Another beautiful entry in The NY Times Modern Love series, this time courtesy of Michelle Auerbach, in which she details what happens when you get hit with a real-life metaphor, a flood of water to mimic the flood of emotion involved in falling in love. Both kinds of floods are terrifying! But as she so poignantly points out, there may also be something merciful at work when one’s precious sense of control is overwhelmed (see also: One Way Love). It’s a very hopeful story, in other words, especially for those of us who, despite our better judgment (and sermonizing), find it functionally impossible to let go of the reigns of our lives:

phone_floodBrian and I had met in the stands watching our sons play lacrosse. Brian’s son was like him, playing offense with such a lack of effort that it looked like play. My son was like me: intense, focused and driven. He wanted to understand and control the field…

Brian is a mechanic. He drinks beer. He hunts, butchers and eats elk and deer. I am a vegetarian health nut who prides myself on planning and articulating. He is the one at the party who starts the water-balloon fight that rages for hours and turns into a full-on soak down. I am the one who grabs all the cellphones and takes them inside…

We started talking on the phone every day. Eventually I said yes to a date, but I remained cautious. When we kissed the first time, it was behind a restaurant in a dim alley. This was my strategy: no one should find out. I was worried my children would have a hard time accepting a new man in my life, and I needed to be sure. I convinced myself that I could plan and then play it all out safely…

I needed to understand how his feelings worked so I could incorporate that into my formula. I was happier than I had ever been. I was a better person around Brian because I wanted to be, and his slow grace brought it out in me. But that didn’t stop me from obsessing about all the ways this could go wrong…

Boulder-flood

When we woke up the next morning [after the flood], I was overwhelmed. There was no strategy for dealing with what we saw. The building one block away had been completely run through by the creek, our street was a river, and the dogs needed to go out.

And that’s when Brian took over. He knew how to move through the backcountry, to make camp in unfamiliar landscapes. He turned off all the gas lines for our row of houses and helped neighbors install sump pumps. He guided the dogs through the water to higher ground. I called insurance agencies and mitigation teams. We were a perfect pair, and it felt so effortless. We kissed, hugged and squeezed hands. We made sure to eat, to check in on our neighbors. We laughed at how happy we were, each of us relaxed because the other had the skills and the attitude to push through where we alone could not.

“This is the best flood ever,” I said to him…

lieber-hawkeye-7-flood

We needed to get swept away. Before we could rebuild and move forward, I had to admit we were already a family. We had been through the worst and we were wet and stranded but in love and happy. The way forward, it turned out, had more to do with giving up control than being in control. Our creek showed me that. The way forward was through, like the way the creek had run through our house and our lives.

Water moves where it wants, following its course with fluid suppleness, and it rises to the level it was meant to and then it stays there as long as it will. None of us could do anything about that. Nor, in my FEMA disaster zone, did I even want to try…

The flood had destroyed all my plans, and with it, my anxiety. Brian had no idea how knotted up I had been about our relationship, with all my strategizing and preventive measures. He just knew what it felt like to surge ahead in life and be happy. Now I knew what that felt like, too.