In the late ’70s — when disco was first showing signs of dying a merciful death and my puberty was still lying dormant beyond its expected arrival — author and avid pilot Richard Bach wrote this popular bit of wisdom: “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back to you, they're yours. If they don't, they never were.”
I hated that sappy saying.
And then someone gave me a poster.
The quote was flourished over a fantastical scene of white doves flying off into a turbulent sky filled with glowing, sunlit storm clouds.
I don’t remember who gave me the poster, only that it came with emotional strings that obligated me to actually put it on my wall. I have my suspicions about the culprit. I do remember my dad and I standing in my bedroom staring at the words in silence for quite a while, until he said (and I quote): “Hmmm.” And walked away.
Exactly. Sarcastic minds think alike.
Eventually, I was able to replace the poster with a more suitable horse one but not before the saying became an integral part of how I and my family comments on the world. It has stuck with me to be hauled out and remodeled for sarcastic commentary in a multitude of life situations.
And, you know, if it comes back to you, it's yours.
So when I needed the fortitude to do what needs doing training a puppy, I said: "If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, give it a treat. If it doesn’t, have fun chasing that little cretin down."
When I wanted to articulate my confusion over the inconceivable drive to commit spousal abuse, I said: "Well, if you love someone ... ?"
When I wanted to help a mom and dad deal with their empty-nest syndrome: "If you love someone, set them free. Before they come back to you, remodel their bedroom into a personal studio and spa."
When I wanted to get out of a wifely social obligation to go to a horse sale: "You know, hon, if you love someone, you should set them free."
"Yes," John said in warning, "but if she comes back to you with a new horse in tow, she has to do the dishes every day for a year."
See? Everyone can join in on this fun.
So the other day as I watched my husband in the early stages of renewing his passion for flight, I found myself feeling unusually, uncharacteristically, fretful about his efforts toward slipping the surly bonds of Earth.
I struggled to come to grips with inevitable.
I finally logicked out: If you love someone, set them free. If they come back to you, they obviously survived. But promise if they don't come back, you will hold a large, formal, pompous, two-hour funeral, followed by interment of his carefully, chemically, preserved body in a gaudy, ostentatious mausoleum — just like he'd never want in a million years.
Sarcasm is the self-defense mechanism that helps me stay in balance, and this quote has provided me a vehicle of its expression.
If you love sarcasm, set it free ... .
(FYI: The dishes threat kept me from buying a horse at firstname.lastname@example.org.)