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Posted By Opening the Heart

"Love is not love, which alters when it alteration finds..."  Shakespeare

Now that I'm a grandfather ("Grumpy") and I find myself reading to my granddaughters the same great children's stories I was raised on, I have a whole new appreciation for these beautiful tales. I was recently very moved in reading Dr. Seuss'  "Hortense Hatches an Egg". This is a story about a manipulative, irresponsible bird who lays an egg but would prefer to vacation in warm weather rather than do the hard work of sitting in the nest, dry weather or wet, hot or freezing cold. The task for Maizie, then, is to find someone who will do the hard love for her. Enter Hortense the elephant.

Moved by Maizie's "story", he agrees to sit and hatch the egg. He makes Maizie a promise that he will do this: "I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful 100%!" Well, Old Hortense had no idea what he was getting himself into. First, an elephant sitting on a nest in a tree!? Really? But Hortense would not back down. Then, as winter came, the weather turned freezing cold with sleet and snow and icicles hanging from Hortense's long trunk and ears. But he made a promise.... And he kept it month after lonely, hard month. I feel like this was Big Love. He made a noble promise to help someone and he hept his word.

I know, I know. Foolish, you might say. Naive! Easily manipulated! Maybe. But I believe that the authenticity, the Bigness of the deed is not measured by the outcome, but by the faithfulness of holding the love, the promise. Several years ago I saw a man in my therapy practice. He told me a very moving story about his marriage. This was a second marriage for him and it was the third marriage for his wife. He told me that he knew when he married "Chloe" that she had a history of having affairs. Sure enough, in his 4 year marriage, Chloe was having a second affair since marrying my patient, Aaron. When he confronted her with the affair, she boldly told him that she would not end it.

Aaron told me that he deeply loved Chloe and, in spite of how hurt and upset he was, he would not leave her. And so, the affair continued for months while he waited. He did not run. He told me that he and Chloe, several weeks prior to our therapy session, went to see the movie "Philomena". After the movie, he noticed that she was unusually quiet and withdrawn. As they sat in a private, quiet restaurant, she looked at him and her eyes filled up. Then she sobbed into her cloth napkin. He had no idea what this was all about until she was able to catch her breath and she explained that the movie had connected her to a deep truth about herself, of which she had never been aware. She told Aaron that she now understood why she'd had so many affairs and, unconsciously, tried to push every man in her life into leaving her. When she was 6, her father left the family and she never saw him again. She realized that she had put men in the same position  of forcing them to abandon her the way her father had. She now knew that what she had always really wanted was a man who wouldn't run. She acknowledged how she had hurt Aaron and she asked for his forgiveness.

It actually doesn't matter whether this ended up having a happy ever after ending. I think what matters is that his Big Love allowed her to let go of something that had weighed her down for over half a century. Again, you might say, what kind of fool would "put up" with ongoing disrespect from his wife. I don't know how to answer that except to say the kind of fool capable of holding a very rare and healing love.

With Love and Respect, Jon


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