How do I know if what I feel is love?

Ever since I was 5 years old I’ve been in love, or what I thought was love, with one girl or another. But was what I felt love or lust? I really want … no, I really need to know. Love is the greatest mystery of my life. I have never used the word profusely, and when I have it’s generally been in a romantic sense. Love songs I can relate to. They tug at my heart strings. Romantic love is identifiable; it’s palpable; it makes my heart beat fast and my eyes close as I revel in the feelings it engenders. I did eventually learn to differentiate that from lust. And then there’s the love discussed in the Bible; Song of Songs excepted.

The love discussed in the Bible is not the same emotion. The feelings I have for family, children and friends are nothing like the feelings I have for the fairer sex. Are there really different emotions and is what I feel for those close to me feelings of love which are different from what I’ve always identified as love in a romantic sense? Based on the emotion I feel for different persons I can basically identify four categories.

The aforementioned, easily identifiable “romantic, passionate, physical and emotional love” which I felt for Marilyn is the first. The emotions I feel for family, for my children, siblings and their offspring is the second category, albeit not all of them are in that category.

There are the emotions evoked when I think of people in my circle; church family members, friends outside of church, Facebook friends. Last are the relatively neutral emotions I feel for anyone else in the world who doesn’t express a dislike or hatred of me. I have to put those who do express hatred for me and everything I hold dear in their own category. For them I feel easily identifiable emotions of disgust, detest and dread.

When I take the time to really consider my feelings for people in my life it all boils down to this. If I awoke in the morning to the realization that I would never again see them, hear their voice, feel their touch or sense their presence, would I began to sob uncontrollably like I did on the morning of November 19, 2000, with the realization that my bride was gone forever from this world?

Or, would I feel a sense of loss but not despair at the realization that they were gone forever? Would I feel sad but not distraught at the realization that I would never hear their voice, see their face or hug them ever again? Would I most likely regret that I didn’t get to know them better but feel no real sense of loss in the knowledge that they too were gone forever from this life?

Is love a thing of shades? Are there shades in the in between of those categories which make it difficult to place an emotional attachment to a person in a specific category? I realize that when I break it down this way and then begin a review of the people in my life I am surprised at the emotions that arise. Some of the people I would have thought belonged in the third category evoke second category emotions. Some of the people whom, it would seem belong in category two drop to category three or even four. But no one fits in category one. As much as I would like to feel that category one emotion once again I don’t. The thought alone makes me realize how attached to the person of Marilyn that emotion is, which makes me realize how personalized love becomes.

I’ve stated on a number of occasions, and written in “Dear Mom and Dad,” that I miss that emotion terribly, as painful as the loss of the person who evokes the emotion can be, I’d risk it again if the opportunity arose. I know it would be a separately personalized emotion, and maybe not as powerful, but it would be a category one love emotion nonetheless.

No, I’m not ignoring the love expressed so profusely in the Bible … just saving the best, albeit the most difficult for me to comprehend, for last. Seems absurd for someone who grew up on the fifth pew back to find it difficult to comprehend Abba’s love doesn’t it. But there it is. People in church cannot say goodbye to another without saying, “Love you!” (not “I love you!” Just, “Love you.) And it is said to everyone including the people you only see and/or communicate with for a few moments on Sunday morning.

I’ve heard about it all my life, but it was just a word unrelated to anything I identified with as love. After all he was God, my Heavenly Father and absolutely nothing in my relationship, if that’s what you could call it , with him came remotely close to what I felt when I thought about the little blonde in the short dress in the second grade. It was a word which was sprinkled generously throughout the scriptures. Early in my life it seemed to be always used something like this: “I, God, love you and therefore since I love you I expect you to behave like I want you to. You owe me that. And don’t argue with me about it.”

On a certain level, I could understand loving a real live touchable seeable person, but an unseen, untouchable and particularly un-understandable entity called God, that was simply beyond my grasp. Even after my return to his fold, admittedly in gradual and slow steps after I sobered up, and then more so after my reluctant baptism before Marilyn died, I felt nothing I could identify as love; not for God, not for anyone but Marilyn. It’s hard to love an unseen, untouchable entity whom it appears is ignoring your pleas for healing.

I can’t remember crying much at all as an adult, with the exception of moments like that one in the snow on the hill overlooking my home on the Pine River. But, upon Marilyn’s death a continual flood of tears erupted like a desert storm flash flood. Maybe it was God’s way of flushing all the resistance in my soul and heart out of me. If that’s what it was, it eventually worked.

I will never forget the moment I lost all composure for the first time on hearing a song of praise and thanksgiving in church. It moved me immensely. And, it prompted me to at last began praying sincerely for that other kind of love I never understood, much less felt. Have I arrived yet? No, I’m not sure exactly what that other love feels like, but it’s like that sense you get when, after a long absence from your home when you realize it’s just around the corner.

So … after putting all this down I have one ultimate test of my emotions of love for another person. Would I offer my life as ransom for the life of the person in question? Would you? Didn’t someone do that for me already?

Remembering Dad a.k.a. G2

(Written on October 9, 2013)
Today is October 9, 2013. One hundred years ago today, in Panhandle Texas, Floyda Margaret Hickox-Bishop, wife of George Frederick Lee Bishop, gave birth to George Francis Lester Bishop, a.k.a. George F. L. Bishop II. To me he would be “Dad”. Like nearly all births in the world, this one went unnoticed by the world with the exception of family and close friends. To them he would certainly be noticed.

He was the third child of the couple and the first and only son and he was to become what many men of his day became, a self-made product of the great depression and a dry-land farm in the Texas Panhandle. He was doted on by his older sisters his entire life. He was the baby; 5 years younger than Zoe and 8 years younger than Helen, and to them he was always their baby brother. In spite of that he became their defender and protector like a big brother would.

When he was about 4 years old the family purchased that dry-land farm 2 miles east of Canyon, Texas and it was there he would spend the remainder of his youth. He started school there and finished college there, in practically the same building. His dream was to follow in the footsteps of many of his Prussian predecessors and make his career in the military. His father, the first George F. L. had wanted the same thing for himself, but for reasons that died with him and others who knew him, he became a farmer and rancher instead. He wanted his son to make that choice of a military career for himself which he did, and was at first overjoyed when George F. L. 2nd received an appointment to West Point to replace his older cousin Harry who was 4 years older.

However, God apparently had other plans. At that time cadets weren’t given a physical examination until after they received their appointment, so upon receiving his appointment Dad reported for his physical. When it was completed he was told he wouldn’t be able to continue his dream. His feet were flatter than a pancake and he was allergic to too many things to be acceptable as an officer in the U.S. Army. He was bitterly disappointed, and his father was devastated. It meant that two generations of his portion of the family would not serve in the military.

Nearly seventy years later Dad would have the opportunity to attend the West Point graduation of his step-grandson Peter and while there he found a picture of Harry, hanging alongside the rest of his graduating class. Dad’s comment to me at the time was indicative of his basic nature, which was to always look on the bright side of any situation. He said, “You know, if I hadn’t had flat feet and allergies, I wouldn’t have met your mom and you wouldn’t have been born. So, I guess I’ve been pretty fortunate after all.” Yep, Dad … at any rate I consider it fortunate for my own sake if nothing else.

His basic optimistic nature, and always being on the lookout for opportunity, led him to gather up furniture to give to the two new teachers in town when he was a chemist for Phillips Petroleum at Phillips, Texas. What better opportunity to size up the new “single” female teachers than to show up on their doorstep bearing gifts. I have no idea what he said or how exactly he managed it, but after one date, Mom told her roommate that, “If that George Bishop doesn’t ask me to marry him I’m going to die an old maid.” At least that’s the way Mom tells the story.

Dad would go on to climb the corporate ladder and provide well for his family, but that’s not what made him unique. What made him unique was the nature of his character and at the core of that character was his love and respect for all people. Unlike many people who achieve the success of rising from the bottom to very pinnacle of the corporate world, Dad never looked down on any man whose financial achievements in life were less than his own. He took as much, if not more, pleasure in having a beer with a section gang foreman from Mexico, in the shade of a fruit tree in the man’s backyard as he did in having cocktails and dinner with a former president of the United States.

Likewise, he was just as at home on his knees in the flower beds of his and Mom’s back yard as he was addressing the National Petroleum Institute. He loved to garden and work on their home.

He had one trait that used to drive me crazy and one I never understood until I was much older. The reason I finally understood that trait was that I ultimately came to terms with the same trait in myself. Dad couldn’t just sit. As long as I was at home I never knew him to sit and watch television. He had to be doing something from the moment his eyes opened in the morning until they closed again that night.

The activity that gave him the most pleasure in life was doing something for his family; especially his grandchildren. In his opinion, his grandchildren were there for one purpose only. Their purpose was to be recipients of their grandfather’s love and devotion.

Dad, you weren’t perfect, but the few flaws you had pale in comparison to your qualities of love and devotion to family and friends. Recent visits to Oklahoma and Texas reminded me of the qualities of grace and respect in the people there, which you represented so well throughout your life. When I think of you now I realize how easily the good things in live can be lost but also, like you, never forgotten.

Who or What are You?… Really!

Sometimes a discussion is interrupted and then never starts again. Why is that? The reason I ask that question, is that about a year ago, in the heat of political campaign rhetoric, I left a comment on Facebook in response to something posted by someone who’s very dear to me and the reaction I received was immediate and fierce.

I was responding to a post which involved placing one’s perceived personal desires ahead of the common good. My post simply said that while one particular candidate might very well implement measures which would most likely benefit me personally, that when our country was safe from terrorists, that everyone who wanted a job had one, and thousands were free from fear of losing their homes, then and only then could I, with a clear conscience, vote my own personal desires.

It’s a wonder my phone didn’t melt down within minutes of posting that comment. After an hour or so I returned the calls and a somewhat lopsided conversation ensued. By lopsided I mean that for the next hour and twenty plus minutes I was subjected to a thorough and devastating brow beating, made even more devastating because it was inflicted by someone I dearly loved. More problematic, was that the reasons for this person’s unhappiness with me, were rooted entirely in issues of self-interest.

The effort made near the end of the harangue to convince me that we had many other values in common did little to soften the blow. The main goal seemed to have been to make me feel like I didn’t understand what the person had endured because of sexual orientation. Really?

The point made to me, which showed a total lack of appreciation for my predicament was this: “You have a choice to be either George or Georgia. I have no choice to be gay.” Again, really? My response to that argument was never heard, because just as I began to rebut the charge somebody’s phone, not mine, conveniently died and I found myself talking to myself. If I’d been granted the opportunity rebut, this is what I would have said.

“You’re right, you have no choice to be gay, that’s way God made you, but … you do have a choice to act on and express that fact. Unless there is an issue of severe mental illness, we always have choices in expression, whether or not it’s expressing our choice of Coke or 7Up, do I wear black or white today? A person may be gay, but there is nothing which absolutely forces that person to express to the world what they are. The fact that they are ultimately happier and possibly a more valuable member of society, expressing what they are has little bearing on the undeniable fact that absolutely nothing but personal motivation forces the expression.”

And then I would have said this: “True, I do have a choice to express “George or Georgia” but like being gay I have no choice in the fact that I am both; that I am dual-gendered. For years I chose to express “George” because that was the body I was born in and didn’t know I had a choice, but that didn’t change the fact that I was also “Georgia” did it? No, of course it didn’t. Up to this point we’re carrying the same cross aren’t we? But, it’s not the same cross beyond this point.”

“From this point on it becomes an issue of appearance. I confess, God has blessed me immeasurably with physical traits and characteristics that for the most part make me, “Georgia” visibly indistinguishable from most women. But, in the dual-gendered community I am not the norm and I know and appreciate that fact.” Few others like me have the options and good fortune I have, primarily based on appearance.

I also appreciate the fact that having the opportunity to work in a regular job, in the eye of the public and being accepted as I am is a blessing beyond belief. And when I stop to reflect on that, I realize that what I wanted to add to the aforesaid conversation is probably of no value to anyone but me, because what I am is only a small portion of the who, what, where and how I am. Really!