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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Aging, Love, and my Friend

I can still recall the first time I figured out that I had all of my emotions tangled and confused. It's not an uncommon scenario for survivors of sexual abuse. I was in my twenties, years before I went into ministry, trying to comfort a woman who had been through some terrible losses and I realized I was sexually aroused. I felt like an absolute jerk, though I am pretty sure she didn't notice and I certainly didn't announce it. I wondered what in the world was wrong with me. Fortunately, some good therapy helped me make distinctions and sort all of that out. There is a less pathological but in many ways equally maladaptive confusion in most younger males wherein any time they feel any kind of affection, much less love for a woman they feel the need to show her their penis. As you might imagine, this has ruined more than a few friendships over the years for a whole lot of people - and not just for Anthony Weiner.

One of the great joys in my life since I turned fifty is that I don't feel nearly as sexually driven as I once did. It's as if there was this mating instinct that left me on high alert almost constantly. Many a relationship has been ruined by men who cannot control this instinct and so develop a condition wherein their neck most resembles a turret and their eyes are constantly scanning the room looking for females of mating age. It's not that they don't want to remain faithful to their partner, but it seems there is hormonal imperative that, even for people like me who learn to ignore it, is a struggle on a daily basis. A little while after my fiftieth birthday I noticed a sharp downturn in that instinct, and it was great! I didn't need a Viagra prescription, nor did I run to the physician for a prescription for testosterone cream. Instead I shouted "thank God!" Suddenly there seemed to be much more time in my day. I started to appreciate beauty in all its forms much more often. It was amazing.

I have also learned that the world doesn't necessarily understand this shift in normal males who are not trying to convince themselves they will never age like, Donald Trump, Larry King, and at least one of the Cock Koch brothers who apparently married his daughter, but I digress. I have a female friend who is very sick. We had some significant conversations before she became ill, but as you might imagine when someone gets seriously ill the depth of the conversations increases dramatically. She has shared a lot with me, and I have had the privilege of seeing such a beautiful soul in this person. I hope we have all had conversations with people like this and walked away thinking, "wow, that was a really neat, really good person." My friend has such a deep and caring heart despite having encountered a fair amount of adversity in her life even before her illness. I think a lesser person, like me, would have told the world to piss off, but not her. I can honestly say that I love her - in that, "I'm over fifty" kind of way that won't result in me taking a picture of little Craig on my cell phone and texting it to her or leaving my wife and family and showing up at her door. It is in fact possible for me to love a female friend and not involve my penis. I have told her that I love her, and my sense is that she is probably reluctant to check her text messages now. Maybe we need a different word for this kind of love. I have heard many people suggest that one of the deficits of the English language is that we only have one word for love. It is somehow unfortunate that the word we use to describe how we feel about a parakeet, a lobster dinner, our new car, and how we feel about the person who is our soul mate is the same word, isn't it?

It's too bad that we don't have a good word to use when the people we love but don't want to send pictures of Anthony Weiner to are seriously ill and we want to reassure them that we care about them but aren't going to show up at their door, suitcase in hand. Keep trying, though, because there are so many people who need to know not only that they are special but that they are loved because that knowledge in and of itself is healing - for both the one who hears it and the one who says it.

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