Love, Magic and Being Grown Up

Many things about my childhood predisposed me to believe in magic.¬† The mighty Mississippi, limestone bluffs riddled with old lead mines, our proximity to the library which had an amazing children’s room.¬† Five siblings with creative imaginations, and parents who encouraged the use of them, also helped.¬† So I grew up believing in many kinds of magic.¬† Supernatural magic, such as Santa Claus, elves and pixies, wishing on stars.¬† Religious magic, like patron saints or my very own guardian angel.¬† And there was everyday magic: the longing induced by a lone barge whistle, snow falling softly through lamplight, the profusion of lilac blossoms in spring.

For most of my adult life, I’ve tried to hold onto the magic.¬† The tension between being a grown up (making decisions, earning a living, surviving the hard parts like illness and despair) AND a believer in magic is oftentimes difficult to resolve such that you can successfully be both.¬† I frequently get it wrong, and discover that I have ventured into territory in which one or the other is lost, to the detriment of my ability to function well.¬† If I am overbalanced on the side of “magic”, I stray into magical thinking and dreaming and lose the present moment in which to create my life.¬† If I stand too deep in the land of grown ups, I forget how to be touched by beauty and wonder, how to welcome grace when it enters my life.

Love can be an instructive example of what I mean.¬† In the grown up world, we learn to love in spite of weaknesses, human foibles, habits that we don’t care for (both in ourselves and in those we love). ¬†Love is about learning where people are in life, then accepting ourselves and others exactly there.¬† In the world of magic, love is about soul mates who just get us, moments that propel us into a feeling of flow, our perfect selves connecting with another perfect self who dreams with us about all the perfect possibilities out there.¬† This is true for all kinds of love, not just romantic love.¬† Too far to the “grown up” side, and we lose the childlike joy that relationship brings; we leave out the “…and all” part of the phrase, leaving us with just the “warts…” part.¬† Too far on the magic side, and we end up in a lovely castle made of air, which¬†may blow away at the first puff of rough weather. ¬†Love needs both our grown up selves and our magic-believer selves.

Love has taught me a lot this year, both about being a grown up and about believing in magic. ¬†It turns out that the magic of love happens in ways and places we don’t expect. ¬†Sometimes we get one thing when we were hoping for something else. ¬†The grown up in us needs to learn to be content that this is so. ¬† Because every bit of it is miraculous, every incarnation of love is magic.

I was thinking about this at my friend Ryan’s birthday party last weekend. ¬†He was a 19-year-old college student and I was a 36-year-old administrator when we met. ¬†An unlikely pair. ¬†Yet, words cannot express the depth of feeling I have for him — brother, colleague, co-conspirator all wrapped up in one big ball of love. ¬†You will never convince me that is anything but magic!

So, I try to hold that old tension.  Try to be both grown up and believe in magic.  And really, now that I think about it, love in all its forms is the perfect melding of the two.