Eros and Arrows of Love

“I can’t stop,” I said, choking out the words between my tears. “I just can’t…”

Erotic attraction had been a big part of our lives since we met the year before at the beginning of my senior year at Cornell, but in 1967 I planned to leave Ithaca and go to graduate school in California. I tried to hide my feelings, but sobs erupted with a sweet glance from his tender brown eyes or the touch of his soft hands. Our kisses were salty with tears when we lay naked, holding each other.

“I’m sorry I can’t stop crying,” I said, afraid my tears would drive him away. Could he handle these wild wet emotions? Could I?

Vic’s apartment building in Ithaca

“It’s OK,” he said. “Your tears tell me how much you value me and how much you care.”

I hadn’t wept in the early months of our relationship, but now I had to leave him without knowing if our bond would survive. As my departure day grew closer, I wept more. Soon he wept, too. I’d never seen him cry, but now I heard him sob.

“I don’t understand what’s happening to me or why I’m so messed up,” he confessed. Sex had been easy for us, but his body was numb and so was mine.

The closer we got to the deadline for me to head west, the more we grieved. He brushed my hair and we hugged and patted each other’s backs like a parent pets a frightened child. Tears and snot dripped on each other’s clothes. I moved from desperation to hopelessness.

“I don’t have to leave,” I said. “I’d rather stay and be with you.”

He already knew that.

“I can’t make such a big decision,” he said. “I’m too messed up. Maybe it won’t work and I’ll hurt you…. I’m scared.”

I already knew that.

Spring was a funeral dirge of slow walks through Ithaca’s wild gorges accompanied by the sweet scent of spring flowers. I delayed my departure again, but by midsummer I had to go and he had to fly east for a conference. I understood he needed space to decide and it wouldn’t work if he felt trapped. Trembling with fear, I didn’t try to force a commitment.

We clung to each other while the Greyhound belched acrid black exhaust at the Ithaca station. I found a window seat and cried for 16 hours, all the way to Grandma’s house in Ohio where I spent a few days before flying to California. She worried about the crying and the expensive long distance phone calls, but she understood being crazy in love. That’s the way she’d felt about Grandpa.

weeping after his death, 2008 (photo by David Mansfield)

Did Vic love me? He said he did, but he couldn’t promise anything.

Would I ever see him again?

Would I ever stop crying?


Have you had to walk away from something or someone you loved, even if you longed to stay? What happened next? I’ve written about tears many times, but I wasn’t a weeper as a girl and I don’t remember crying when my dad died when I was 14. My tears began falling freely after meeting Vic, maybe because he welcomed and accepted my feelings and I did the same for him. I could ask the same question now after his death in a different way: Will I ever stop grieving? I thought I was done writing about grief, but apparently not.

For another blogs about the arrows of love, see Clutched: An Essential Lesson from Psyche’s Fourth Labor. For a longer study in love and grief, see my book Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief.

  1. Oh Elaine, this is so beautifully written! My eyes raced ahead; all the while my heart rose and fell in equal turns. You cover all the bases of love in this post! That longing and yearning to be together … always. To stay close to your best friend, lover, guide, family … all mysteriously and magically held in the shape and form of one person! No wonder some say to their lover … “you’re my world!” I always love the photographs you so willingly share in your posts but the one of you leaning against the tree took my breath away today … your beautiful eyes say it all, for their really expressive, no need for words. I’m deeply moved.

    Today, your words of love remind me of how when I was eighteen years old I had to make the terrible decision to leave my family in order to (literally) live and in doing so … I had to leave my younger siblings and mother behind with a brute of a man. I think I cried on and off for the first couple of years as I readjusted to life on the outside, estranged from my birth family. Oh, the pain, sorrow and the suffering of it all and it took another eighteen years before I finally saw my mother again … I’ll write more about this in my next post I think. So to save myself I had to turn away from everyone one I loved and start again. Love and light, Deborah.

    • Thank you, dear Deborah. The photo of me weeping was taken by my son the summer after Vic died. David took a series of me with my puppy Willow and she’s now almost 12. As my son took photos, I began crumbling into tears. “Should I stop?” he asked. “Go ahead,” I said. “This is the truth.” The cuddles and smiles with the puppy were real, too, but underneath the grief was always there and I didn’t/couldn’t hide it.

      Vic and I orbited around each other, but I knew I could make a good life without him. I’m amazed he shows up in dreams a few times a week still–although without the anguish of the first few years. He’s a dream character, a dream lover, a helper and guide, usually playing a positive animus role. Two months after I left for California, he made the commitment and never wavered, so I flew back east as soon as I could earn enough money to buy a plane ticket. (I have his letters from that time in 1967.)

      You were so young when you had to leave family–and I know you had no choice. Your description reminds me of reading about young women escaping from controlling secretive religious cults and struggling to adjust to “life on the outside.” Leaving behind the rest of your family was wrenching in a way I can’t understand from experience, but I know you wanted to protect them. Eighteen years! Even though there is much grief in Vic’s death, the major experience is love and how tenacious it is–and that I was never betrayed. I’m forever grateful for his devotion. I look forward to your next post. With love and health, spring flowers and hope, Elaine

  2. Really potent medicine today. The immune system has to remember the power of grief. The ancients were not wrong to assign divine beings over these human experiences, as so many have said. There’s whirlwinds of change now, and we need this medicine to stop what we’re doing, and be.

    • Thanks Fred. I hope you’re writing. As you know, this is an old story from my life with Vic, but it taught me a lot at the time and I learned new things by writing about it. It doesn’t work to apply force when people doubt and resist. Prayers for change and for justice in this white privileged world. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a dark skinned person in this country. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be an animal or bird or plant or fish or marine mammal losing home. This year the forest is brewing a major population of gypsy moth eggs. My poor oaks and willows have a hard season ahead. May there be rain in AZ.

  3. The pathos and eros in your post moved me too, Elaine. Then Deborah’s reply and your followup with more details of how the story continued, precious. Of course, you will always love Vic, expressed so nobly in his willingness to encourage you to vent your emotions, something that either was not allowed in your childhood, or not tapped into during your early years. He was your perfect match.

    I see that meeting our mates matches too, both in the 1960s. But I was already teaching H. S. English when I met Cliff, a college senior. We were from different worlds but felt an instant attraction, “falling in like,” as he puts it, during the first week of Christmas vacation, both struck by Cupid’s arrows.

    The sensory detail is always strong in your posts, Elaine, but I was especially struck by these lines: “Spring was a funeral dirge of slow walks through Ithaca’s wild gorges” And then, “We clung to each other while the Greyhound belched acrid black exhaust at the Ithaca station.” I too remember a sorrowful parting, a 5-month breakup, and then finally a reconciliation at the wedding of the couple who introduced us. Most of our courtship was done through letters, neither of us able to afford the long distance (toll!) calls. I’m happy you have love letters too!

    As always, I appreciate your being willing to reveal vulnerability. And for showing how very tenacious love is. Your and Vic’s love is so very deep and true—and, dare I say, rare. He lives in your dreams and in the devotion of your sons, who look so very like him.

    Here’s to eternal love, good health, and walks in the thawing earth, dear Elaine.

    • Marian, I’d use the word “express” my emotions since “vent” has a feeling of being blasted by the other person. We didn’t blast each other, but we showed hurt feelings, pain, disappointment, and love. I still miss having a partner who could receive my feelings like a mother since this wasn’t my mother’s strength, but it was Vic’s strength. I’m glad I have love letters since the phone calls were a rare splurge, but once I left Ithaca, we were both a little desperate to stay in contact until he flew to Europe less than a week later. The next phone calls were 2 months later when he wanted me to return to Ithaca–and I set conditions that we had to face his fears together and I was no longer willing to deal with an on and off relationship. He agreed to my conditions–and was on for 42 years.

      I agree our love was rare (as is yours), but I think it began with a willingness to tell the truth and share feelings. Also shared spiritual values. I’m amazed he’s still in my dreams as often as he is, although his presence doesn’t bring anguish to the dream world. He’s a supportive masculine character, sometimes a guide, sometimes expressing a warning.

      Yes, here’s to deep abiding love and the good fortune of those who find that and work for it in their life. As you know, tolerance and compromise are involved. The magnolias and daffodils are flowering here–and the earth is green. The fast change from white and brown to color is always exciting here. Love and joy to you and your family.

  4. Always a pleasure: 😀

  5. Oh, Elaine. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually felt so in love and had to leave it behind. But reading your words made me know that feeling like I’d been there a thousand times before. Leaving and grieving. Too familiar. Too beautifully sad.

    • Robin, it felt like I was dying or he was dying, except in this case, he came back to life and stayed 40 more years. And even with physical death, he’s still hanging around in my heart and mind.

  6. My Heart Is Happy that Dear Vic shows up Meaningfully in your Dreams! What good fortune to continue a deep partnership/Artnership with a Beloved Soul Force…


    • Vic loved dreamwork. I love dreamwork. One of our last 2 minute conversations a few days before he died was him telling me a dream: “The Spanish King is dead, but I don’t know about it yet.” That was his last dream, and his realization that he was done exploring new worlds (Spanish kings). I don’t know why some people have many dreams about the dead or certain dead ones. I rarely dream about my mother who died the year before Vic or my brother who died 4 years ago. I had/have a powerful animus projection on Vic, so he still plays this role internally, waking or dreaming. I appreciate you, Michael.

  7. These are very deep and moving words, my dear Elaine. I can absolutely understand how you’ve felt in that moments. Though, I haven’t had such separations in my life. My grief of leaving was to lose my father, my mother and my brother Al. I have never been a weeper child either, and after my Mam died, I thought I had cried my tears out. But it became wet again when Al had left me. Thank you so much for sharing such moving moments of your life with us.

    • Thanks for your kind comment, Aladin. Are we ever done with the tears shed when we’re separated from those we love? For me, they still come in waves although less intense and less often. Wishing you a flowering spring.

  8. So beautifully and expressively written Elaine thank you. (I don’t know how this post passed me by, but I’m glad to have found it). You write about your tears which reminded me of my father’s death many years ago and the letter he left behind. I kept myself together for a long while and some months later when my sister and I were talking about his death, I said to my sister that it bothered me that I hadn’t wept any tears. She was amazed .. she said words to the effect, ‘don’t you remember? You wept like a banshee for hours and hours. I was with you, on your bed when you were wailing and weeping’. I still can’t remember this – but I’m glad to know that I did weep. My father appears in my dreams .. I will always remember the one of a small lake, and a gate, dusk, and he was teaching me to fish …

    • Susan, there’s so much we forget in times of deep grief, so I’m not surprised you forgot your weeping. I’m glad your sister was a witness. I knew I would forget too much if I didn’t keep a journal when Vic was sick. (I’d already forgotten most of what happened with my dad’s long illness when I was young.) The symbolism of teaching you to fish is a Jungian gift. May you catch big fish and bring them to consciousness to live long lives. Love to you in these challenging times.

  9. Dear Elaine, Once again, Deborah, with her gift with words, summed up my reaction: “the one [photo] of you leaning against the tree took my breath away today… your beautiful eyes say it all…” And it was lovely to read what you wrote about the story behind the photo, when you said to your son, “This is the truth.”
    As for your post, I am always deeply moved when I read about the depth and devotion in the love you and Vic shared — and continue to share in your mind, your heart, and your dreams.
    I do remember a few times in my life when I had to walk away from someone I loved, and one of the times I was sitting in a window seat (on an airplane) and was crying so hard I thought the stewardess must have been certain that I had just experienced a death. And although it wasn’t an actual death, it was the ending of an era that clearly needed to be grieved. I appreciate that you still write about grief, as it helps me to be with my own.

    • Dear Anne, Deborah does have a gift for words, poet and writer that she is. On Beltane, I’ll share a poem she wrote dedicated to Vic and me called “The Goddess and Her Green Man.” It’s the Green Man’s time of year, although Nature is slow and cold here this spring.

      I usually smiled for photos (other than a few Vic captured of me scowling), but it felt important to let my son continue his photo series. I smiled with Willow (4 or 5 months old then) on my lap for the first shot, and as David snapped more photos, I began dissolving. I decided not to hide my tears. Vic and I also argued and disagreed. That wasn’t our primary mode, but we developed the skill of being honest and not letting things fester (thanks to 1960s and early 1970s encounter groups) and so our arguments were rarely brutal or destructive. I can’t imagine keeping a relationship healthy if a couple never learn the art of argument. About you weeping on the plane, leaving Vic in 1967 felt like a death, but I’m glad we could wait more for 40 years for that reality. We’d loved and lived a lot by then. I still miss him more than I thought possible. The edges of grief are rarely sharp and cutting, but there’s still a deep ache. Spring blessings and bird song to you, Elaine

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