Love always fails

Shame always prevails.

If because of unreadiness we reject God’s love, we are bound to reject any and all conditional human love — self-love included. Tragically, in all of these cases, we end up rejecting another whole person. No one, especially our own self, is ever enough for another person.

Here’s a New Yorker review article…

Scroll to about the 10th paragraph that begins, “The idea of love…” It is the words of this book review’s author himself that I ‘love’ as an expression of why romantic love inevitably fails all of us. I’m recommending neither Shakespeare nor Freud here.

Here as bait are my favorite highlights (these are condensations absent formal quotation punctuation, so I hope my copyright violations are forgiven unprosecuted):

We’re inclined to think of love as the opposite of emptiness—a system of mutual favors, a kind of bonus to life, a surplus. Instead, we love because we lack. Emptiness can never be filled. None of us can ever be loved enough—by our parents, husbands or wives. Love can only be renewed, “I love you. I love you…” Each time, you admit a lack in yourself… it’s no wonder that shame and narcissism are so often part… It’s intrinsically shameful to need and need and need. It breeds anger and resentment.

Your love is genuine, but so are your perpetual feelings of emptiness and powerlessness. What’s most galling is the realization that the people whom you love are similarly empty. If this is love, then you can come to resent the people you love simply because you love them.

Perhaps illness and truth-telling are more closely allied than we might want to believe: The [psycho]analyst confirms the truth only in order to finally get beyond it. “Yes, you’re a flawed human being—now what?” Diagnosing Hamlet: “He cannot love.” To that, respond, “And you can?”

Love might be a kind of illusion, but it’s a mutual one. All humans need too much. At least it is a flaw that we share. But too ashamed to share, Hamlet rejects not just love, but all passions.

Love is an admission of the power of powerlessness.

From The New Yorker, “Hamlet: A Love Story,” by Joshua Rothman

Neil D. 2020-01-13

Resolutions. Yeah you will

I won’t let other people dictate my emotions anymore.

Yes you will.

I won’t feel guilty about things beyond my control anymore.

Yes you will.

I will succeed at self-compassion when I need to from now on.

No you won’t.

I will announce boundaries and keep them from now on.

No you won’t.

I won’t allow myself to be hurt again.

Yes you will.

You are human, like everyone else. Human relations are no place for absolutes. Without vulnerability mediating those relations, there is no room for love, joy, or belonging. And no one — including you – can resist those primal urges and absolute needs.

You will be hurt again, and you will hurt others again.

You are making these resolutions because you’re deeply feeling their consequences. They have enormous value to you right now. Resolve to feel these feelings without fixing or solving them. False paths toward fixing and solving them go by names like denial, avoidance, and delusion. And when they can’t be escaped, we erect coping defenses like narcissism or people-pleasing, which are nothing more than other false pathways. Who are you to believe that you alone are superhuman?

I would advise against these resolutions, because they set you up for failure. Instead, resolve to be more aware of these vulnerabilities, and to carry them consciously, rather than pretending that you are not human, that you are not imperfect, and that you do not need belonging, joy, and love. If the human condition could be solved, do you not think it would have been by now? By ones much more profoundly wise than we? Thwart this conceit, and soften your soul with humility. I resolve to join you on that journey. The truth is, my resolution is easy, because we are already joined on that journey…

Neil D. 2020-01-11

The Universe is me

[Read volumes of self-help pop-psychology, 12 Step literature, therapy, groups,… Have known my institutionalized religion deeply for a long time. But was still, for half a century, a child who had to experience the wisdom shared earlier by elders before I could internalize it: I had to be, as my father put it, “reamed by the rigid rod of reality.” Now, much of what I learned with my head has seeped finally into my mind and heart. I didn’t like those other sources, so have figured it out from within. Here are some restructured excerpts by a favorite author and speaker who explains the same, eloquently (full article). Even when I know the last sentence is coming each time I reread this article, I still haven’t suppressed a chest-shrinking sob every time…]

[Some times of life are] an unraveling. You can’t cure it with control. The universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear: ‘I’m not screwing around. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small… but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever… It’s time to show up and be seen…

Once the shock of the universe’s visit wears off – there are several ways to respond. Embrace her wisdom, growth, and calmly walk into the unraveling. Or deny that any of this ever happened; but – it is the universe talking here. Pretending it is not happening requires active denial, like putting your fingers in your ears…

When the universe came to me, I listened. And when she was done whispering, I looked into her eyes, and spit in her face… I had earned every bit of my disdain… She simply stood in front of me, wiping the spit off of her cheek.

I said, “I’m not afraid of you. I’ve spent my entire life building these walls… – do you really think a little whisper is going to intimidate me?” …The fact that the almighty universe had descended and asked me to turn myself over to her custody didn’t mean a damn thing to me…

She was quiet.

I said, “I’ve spent a decade researching shame and vulnerability and all of the hard shit that you throw around to scare people.”

She looked back at me with loving eyes, then said, “I’m sorry it has to be this way, but clearly this is how you want to do it. You leave me no choice.”

Her calmness was unsettling. I was afraid. She wasn’t backing down. I did the only thing I knew how to do when confronted with fear – I bullied her. I gave her a small shove and said, “Then bring it!”

Her loving eyes didn’t change one bit. She just looked at me and said, “I will.”

I put up the fight of my life, but the universe knew exactly how to use vulnerability and uncertainty…: unexpected failures, devastating humiliations, a showdown with God, broken connections with family, anxiety…, fear, and the thing that pissed me off the most – grace. No matter how hard or far I fell, grace was there to pick me up, and shove me back in for more.

I got my ass kicked by pain and loss. I discovered the real me – messy, imperfect, brave, scared, creative, loving, compassionate, wholehearted.

As far as my relationship with the universe . . . well, we’ve actually become very good friends. I even came to love and trust her when, in a quiet moment, I looked deeply into her eyes and realized that she, was me.

Excerpts from: The Midlife Unraveling (Brené Brown)


“Oh Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of the dear savior’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error, pining, til He appeared and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

I’ve grown weary trying to make my soul worthy, but I cannot. I rejoice that I don’t have to. I am already all that’s needed. He doesn’t appear when I make myself worthy. He appears because my soul is already. All which falls on me is to feel that; then He, always there, appears to my eyes.

Advent Prequel to Footprints

(Read the preface to this poem here.)

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened…” (Mt 11:28)

Adeste fideles. (Come, faithful).

Advent Prequel To Footprints

(Neil Durso)

Energy, misbalanced.
Self-centered lifetime.
Other-centered lifetime.
Tiresome battles lost.

Shameful failure.
Wasted toils?
No. Delivery to the now.

A curled, sobbing heap,
Writhing on sands of self-desertion.
A finger trembling, raised to an eye…
Tap its pool of tears, running them thin,
Glimpse through the blur:

A shadow over tears on dead sand
Shades the relentless brightness of scorching shame,
Revealing a garment’s hem resting on sandaled toes.

Stretch out of despair a hand.
Touch a finger to the coarse fabric.

From that cloak, a hand extends,
Re-flavoring tears that flow still.
From a spring deep within, never fully felt.
Feel it now. Don’t wrestle floodgates inside.

Epic struggle.
Ordained end.
Rivulets of tears baptize anew.
Every ounce of unrequited effort poured out has prepared the way

Enormous fruitlessness was the way.
En route to the quenching fruit of energy exhausted.

The garment takes you up, in its arms
So gentle, their power feels misplaced.
You tremble at tenderness so unfamiliar.

From this bottom, from this birthplace,
In His wake are one set of footprints.

At cool evening’s arrival,
You’re lowered lovingly
To your own feet.
At His side.
He at yours.
Two sets of feet imprint the sands.

Onward in silence.
For a time.
The silence drips into distant song
On fleeting breezes.

Whispering beneath the rising chorus,
“Whither, Yeshua?”
“The City of David.”

A bright star draws your gaze.
And He is gone.

Shepherds appear.
On pilgrimage.
To Light.

Above the sonorous din of lambs’ bleating,
Lyrics grow clearer…

Carried by the parade, your heart then
Your tongue join the hosts’ song.
Reborn of unshackled brokenness,
The beckoned joins the calling:

“O… O… come, all ye faithful…”

(Read the preface to this poem here.)

-Neil D. 2019-12-16
(revised from 2018-12-24)