(Excerpted from The Path, by Michelle Devon, Copyright 2006)
Isn’t it strange how some things that are complete opposites can often be so similar that, to the casual observer, they appear to be the same? For example, can you truly tell the difference between a sunset and a sunrise? Except for the time of day and the direction the sun is facing, there really is no distinct difference in the appearance of sunrise versus a sunset if, for example, a photograph is taken with no indication of the outside factors. Both are just as beautiful, yet, they truly are near opposites in meaning.
The sappy butterfly feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you are ridiculously in love is not any different in physical sensation to the queasy butterfly feeling you get when you look at a serious wound or injury, and both are similar in physical sensation to intense fear. Yet, love and fear don’t usually go hand in hand.
Or do they?
I’ve often heard it said that love and hate appear to be two opposite things, but truth is, there is a very thin line between the two, and that line, that very thin line, is called passion.
Passion makes the intensity of both love and hatred, and truth be known, there isn’t a distinct difference in the manner in which we feel both of these conflicting emotions… just how we interpret and perceive them.
What one person looks at as support and love and caring, another looks at as a nuisance and pesky and bothersome. Whose perception is correct? The one who is giving the support because it is how they intended it? Or the one receiving the support, but not in the manner in which they need it?
Let me share with you a story that touched my heart:
Many years ago when I first met the man who was to become my husband, I found myself ‘playing hard to get’. The only thing was, I was not playing… I truly was hard to get. I was a bit distant, a little bit cold even, and I really made it quite difficult to get close to me without feeling frostbite.
But this man was different, and he persisted. He called daily, once per day, whether I answered or not. He usually left a message, something simple such as he was thinking about me and couldn’t wait until the next time we talked. He was never pushy, but he made it clear that he was interested.
Some days I would get irritated with him, others I would find myself amused.
Whatever he was doing, it worked, because eventually, I relented and agreed to go on a date. It was a nice date too. He was a perfect gentleman. He did things many men don’t do any more such as hold doors open, pull out chairs, and my favorite, although it made me slightly uncomfortable, was that he stood from the dinner table whenever I had to get up for any reason.
He treated me with respect and dignity, and I felt like a classy lady when I was with him. Still, my willingness to commit to this relationship did not exist.
Every day, this man would drive by my house on the way to work in the morning and leave a little note or a card on the windshield of my car. It never said much, usually just that he was thinking of me, but it never failed. Every morning, I knew it would be there. Every afternoon, he would call my house and leave that same one message for me, and I knew when I got home from work that he would be there for me, waiting, if only on the answering machine.
We would occasionally talk on the phone, and once in a while, we’d run into each other in person, and a few dates now and then, but I continued to keep this man at a distance.
Yet, he continued to do these things every day—rain or shine—weekend or weekday—every single day for three months!
Until one day…
I woke and dressed for work. I stepped outside, walked to the car and wondered what little token he would have given me today. However, when I looked, there was nothing on my car windshield. I immediately stopped and looked all around the car wondering if it had blown off on the ground, and I was very disappointed when I couldn’t find anything. I just shrugged and told myself I didn’t care, and I believed that it made no difference to me.
But on the way to work, I could barely see, trying to hold back the tears in my eyes… all because there was no letter on my windshield.
Later that evening, when I returned home, I went straight to the answering machine was, but there was no flashing light. I went about my night in a daze, numb. Later that night, alone in bed, I cried myself to sleep. The next morning, there was again no note.
I knew… he’d given up on me.
The next afternoon, I came home at lunch, and the light was once again flashing on my answering machine. Come to find out, he had been called in on an emergency assignment at work and had to leave to go out of town with no notice, so he couldn’t let me know.
He was back, and this time, when he left his afternoon message, I did something I had never done before. I picked up the phone and called him back.
Three months later, he asked me to marry him, and the woman who had said she would never marry, bawled like a baby and said, “Yes!”
Because the man would not give up on me. No matter what excuse I gave him or how hard I tried, he never gave up.
His love was stronger than my fear.
I asked him once, about a week after we were married, how long he would have continued to leave me cards and messages on my machine, and he said, “As long as it took.”
I laughed and asked, “As long as it took until what?”
He looked away from me for a moment and then finally looked back into my eyes, taking my face in his hands, and he said, “Until you could love yourself as much as I love you.”
He died seven months later…
To this day, there’s a part of me that still loves that part of myself that he loved. Even though he’s been gone for many years now, I still feel my heartbeat quicken when I catch a glimpse of a note on the windshield of a car or see a light flashing on my answering machine, just a flicker or a memory that still remains…
Sweet story, wasn’t it? It’s a true story, but I won’t get into the who, why, how of the story itself, though I have permission to share it. I like the story. It might make me teary eyed to read, but it makes me smile too.
Now, after reading the story, ask yourself an honest question: If this scenario had played out today instead of twenty years ago, the woman involved just might have called the cops for harassment and stalking instead of eventually marrying the love of her life.
When do you know where to draw that line? When do you say that refusing to give up and being assertive actually turns into stalking and harassing? When is it cute and endearing and when does it just become annoying?
You see, love doesn’t always look the same to everyone. The story could have easily taken a different direction if the women’s perception had been different.
Another question. and perhaps the most important questions of all: When you love someone, really love someone, do you ever truly give up hope? Do you ever allow yourself to totally walk away from that when you know it’s right? The man in the story said he’d have done it for ‘as long as it took’… I find it interesting that you’ll note his answer – he didn’t say that he was going to do it until she agreed with him or promised to date him or marry him or anything… he said he was going to do it ‘until she loved herself…’
Or was it foolish?
I remember once saying to a man, “I will only walk away if you tell me too. Otherwise, I’m here for as long as it takes.”
But the woman in the story, she told him to walk away. Yet he still persisted, and had he listened to her, they would have never found the happiness they shared so briefly.
Then another question to consider: Have you here ever loved someone that much, that no matter the results, you truly cared more for that person’s happiness than your own desires? I’m not talking about giving all of yourself to someone to use up, and I’m not even talking about putting your own emotional needs before another’s. I’m talking only about caring more about another person’s feelings than your own desires/wants.
Have you ever loved that unselfishly? Have you ever given that freely?
I have. And I am blessed for the experience.
And just a few more questions to consider:
If you were the one getting a note on your windshield every day, and if you were to receive that one phone call every day… Would it make you smile? Would it influence you? Would it change your mind? Or would you have asked him to stop? Would you have missed the love that could have been because it didn’t necessarily look like you expected it to look?
As stated earlier, what looks like love and support to one person may not to another. What happens when one person is giving support, and giving support, and giving support, but the other person does nothing in return, doesn’t really even acknowledge the support. Does there come a point where the first person says, ‘Enough is enough—I’ve given and am not asking for much in return, so why is what I’m asking too much?’
What then? And what if the person who is being distant doesn’t even realize how very much he/she is hurting the one trying to be supportive? And that person can’t tell them how much it hurts, because there is no communication, no understanding, no empathy when opposite emotions conflict.
Yes, opposites—they often can appear the same. It’s all a matter of perception again. Perception is everything. My reality is not made up of what you see to be true, but rather the way I perceive it to be true for me.
After all, beginnings aren’t all that much different than endings. They are both intense. They both bring about emotion. The only factor that changes is how the emotion that is felt and perceived.
Beginnings are exciting and new and endings are tired and sad, yet waving hello isn’t all the different than waving goodbye. The passionate kiss you give a lover when they are going to be away is pretty much the same kiss they receive when reunited. It’s only the intent that changes. It’s what is in your heart that tells you how you feel, versus what’s in your mind that tells you how to think, and it’s the middle ground somewhere in between that makes the sense that you need to understand.
Sometimes when you look at something and you see that it appears to be a certain way, perhaps you can now step back a bit and look at it again, from a different perspective and ask yourself: Is this what it really appears to be? Is this really the same—or is it opposite? Is this real? Is this good? Is this bad?
Re-evaluate where things stand. Never take a situation, person, emotion, or understanding for granted.
Always ask yourself, “Am I watching the sun rise, or is this the sun setting?”