“Let all that you do be done in love.” — 1 Corinthians 16:14
First take a moment to sit with that, please. I don’t care what your religious/spiritual belief is or isn’t; it’s a good quote any way you look at it, and it forms a critical part of my approach to life, the universe, and everything.
It’s also my justification for being a big meaniehead sometimes.
Love, as it turns out, does not equal “I will let you do whatever you want, however you want, whenever you want, because your happiness is the only thing that matters to me”. It doesn’t mean being a doormat, and it doesn’t mean ignoring one’s own needs for the sake of someone else (there’s an argument to be made for the mother who skips dinner so the little ones can eat, but that’s “sacrifice”, and while the Venn diagrams for “sacrifice” and “love” overlap there, I think it’s awfully dangerous to decide that the two are synonymous). Love is not about unlimited permissiveness. Love is not about enabling.
Love is about support, though, and appropriate boundary-setting, and Being the Voice of Reason. It’s knowing how to distinguish what your loved one wants versus what your loved one needs, and acting accordingly. It’s knowing when to go with the flow, and knowing when to dig in your heels…and for the record, this is true both of love directed outward, toward others, and love directed inward, toward yourself.
And all of this is a very long-winded justification for why I’m not baking any bread today.
Moon Man loves fresh-baked bread. He loveloveloves it, with the passion of a thousand burning suns. (And to be honest, I’m about only about a half-step behind him, enthusiasm-wise.) There’s something profoundly intoxicating about the smell of bread in the oven, and something sensually thrilling about breaking open a fresh loaf and watching the steam swirl and eddy, and something frankly divine about buttering a slice and biting into it while it’s still warm. If I was on death row, I would ask that fresh-baked bread be included in my last meal, preferably baked right outside my cell door so I could smell it in the oven.
And since I love Moon Man, I want to provide the things that make him happy. The problem, though, is that neither of us can handle the responsibility of a fresh-baked loaf of bread: when I bake, the loaf tends to last about a day, and is often completely devoured within a couple of hours. We slice it, butter it thickly, and wolf it down like we’ve just been informed that bread-eating is about to become a capital offense.
Needless to say, this does not entirely support our goal to eat more sensibly, with an eye on portion control and nutrition.
So because I love Moon Man, and because I love myself, and because I love the both of us too much to continue enabling our insanity, I am not baking any bread today.
Frankly, it’s hard, and it makes me feel like a big doodyface. I am experiencing mad guilt about not doing that one little thing that would make him so very, very happy, even though I know full well that eating half a loaf of bread isn’t good for his nutrition, his weight-loss goals, his healthy eating goals, or his blood sugar. (Did I mention that Moon Man is diabetic? Yeah, giving him bread is just mean, from a blood-sugar standpoint. But he loves it so much!)
So today I’m just owning my inner doodyfaced meanieheadedness. (Yes, those are words.) I love our life together too much to be willing to sacrifice our long-term goals for our short-term happiness; it’s the same love, for example, that would keep me from even considering letting my oldest niece, Bean, borrow the car (she just turned six), or letting our youngest niece, Princess A, have a candy bar for breakfast (she’s almost one). Sometimes I love people “because”, and sometimes I love them “despite”; and sometimes I love people in a “go for it” kind of way, and sometimes I love them in a “not over my dead body” way.
And if my being a doodyfaced meaniehead is what it takes to keep them around for an extra 20 years so I can keep showing my love in healthier ways a bit longer, then so be it. I’ll be a doodyface, and I’ll be a meaniehead, and I’ll refuse to bake the bread or give Bean the car keys.
And I’ll do it all with love.