What I know about love

by Wolf Pascoe on February 24, 2012

Where you sing your pain, that place is a temple. — Buddhist

loveThis story happened before the Internet, before cell phones and call waiting. You probably couldn’t even own a phone then and nobody answered it for you, unless you had a butler.

When you wanted something, it wasn’t always there. You had to root around to learn things. Ten people didn’t always show up with ebooks to tell you.

I say all this because the language I need for the story could have a quaint ring, archaic even. It was never packaged. What I’m about to say, people now say in other ways.

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SCENES

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An all-day acting workshop recommended by a friend.

A small theater on Cahuenga, rented, no air-conditioning, 40 souls filling the seats. Men and girls, women and boys. Actors and wannabe actors, sincere, pretty, full of nervousness and hope.

We came to the monologue part.

One at a time, everyone took the stage and delivered their speech. Albee. Miller. Pinter. An utterly terrifying exercise, because there you are spraying spit in all your nakedness, your lack of talent and technique. You swing and miss and look like a fool and, nothing to do, stand revealed before everyone as the pathetic loser you so truly are.

The workshop leader, a no-nonsense pro, asked questions after each one finished, then spoke about what he’d seen. This was where you were. This was where you needed to go. Done.

Next.

After the first few I began to relax. These people had nothing on me. Some were bad. Some were good, but not that good. I could survive this, no disgrace.

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MORNING, NOON, AND NIGHT

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The sixth to go was a girl, maybe twenty-five. The word woman isn’t right. Girl she was, with a lovely, scared face. She took a few steps, turned and peered around at everyone, looking completely lost. An embarrassing moment. Then she began.

The speech was from Morning, Noon and Night. I hadn’t heard it before. Her character was having problems with her boyfriend, who was a pornographer. Her character had confidence issues. It doesn’t sound funny, but it was.

The boyfriend’s latest tome was called Moist. She phrased the word as a question, as if to say, “I’m not sure what to think about this title. It might be a good title. But it might be really bad. I just don’t know. What do you think?”

Someone started to laugh. Then someone else, then the whole room. This was her intention—the play was a comedy. She went on for five minutes, hitting every note, pitch perfect. When it was done the applause was thunderous.

I had never seen anyone be that good in a monologue.

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LISTENING

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Here is the reason I’m telling this story:

The applause died down. The girl remained on stage, looking bewildered as before.

“So how’d that go for you?” the workshop leader, whose name was Dan, said.

Silence.

“Well?”

She looked off somewhere. “I guess it went okay.”

Groans. Disbelief. A few catcalls. Surely, this wasn’t sincere. Surely, a bid for attention, some Marilyn-like number.

“Quiet!” said Dan, bless him. “Listen to what she’s telling you.”

Again, silence. She got somehow smaller. If she could have disappeared, she would have.

“Okay,” Dan said. “We’re going to do this and you’re going to get this, now, once and for all. Everyone in the room, one at a time, is going to tell you what they thought of you.”

We went in the order we were sitting, a slow moving, row-by-row firing line. A woman spoke first, and praised the work extravagantly. Then a man. Their words were right, but the girl wasn’t hearing them. She was looking down at the floor.

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MY TURN

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I waited for the girl to look at me. I wanted my words to matter, and locked eyes with her. You and I will be looking at each other, I meant, the whole time I am saying this. When someone does something extraordinary, you want to tell them.

“I don’t know anyone as good as you,” I said.

I saw the words go in. The room was forgotten. There were only the two of us.

“You have a gift,” I said. “A brilliant light.”

As she listened she began to cry. I began to cry. There was nothing special about my words. What was special was the looking and the listening. The words happened to be there, and went in.

I knew, in that moment, that we are all of us diamonds, connected heart-to-heart, when the heart is broken, if we have the courage to allow others to see. When the defending stops, the evading, when it’s just the surrender. In that vulnerability rests our deepest beauty.

Everyone in that room said their piece and everyone said the same thing and everyone was the same person.

I don’t know where she is now, but I remember her name and see her face. And when I hear now, as I often do, words like passion and fear and self and discovery, I think of the moment between us when the door opened and God was in my heart and every heart.

And I try to remember how personal this gets, how far beyond words, and my thousand excuses for not allowing my own vulnerability.

I need to tell this story to my son Nick, but he isn’t old enough to hear yet. So I’m writing it down, and maybe he’ll find it someday if I’m not around.

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YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:

Morning, Noon, and Night is a collection of three plays. The monologue I heard was from the second play, Noon, by Terrence McNally.

Image credit: The photo, Love, is embedded from Leesaheaston’s photostream on flickr.

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EXPRESS YOURSELF!

Got a story about love? Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Privilege of Parenting February 24, 2012 at 1:41 pm

I need, and/or rather love, to hear this story today. Today we know just where this woman is, and where you are, and where the eternal diamond sings and how it makes us feel and while we may not quite be able to put our finger on it, or lock our eyes onto it, some soft heart cradles us in its profoundly playful embrace. Love. That we are.

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Wolf Pascoe February 24, 2012 at 8:07 pm

I do want to believe that. I succeed sometimes.

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Mitchell February 24, 2012 at 1:54 pm

While reading this sent my mind in so many different directions towards so many interesting ideas, I don’t have any profound thoughts to add. I just want you to know how much I enjoy reading your stories. Thanks for sharing them.

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Wolf Pascoe February 24, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Thanks, Mitchell.

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Barbara February 24, 2012 at 4:13 pm

You cared enough to say the words she needed to hear, to make sure she heard the silent message within them as well. That’s love, and it doesn’t get much better than when you take time to show your love to a stranger. Wonderful story!
Barbara recently posted..The Rules of Inheritance: a journey through grief

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Wolf Pascoe February 24, 2012 at 8:08 pm

And love was hers to give as well, when she allowed herself to receive.

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BigLittleWolf February 25, 2012 at 5:09 pm

“What was special was the looking and the listening.”

This is the part of love – the core of love – that so many don’t seem to get, or, to “get.”

It ought to be simple, but isn’t. Still, it could be simpler – if we tried it.

An important story. For all of us, and certainly for Nick – when he’s of an age to look and listen, and get it.
BigLittleWolf recently posted..Politically Correct

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Wolf Pascoe February 26, 2012 at 12:23 pm

It takes a lot of stillness, that listening, when you want to squirm.

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carole February 27, 2012 at 10:49 pm

I recently read that the brain is velcro for negativity and teflon for positive (based on its physiology). To me, vulnerability is the way to get through the teflon. Your story so beautifully paints that reality. It gets through my teflon, and softens me to the unifying/healing reality of Love. thanks.

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Wolf Pascoe February 28, 2012 at 10:07 pm

Thanks, Carole.

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Chopperpapa March 1, 2012 at 2:59 pm

It’s a shame that far too many of us are scared to connect on that level of emotion with a perfect stranger.
Chopperpapa recently posted..The memoir of a part time father

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Wolf Pascoe March 2, 2012 at 2:03 am

That’s it exactly. She didn’t feel like a stranger.

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Stacy @ Sweet Sky March 1, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Now I’m crying.

I know what you mean.
Stacy @ Sweet Sky recently posted..Earth Sanctuary

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Stacy @ Sweet Sky March 1, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Also… in Hakomi (the type of mindfulness/body-aware practice of self-discovery I am currently studying) there is something we do called “offerings.” As the therapist, you notice what limiting belief the person might be holding, based mostly on their body language, gestures, phrases rather than content (which you did — reading her body language)… You noticed that it was hard for to take in positive things said about her. So a belief might be “I’m not good enough…” or maybe something about not being seen.

Then as a therapist, you would propose an experiment — which is offering the positive version of the belief — to be done in mindfulness. You ask the client if they’re interested in trying something out and if they are, help them get mindful and quiet and ask them to notice what happens when they hear you say, “You are good” or “You are good enough” or “I see you.” They listen and notice, and then share what they noticed. In this way, the person might notice what is keeping the words from going in, for example, they might say, “My stomach tightens up.” Or “I hear a voice that says, ‘No way'” and then as a therapist and client you work with comes up, and usually some part, a young part, of that person eventually shows up and once she is seen and heard and held, then she is able to take the nourishment in, the very thing she has wanted all along yet made a choice not to believe because that is what she needed to do to survive at the time.

And when she finally takes that nourishment in (also known as a missing experience), she cries, because the grief of losing that part is retrieved as the part is retrieved… so grief arrives with the wholeness, and the wholeness is what remains.

And so that is what I was reminded of when I read this post: what you and she participated in was wholeness.
Stacy @ Sweet Sky recently posted..Earth Sanctuary

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Wolf Pascoe March 2, 2012 at 2:45 am

Stacy,

Wonderful. All the things we can learn through paying attention and a little guidance. Hakomi sounds a little like Focusing.

Readers can find more about Hakomi on Sweet Sky.

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David March 2, 2012 at 1:51 am

This stuff is the real news. This is where the real action is.
Thanks Wolf.

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Wolf Pascoe March 2, 2012 at 2:02 am

Thank you, David.

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6512 and growing March 6, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Ah…sigh. Came here via sweet sky and am so glad.
We’re wrong so many times about how others see us – it usually looks exponentially better than we think. We could all be that girl, shining so bright and never seeing it.

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Wolf Pascoe March 6, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Welcome, Rachel.
Yes, we could.

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