Love’s Asymptotes: Infinite Functions: Incomplete Transformations: Oblique Sincerity
Love’s Asymptotes: Infinite Functions: Incomplete Transformations: Oblique Sincerity
I was recently told that my sometimes-over-the-top positivity comes off as “condescending,” or at least, “insincere.” My friend, whose opinion matters enough that I would address it openly here, went on to imply that I have a pretty great life and people don’t appreciate having it shoved in their faces. Notwithstanding my recent abandonment of public political posting, which (granted) from afar may have seemed based in privilege, I have tried to true up this perception with my intention.
I thoroughly acknowledge that I am blessed beyond what I deserve or have earned. I also understand that, even in my use of the word “blessed” I’m displaying an unintended privilege; let’s call it “luck” instead.
I am lucky.
I know that there are people reading this who are luckier and less lucky than I am. I also know that there are people who have worked (exerted effort) much harder and much less hard to complement the effects of their luck. We are all on some XY axis where luck and effort slope toward success. Our personal perceptions of the relative relationship between luck and effort tend to inform who we are and how we interact with our peers, family, and neighbors.
So, let me address, publicly, the (fair) criticisms that my friend made.
For the first thirty seven years of my life, I perceived that my hard work was greater than my luck. I worked harder than I needed to so I could condescend (I admit it) from that position. I piled up degrees and titles and connections. I piled up failed relationships with good and beautiful people. I piled up things. I was, for the first thirty seven years of my life, everything my friend (who had a front row seat at the time) accused me of.
And then I met Pally and began transforming. When I say, “transforming,” I do not mean “perfected.” Rather, I recognized that I should be in a “state of constant transformation,” in which I always strive to be better, knowing that I’d never complete the process (asymptotally). Some of y’all may have gone through (may be growing through) a similar transformation, religiously , romantically or otherwise.
For the first time in thirty seven years, I was not the most important person in my life. For the first time in thirty seven years, I perceived that my luck was greater than my hard work. The lenses through which I saw the world were fundamentally changed. I learned what it was to love somebody else. Trust me, I’d been through the motions, from the outside-in but didn’t know it, truly feel it on the insides, until this point in my life.
I learned to acknowledge my luck.
Through this new set of lenses, I realized that there was love out there for me—love that I was still more lucky for than deserving of. I began to reassess my relationships and to work towards repairing the relationships that I’d let wither unnecessarily. I realized that many of those who had “hurt me” were not as guilty as I was for causing them to react to my self-absorbed toxicity. Slowly, I reached back out to repair those relationships. It was (and continues, excruciatingly) slow, but as I engaged this process, it was from a point of sincerity: transforming sincerity.
My goal is not to be better than somebody else, it is to be better than myself. We are all in our own, wholly individualized state of transformation. We are all on our own axes between effort and luck. The biggest part of this transformation that I am in is to understand that disappointment, hurt, rejection, and failure are not actions that others force upon me, that they are all in and on me.
And then, even as I began gaining traction in reestablishing some of those relationships, they were taken. My (birth) mother, my father, my sister, my brother—cancer, addiction— all died within a two year period just as we were beginning to reconnect—to heal. I miss them, each in a way; I am sad that we were denied by timing of the full reconnection enabled by my incomplete transformation.
I was texting with my brother just minutes before he took the deadly fentanyl-laced hit that then took his life. I could’ve done better. My transformation is incomplete.
I had my head in the sand—thoroughly mis-equipped in life skills—when my sisters laid in bed together on Thanksgiving last year and one took her last breath, leaving her twin momentarily breathless and permanently half-empty. I still find myself unable to scoop life back into my surviving sister. I have to do better. My transformation is incomplete.
Refusing to see their empty bodies after their deaths, I denied final good-byes to the pair that brought me into this world. I refused to face my own unfolding mortality by also denying others that loved them the opportunity to grieve with me—to see me grieve. My transformation is incomplete: asymptotal.
There are thousands of human paths through which I’ve traveled and whose trajectories I’ve altered. I can never make amends to each of them, to each of you. I have been gifted with a platform and an audience with and for whom to try. My incomplete transformation weighs upon me (asymp-totally): my responsibility to try.
Sometimes the motions of love, a transformation from self-absorption toward empathy, are the best I can muster. I understand how these public performances may seem insincere. I’ve also found that such performances affect me from the outside-to-in, driving transformation.
Love, unlike many other mere emotions, is transformational. Trust that my actions and proclamations are meant to be sincere, even if those actions and proclamations come from a part of my brain that seeks to connect with the part of my heart that needs actions and proclamations to be sincere in actuality. I’m transforming, still.
Another friend, very recently, reacted to the fact that I always say, “I love you,” when we were finishing up a phone call; he thought it was notable. He loved me back—perhaps a conditioned or obligatory proclamation on his part. There aren’t many non-work conversations that I don’t end with, “I love you.” (There aren’t many work conversations that I don’t end with, “I appreciate you.”)
I’m lucky. I’m transforming.
Quite honestly, after (now) 48 years, I am fearful of losing the people in my life. Of course, I am fearful of losing Pally: of having to survive on this Earth without his transformational energy to sustain me—to urge me on. But I am also fearful of losing other friends (and former friends) and family (and other family) without proclaiming my love for them. I’m even more fearful that I will not have time to repair the relationships that need repairing before either I or they have had our opportunity to reconnect. I’m mostly fearful that I still take in more love than I emanate and that my inward-to-outward energy is insufficient without love-energy sources to sustain it. I’m still so incomplete without that energy.
I’m lucky. I’m incompletely transforming.
So, know that I am sincere. I know that I will not connect or reconnect with all of you on a deeply personal level. I know there are some in whose orbit I float who are still not satisfied with the level of effort I’ve put into reconnection. See above, and contemplate the effort-to-luck on relationships. Contemplate, for a moment, currency and success: a zed axis.
Sincerely, currently: when you are open enough to share something great that’s happened to you; when you are open enough to share something great that’s happened to your kids or your friends or your neighbors, I am absolutely sincere in my appreciation of that. Please know that. Please know how much it makes me happy to know that good things happen to other people—especially people whose orbit I am in, whether by luck or hard work (I don’t care which).
I acknowledge my luck. I acknowledge my incomplete transformation. I acknowledge my fear. I acknowledge that, for the last eleven years, I’ve needed to get better—at life, at love, at effort—every single day. But most importantly, I acknowledge my joy that you are part of my life. I acknowledge that I will fall short of your expectations (perceptions, interactions). I thank you for accepting me for who I am today—lucky, incomplete, fearful, imperfect, sincere. I acknowledge my gratitude that you take me at face value and we understand that, despite my faults and verbosity, my life would not be complete without you. While I’d like to hope you feel the same way, you don’t even need to.
So, let me proclaim it—perform it, at least.
So, thank you.
So, I appreciate you.
So, I love you.