I can’t remember when this started exactly, maybe sometime early in the new year or possibly even the tail end of last year. Mom and I would make our usual grocery store trip Saturday or Sunday mornings. Trader Joes first and Whole Foods second. I know, you are probably turning in your grave, but listen, there are some items best to get at TJs like frozen fruit and others only available at Whole Foods. Still, I dare say the total bill would leave you shaking your head. TJs might only be considered cost effective when you put it up against Whole Foods. You were quite content with your white bread and American cheese (thank goodness mom wouldn’t allow it). Neither here nor there really, the point of the story is mom and I got in the habit of acquiring certain extras, you might say, in addition to the actual meal necessities. One of these extras is Kombucha. I feel like it is on par with those items either known and quite enjoyed or totally unknown. I’m thinking of that college tailgating commercial where they show all the different kinds of food served depending on the location. Tailgaters at USC had vegetables and hummus. Then it goes to an old guy in a cowboy hat at UT, barbecuing, and he goes “hum-what?” Obviously, not familiar and not eating hummus. Reminds me of when I bring sweet potato hummus over to grandma and grandpa’s. Grandpa will look at it, say “that’s sweet potatoes huh?”
“Yeah gramps, its good. Want to try it?”
“No, that’s okay. Looks a little blah.”
Yep, I would say Kombucha is probably there, too. Well, “Brew Dr” is my favorite kind you can get here in Chicago. They have all sorts of flavors like “Clear Mind,” “Serenity,” “Ginger Lemon,” etc. See, this is one of those Whole Food exclusives. The Kombucha fridge was our last stop on the way to the checkout lines, so how could we not? Normally, I liked to mix it up. Try the new seasonal flavor if available. I am uncertain what put me in this particular mood one morning, but I decided I should start drinking “Love.”
I may have a guess at what the circumstances were. It is coming back to me vaguely. I know what you are thinking, so yes, it did have to do with a boy. That is all I will say though. I picked up “Love” and practically chucked (not chunked, my Texas friends) it in the cart, attempting to slip it in without mom noticing. Like a little kid trying to sneak that package of cookies mom never budged on. No joy. She looked at me, surprised, and smiled. What was more surprising, I couldn’t even play my tough guy routine.
I opened my mouth and burst out in giggles. Surely, I was a bit red as well.
“I just figure it will be like osmosis, you know? Like sleeping with a textbook as a pillow instead of studying. I could use a little extra love in me. It’ll help me be more loving.”
“Oh, that’s how it works, huh? Grab me one then.”
Since then, rare is the fridge empty of a couple bottles of “Love” Brew Dr. Kombucha. Though it became quite the staple, there were some trips “Love” got left behind. In a spirit of rebellion, sometimes I decided to boycott love. Didn’t want anything to do with it. Something became apparent to me, which was quite the opposite of my feelings the first day I picked up Brew Dr. Love.
The realest and harshest sense of pain resides within the territory of love. I would argue the riskiest of risks is loving. It seems clear to me. The chance of losing big and exposing oneself to injury ought to be enough to persuade any reasonable person to avoid it at all costs. Yet, how opposite the reality is. We are all chasing love. We all want to feel its safe and unconditional embrace. Thus, reason does not have much leverage when it comes to love.
“When love is not madness, it is not love.”[Pedro Calderon de la Barca]
The Jewish people thought Jesus was pretty crazy, to put it casually. More so mad. Why would this man healing and casting out demons and claiming to be the Son of God not save Himself? Because of love. What else would compel a man to die for the very people responsible for killing Him? What else could? I don’t know of another thing strong enough to move a person of sound mind to die for his own murderers. Reason cannot explain it.
There is a scene in the last Hobbit, the Battle of the Five Armies, I think describes the relationship between love and pain very simply and accurately. The elvish warrior, Tauriel, falls in love with the dwarf, Kili. Kili is one of Thorin’s, the king, kin. Tauriel is part of the guard of the elvish kingdom ruled by Thranduil. Thorin and Thranduil do not get along. Kili and Tauriel both realize they love each other but find themselves torn between being together and their responsibilities to their own people. In the final battle, Tauriel is in trouble, and Kili risks his life to save her. He dies doing so, and she is holding onto him, crying, when Thranduil finds her. Weeping, she says to him…
“If this is love, I do not want it. Why does it hurt so much?”
“Because it was real.”
Thranduil had been a critic of Tauriel’s fondness for the dwarf, skeptical it was real love. This he must deny and admit he was wrong, as Kili risked it all for Tauriel to live and her pain in losing him is undoubtably like no other.
I think, then, this is the relationship. Love hurts so much because it is real, the most real thing that exists. And losing it elicits the most real pain. This also being why we desire it like we desire nothing else. Love speaks to the very essence of our being. How could we be the same after Love took on flesh? Became human? It surely did not leave us unaffected.
“You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up.”[Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum]
I didn’t want to believe this before, dad. Didn’t want to feel. Didn’t want love, just as Tauriel says. My bloated pride and ignorant reason thought I could do without it just fine. After all, I really had no desire to date. I wasn’t anti-love, but I just wasn’t stirred up by it like I saw other girls were. I knew you and mom and the family loved me, and I loved you, but it seemed stagnant and mostly one-dimensional. You are given your family and ought to love them, though, unfortunately, I know this is not always the case. The family should be the place where loving is practiced, where there is nothing on the line and no rejection possible. Only in a perfect world it seems. Even in the best of families, loving is skewed. We just can’t help ourselves. We fumble love. Why in the world, then, would loving a total stranger or strangers be a good idea? I’d say because feeling deeply is better than barely feeling.
I avoided feelings much too well, or so I thought. For those who consider their capacity for love or desire to feel is little to nonexistent, I hear you. I was there too, still am, truly. Love is much too mysterious and magical to take on so quickly. And as we have discussed, it is not so easily swallowed at times. I am not going to attempt to explain why this is for some of us, why Cupid’s arrow hasn’t been able to pierce us or why there is even a bit of detest or condescension in our hearts for the ones bubbling over with love and only concerned with seeking it. Mom is one of these, and for so long I looked down on her for it. Saw her sensitivity and abundant feelings as a weakness. Now I cannot help but be jealous. Spending more time with her, I see how others respond to her. How she disarms and changes them almost unintentionally. She can’t help it. I can’t explain it; I’ll I can speak to is my experience, and based on that, if you don’t have the desire to seek love or deem it only for others, just try asking for it. I found the Universe well-versed in the language of love and quite swift to grant my request, though not in the way I expected. This happens rather often.
When I started asking to desire loving and being loved in the sweet yet terrifying realm of dating and, Lord willing, marriage, I am not sure I knew what to expect. I guess I figured it would look like what mom had told Adam and I of your relationship. Or other stories of friend’s parents or relationships from movies. Probably not the best to base expectations of off but honestly, how can you not sometimes.
In “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” Captain Barbosa is releasing the sea goddess Calypso from her human form. The process includes burning all the pieces of eight from the pirate lords and saying, “Calypso, I release you from your human bonds,” as if to a lover. The first time, he stiffly and mechanically proclaims these words like he is reciting instructions from a drilling manual. Basically, shouting in her general direction. Nothing happens. Everyone on the ship is wondering what to do, and one of the crewmen interjects, “you didn’t say it right, you have to say it right.” He slowly moves closer to Calypso, gently brushes her hair aside, brings his lips to her ear and whispers, “Calypso, I release you from your human bonds.” This time, the transformation starts to happen.
I think, originally, I would have expected the drilling manual and shouting method to be the means love would change me. It certainly seemed like the most drastic way, which was what I was in need of. It also seems the easiest and clearest. How often do we ask God to part the clouds and just speak to us in His booming voice? But maybe this is not how a lover speaks. Maybe there is nothing transformative about a booming voice from the sky. A lover is intimate and close. As personal as a whisper only you can hear. He knows not to be overwhelming but gentle and genuine. He comes to you in every moment as a soft breeze and a tender caress on your cheek.
This is the way of the Lover of my soul. This is the way I, too, ought to love. There is much to risk in doing so. Great loss and the greatest sense of pain. But it turns out, it is much more risky not too. Intimacy and feeling deeply is scary. How much more terrifying is numbness and nothingness. Lacking in what is most real. This is what I resign myself to without loving. I would rather be swallowed up.
Cheers, then, to Brew Dr. Love.