wider and wider to receive that love, however it comes calling.
The more open-hearted and vulnerable I can become, the more I can allow love in all its forms to touch and transform me. These forms can include the words of my next novel as much as the success of this one. They can include financial freedom as much as loving relationships.
They can also include pain.
The love from an unexpected source that led to my marriage became the pain of its dissolution. The joy of a week with my daughter is also the heartache of our parting.
What last week reminded me was that love can bring pain as well as joy, and that unless I’m open to a full experience of love’s pain, I will never experience the heights of its joy and passion.
It also reminded me that the best inner and outer work I can be doing in these times of intense upheaval involves not only keeping my heart open but doing everything in my power to open it yet more…and more…and more — to myself, to everyone else and to all the ways love presents itself, even if they’re potentially painful to me or to someone else.
When love comes calling, whatever form it takes, I choose to be the open vessel that welcomes it and allows it to fill me with all my heart desires — the four pages’ worth that I know about as well as the infinite realms of desire I cannot yet begin to imagine.
Love does change everything. Everything.
I’m now ready to embrace it. Unconditionally.