This post is about love. Which obsesses me: how love works, how we can keep it alive.
Women never feel we’re good enough. Now add children, and there’s guilt aplenty. Now add a demanding work life into the equation. There can be no end of guilt.
You know what I’m talking about. You do your best, and it never feels like it’s enough or that you ever do quite the right thing.
But you also know that sometimes there are the rare golden times when you get things right. There was a time when my kids were little... I’d worked a long day. I wanted to give them a sweet bedtime. I’d talk with them—they were 2 years apart—and then read them a story.
But one day they said, “Tell us a story from your mouth.” Meaning, I realized, they wanted me to make up a story. Me, braindead from my day, and now I have to become a creative writer! But God was with me. I knew they loved birthday parties—we get so few of them!!—and animals—we don’t get enough of them either.
So I made up an on-going saga of a little girl their age named Elizabeth who had a birthday party EVERY NIGHT AT THEIR BEDTIME. The most fancy, cake-laden, ice-cream-filled, soda-soaked, over-decorated birthday party you could imagine.
And every night out of my mouth came these animals:
Ellie the Elephant with her Elegant Emerald Earrings
Rhiney the Rhinoceros with her Runny Nose and Rhinestones
Lori the Lion with her Luscious Lips and Lime-green Lipstick
Tina the Tiger with her Twinkly Toes and Tidy Tail
Wilma the Whooping Crane with her Wacky Wings and Wobbly Wedgies
Geri the Giraffe with her Jolly Jacket and Jiggly Jowls
Minnie the Monkey with her Merry Mouth and Magenta Mini-skirt
Zoe the Zebra with her Zany Zips and Zilly Zooms
(Well, it actually took a while to make up all of these guys! The party was a little slow to get started...)
What fun it was, and meaningful too, because whatever was going on in my girls’ lives that day—they’d told me—would somehow come up with the animals at the party.
Last post we heard from Bella the Dog, not a party guest, commenting on my statement that “You can never give too much love.” Yes, Bella said, but you can’t give love when you’re not getting any back. There has to be room for two whole people in the relationship.
Bella was right.
Now all these years later, my daughters are full-grown women, and I wonder... With our grown-up struggles and confusions in the land of love, what would our birthday party animals have to say on the subject of love? Let’s throw a grown-up cocktail party—tons of martinis for Tina the Tiger, plenty of peanuts for Ellie the Elephant!—and see.
Elephants never forget. But you might be surprised at Ellie the Elephant’s thoughts:
Forgiveness is at the heart of love. Two people will hurt each other, sometimes deeply. With compassion, you can get on the road to forgiveness, but unless you have the gift of forgetting, forgiveness will always be just out of your grasp. You don’t actually have to forget. You do have to be able to no longer cling to the memory.
Rhiney the Rhinoceros knows she sometimes forgets how big and scary she can look. And she says:
Power is the death of love. That’s why I can only be in a relationship with another rhinoceros. I was once dating Zoe the Zebra’s brother Zack. A great guy. But zebra/rhinoceros relationships never work out. No matter how hard we tried to work through it, the fact that I weighed 3 tons more than he did was just too intimidating for him. Whenever we had a conflict I’d have to give in, because if I asserted myself at all, I scared the shit out of poor sweet Zack. This power dynamic doesn’t come up with another rhino.
Lori the Lion with her Luscious Lips and Lime-green Lipstick wanted to focus on the issue of fairness:
Sure, I’m a very girly lioness, but all girl lions have a raw deal. We’re the main breadwinners—nothing personal Zoe!—while the guys just lie around admiring each other’s manes. Then we have the babies and teach them how to be lions, while keeping them out their daddy’s hair. Resentment is the poison of love, and if my mate could go shopping—hunting, actually—with me, things would be so much more fair and I might actually want to have sex with the bastard.
The other big cat, Tina the Tiger with her Twinkly Toes and Tidy Tail, has this take:
What’s more beautiful than a tiger, right? It ain’t bragging if it’s true! And the most beautiful thing is—whew!—a hot male tiger in full bloom. Splash some cold water on me!!! Well, I’ve thrown my heart away on too many of these dudes, and that’s the truth. Lemme just quote from Mira herself in Women & Love: “It’s not just how you feel about him. It’s much more about how he makes you feel about yourself.” That’s how to tell true love from just having the hots. If you don't feel good about yourself with the other person, or tiger, it's not love.
Thanks, Ellie, Rhiney, Lori, and Tina. Next week we’ll be back with another grownup party—cocktails and canapés—when the rest of the party animals show up.
You won’t want to miss it. BYOB!!