Driving down Carlisle with a really cute guy en route for Chinese food, and safely "just friends," we chatter about love, sex and the people we know who claim to be in love but appear to be in some excruciating pain; laughing, detached, almost arrogant about our lack of entanglements my friend clears his throat and very seriously states, "You know...I'm really controlling not being in a relationship, it's been 5 years now. I can't do that again right now."I burst out laughing, amused by the authority with which he claims control over his love life, as if what happens to us is manageable. Who chooses the hell of love's passions anyway? We say we want it, but run like hell from the hot spot of true intimacy, the confrontations, the marshes and inner sanctums where all deep personal growth occurs. Everyone who's ever been in love knows quite well that when the soul is ripe for advanced study and healing -- the universe has a way of poking you in the heart at the right moment. Love's heat melts us down like steel in a furnace, bending off the recalcitrant grip of the ego which has safely kept our emotional lives hostage to an unresolved 'yesterday' for years perhaps.Substances, TV, or the unconditional love of a pet are wonderful alternatives to the kind of torture love presents. "Substance-free" and "co-dependent no more" types often turn to goal setting, excessive working-out, the Internet, promiscuity, or good old-fashioned complaining to remain invulnerable. My "in love" friend throws the 'runes' daily now, reads her AA book by night, and is constantly making excuses for her erratic behaviors as she obsesses over her 'lover'. She appears to be suffering yet is utterly engaged and emotionally alive; less cocky and full of shit than usual.A woman at a seminar says, "My life is too out of control when I'm in love. I like the stability of my solitude. Love brings up too much garbage, I can't do it." Love comes out of left field when least expected. The person never fits the picture we covet as 'our dream guy/girl'. Initial ambivalence gives way to an undeniable tug, a connection that feels -- might I say -- 'familial' and within weeks we're thrashing around in the deep waters of pleasure and pain, giddiness, obsession, fear, and various states of erotica. Outbursts from a hair pin anger are part of our behavior as hurts resurface; paranoia sets in as our dreams revitalize, and we're in that place that hurts so good. What a dirty trick! Reduced to gibberish, we suffer, learn to surrender, to forgive, to face the wounds of the past, and move mountains of resistance. Our hearts have been pierced and we find ourselves tearing up the scripts we constantly write for ourselves. Finally a rare opportunity to get beyond our puny patterns into soulful introspection is upon us. It takes a willingness to give up control and become open to intimacy. Have mercy on your 'pathetic' friends and pray this divine intervention has you targeted next.Happy falling,

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