Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Love'll take a man down

Stone men

Every day, I am reminded of how much I love my wife, Maty Bombay Diop-Cariaga. Because, every day, when I go to work, and I get mired down in all the anxiety and the politics and the madness and latent anger that is inherent in a work place where one's future is uncertain, I steady myself with the thought of my wife and our home in Southeast Portland. I have come to depend on her so much, her steadiness and her faith and her moral goodness, that if I were to be bereft of it now...well, I don't like to think about it.

Suffice it to say that if I were to survive such a catastrophe (by no means a certainty) I would be forever changed. I'd be like one of those terracotta men that stand in the tombs in China: destined to endure until wind and rain and time ground me to nothing. I can't imagine that life would hold any more joy for me at that point.

But, as deserving as she is, this post isn't an homage to Maty. My intention is to elucidate a point implied by the love that I hold for her. It is this: I have become vulnerable.

Before I met Maty, in the long decade I spent as a divorcee, owning my house on Hawthorne Street and renting out the two spare bedrooms, my heart was unladen by responsibility. My only concern, my only province, was myself. If I lost my job or suffered some unforeseen setback, I need only worry about my own person.

I could travel as I pleased. I could spend all night playing guitar with friends. I could make decisions based entirely on my whimsical inclinations without a thought for prudence.

The Happy Bachelor in Salzberg, Austria, 1999

Things are different now.

Those of you who read this that are parents or caring for elderly loved ones or otherwise responsible for persons beyond yourselves will surely think: "Ha! Now you get it!"

Okay. So, maybe I'm slow on the uptake. But this love that I willingly embraced, the love for which I longed, even in my happiest days of bachelorhood, has come at a price. I can be hurt now. I can be made to compromise even my most deeply held principles. I can be forced to accept things I never would have accepted before.

It is suddenly easy to imagine scenarios where, in order to protect and provide for my wife (and, perhaps, someday soon, my child) I might need to diminish my dignity and maybe even my sacred integrity. Because I love her. Because she is more important to me than even those things.

Maty, and all my family, are my rock. They are the solid foundation upon which I have constructed the sandcastle of my life.

There's an irony here, somewhere. I spent much of my life free and invulnerable, but yearning for love. In gaining love, I necessarily, and more or less consciously, sacrificed freedom and invulnerability. The loss of freedom is easy. I don't find myself yearning for it nowadays. I had a good long stretch of it, and it was grand and glorious. But I was ready to move on when Maty came into my life.

Love stripped me of the armor of being self-sufficient. Now, I face every day with the knowledge that there are very real disasters out there that can destroy me, that can transform me into one of those terracotta warriors, forever staring straight ahead, unfeeling and joyless.


Love can take a man down. Love is the self-imposed Achilles' heel for all men. At some level of consciousness, when a man allows himself to love, he exposes himself to the world. He says, "Yes, I will be a part of this beautiful, frightening thing." He says this even as he knows that ultimately, he will be destroyed.

Well, speaking only for myself, and even though, at times I'm deathly afraid, I wouldn't have it any other way.


Anonymous said...

You touch on an idea that I have long held: a man's "fear of commitment" (or, alternatively, reluctance to have children) is really a "fear of vulnerability" for the very reasons you propose.



Dan Binmore said...

It is impossible to be brave without fear. It is impossible to value something without missing its loss.

Ridwan said...

Beautiful emotions brother, and wise words.

Life is too short to live lonely.


Anonymous said...

cherish the moment.

20 Chapters said...

Ain't love grand. Dade, are you a Leonard Cohen fan? You should get his new CD recorded live in London last year. Great stuff. I'm thinking of his song, "Dance Me To The End of Time." Julie and I used that at our wedding.