It’s not a story, love—not necessarily—or at least not the story I want to turn it into: a series of arcs with a solid end. Even if the ending is sad, a story offers something ordered. It’s an assurance that makes the introduction of characters—the way she flips her fan, the way he carries home bread—fasten their choices into the security of plot: a rationale that makes love seem safe in the coherence of story-form.
But then there’s this— It’s a mad mission under difficult conditions not everybody makes it to the loving cup it’s a mad mission . . .
It’s Patty Griffith’s song “Mad Mission” ripping the veneer off my love “rationale.” Pulling the rug out from under my reliance that choosing love makes a safety zone. Because offering love is a mad mission, a kind of careening into the black space of the unknown. If and when I offer love (if and when you offer love), we don’t know what will happen.
After the first couple weeks of my son’s playschool, I asked about his new friends. He looked away, and I felt bad for asking—but then, he crept over to me, and leaned in to whisper something. His eyes were so bright, like he was telling me the most incredible, uncontainable, exuberant and golden secret. He whispered the name of his new friend.
The loving cup. Even three-year-olds know exactly what this is.
But “not everybody makes it to the loving cup”—not every relationship gets to gulp down or even sip at the bounty of this goblet of love. Sometimes we offer love and the person doesn’t take it. Or we think we’d make a great match, a felicitous friendship, and it just doesn’t unfold that way. Parents love their kids and it backfires in weird ways. People together for any length of time knows that even commitment doesn’t make love feel safe. It’s not a given at all, when we set out from the base camp of our heart, where we’ll end up.
And yet, it’s a mad mission but I’ve got the ambition it’s a mad, mad mission sign me up
So the mission can fail, blow up in our faces or fizzle out to be about as exciting as burnt toast. “But I’ve got the ambition,” Patty Griffith sings, and the human heart goes: I’ll take this on. I’ve got the skills (caring, listening, laughing—people have these, any walk through a mall or market shows that) and the desire and the courage to strap into the seat. I could really mangle things up; you could really mangle thing up—but that doesn’t have to stop us.
Because we were made to dare this way. We were made to say, yeah I know it’s risky out there, the clouds are gathering and the coast isn’t clear, my intensity scares people off and your pessimism stinks up the room, but whiskey tango foxtrot let’s not remain in the hovels of our own selfdoms because we don’t know the ending.
So maybe, love is a story—just not a finished one. It’s a form playing out in myriad forms, cutting and dicing through time and space in ways we cannot manipulate into a tidy plot. This is why I listen to “Mad Mission” regularly—it gives me courage to trust in the uncertainty of love. It starts with someone saying, “Sign me up.” I’ll give it a try, and flick my fan or bring over bread, or even, treat your name like the best secret on the planet.