My exiled heart has returned!
When you lose love, like "Sorry for the Trouble", like "F*ck U Lucy" , like “I don’t know who you are, but you aren’t who I thought you were," we can cave in on ourselves. We all know this hurts like hell- worse than a beating. Though it doesn’t kill you, it is a particular type of death requiring a period of grieving. Loss is cumulative for most of us, no matter how much we try to avoid such agony.
"I'm over it," is translated as, "OUCH!"
We are all walking wounded, busily digging too recklessly in our relative dysfunction. It is for this reason I choose to be of service. Ask me how I can wander through lovely days and clear nights so heartbroken, and I’ll show you a scar you’ll recognize... because it matches yours. It’s OK, I know we pay for everything in this life, and like you, I’m resilient.
The humiliation? That's free.
My intention is to be helpful, and since such missteps allow vast experience in such matters, I mistakenly assume that I might assist in the soothing and opening of other hearts. Not as a co-dependent or for the purpose of reciprocity, but in the name of all that is divine and holy. Then I remember that my socks don’t match, I can’t remember what day it is and I have trouble opening packages without using my teeth.
I just ran into my neighbor. An earnest, hardworking father of three who spends his Sunday mornings having coffee with widowers from his parish. He listens. He looks in the eyes of these 89 year old gentlemen with great sincerity and asks how they are feeling and what they really need. THIS is love in service. He asks nothing of them, because that's how Mike rolls...a spiritual gangster.
In our romantic relationships it's more reciprocal and the stakes are higher, but we can still be helpful by simply considering the immediate needs of our partners. Can we be as kind and gentle with our partners (or former partners) as we might be with a dying friend or a vulnerable infant?
A common misunderstanding in relationships is that we don't have to practice listening and communicating more clearly, because love "should" always be easy. Our focus and attention is worth more than any material object or lip service, but the more important work is within. If our partner is endlessly distracted and squirming away from real intimacy, we know it's over before we can ask if they might please turn off their phone. Sometimes we screw up or misunderstandings do too much damage and we don't get the luxury of closure.
Let that $hit go. We all have work to do but you cannot do someone else's work and you do not have to suffer.
We are made to love, not to satisfy our ridiculously egoic needs. Though I know nothing of his personal life, spiritual teacher and author Eckhart Tolle writes eloquently about love. I'm a big fan of Elephant Journal’s Waylon Lewis, and his remarkably sweet book titled THINGS I WOULD LIKE TO DO WITH YOU. Like a personal love letter, it hit me right in the heart. What a gift to be able to speak so candidly about human connection and the human condition!
It can be the “I can’t keep my hands off you” lustful love or the “I recognize you,” connection, or even a love of coincidentally mutual benefits. Sometimes people fit one another without explanation or logic. As long as we aren’t hurting anyone, then why not?
This part about not causing harm is key because a relationship predicated upon collusion and fearful dishonesty is poisoned from the moment Cupid’s arrow pierces our skin. It proves not a soulmate twin flame connection but a ruthlessness. Getting my own needs met is more important than you or our relationship is all that means and additionally… I’m not courageous enough to end this with integrity. Infidelity is a common but incredibly destructive choice.
“Monogamy used to mean one person, now it means one person… at a time!”
What we do to those we claim to love, we do to ourselves. It’s a circle, not a line. Boundaries would save us a lot of grief and anguish in our relationships. What if we simply asked, at the BEGINNING of a relationship, “What does monogamy look like to you?”, instead of presuming anything? We have all witnessed the uncomfortable fallout in friend’s relationships, when one partner becomes suddenly jealous and possessive. Sometimes they’ve been given good reason to feel this way, and other times it is clear that there is an underlying misperception and wounding that is sabotaging the new relationship.
Patterns are meant to be broken. If we do not grow and change, we become inflexible. I’m a pretty open-minded woman, but devotion is seductive in the illusion of safety. If you love me, and that love grows into a loyalty and devotion, then I feel safe to open and share more of myself. When this proceeds an unpleasant surprise, it can feel as if we’ve been manipulated and take advantage of. We feel so foolish and duped! Most people are not intentionally duplicitous or cruel. It is not love, but ego that is a cruelty.
“Why’d you have to break all my heart? Couldn’t you have saved a minor part I could have clipped and planted in the garden. Guess I’ll have to get a new one…”
Ask Rufus Wainwright what he meant when 14th Street came tumbling out. Oh What a World, indeed! We cannot change who we are, but we can keep coming home. I have been a lonesome lover in deep woods without breadcrumbs for far too long and ready for a generous amount of change.
My only impediment has been my expectations. Of relationships and situations turning out as expected, of my own mortality. My urgency is rooted in a fear of death - though not my own. I have lost some extraordinary people because they died, or because we travel in entirely different directions. The latter cannot always be reconciled and death… well. If you handle grief skillfully and with ease I’d like to hear about your technique.
On the topic of grief:
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.
At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”
I mention grief because unresolved grief has a negative impact upon everything, especially relationships. Without a trace of martyrdom or I have an intimate relationship with grief and can attest that the invisible blanket will end up suffocating anyone who denies this kind of residual damage.
To say I LOVE YOU is to take a risk. Cowards make crappy and lazy lovers because they have a greater concern for self-protection than opening. To love fully is to walk unarmed and unprotected. If that love is returned, the protection is implicit. Gimme Shelter, please.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” - Rumi
The questions I ask after the dust settles are more about how I might learn to love better and not about the behavior of former partners, or if they meant all the lovely words and phrases they whispered. It doesn’t matter if or how they loved me, after all. It is a life-affirming gift to feel and to offer love and as with everything, it begins within. How I have learned that a sophisticated lover is nothing when compared to an illuminated and authentic lover. One who isn’t afraid of transparency or failure. The lion. The wolf like me.
Further, Pascal's Wager can be applied to more than just theism.
Be discerning and cautious with matters of the heart. You’ll know the time is right when you feel free. How am I so certain of this? Because I know love more intimately than I know death.
More on LETTING GO.
More on the work of Esther Perel.
More on Grief, from Joan Didion and Brain Pickings.