"love is not so incomprehensible as you pretend, sweet pea. love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. it can be light as the hug we give a friend or
heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children.
it can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional,
imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor and loaded
with promises that we may or may not want to keep.
the best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of love.
and, honey bun, on this front, i think you have some work to do."
Very recently a handful of my dearest friends witnessed a revelation of mine, only to stare back at me wide-eyed as though I had just discovered, after 34 years on the planet, that I have a nose.
After nine months in a completely new kind of romantic relationship (built on commitment, honesty, communication and with long-term goals) I declared with a kind of gusto,
"I think I have major trust issues!"
Their amusement wasn't patronizing, but it took me a minute to see the joke...
It's a really tender thing when you finally "get it," when you finally look in the mirror and can stomach what you see. I was seeing myself in a sense for the first time and to discover that others, even though they are my most trusted and devoted, had seen it without my permission was shocking.
This is the vulnerability of relationship.
This is the agreement we enter into when we entrust others with our hearts.
This is why so many of us wear a mask even with those we claim to trust.
What my friends know about me that I don't know about myself is how I behave in relationship, because how I behave in relationship is the result of deeply held, often unconscious beliefs about who I am and how the world is and what the world has in store for me. I am just getting that I constructed my concept of love from a very deep wound and misunderstanding about the world.
My concept of love originated from the experience of disconnection from my biological family. I am adopted and seem to have emerged into the world searching for a reliable source of nourishment- one that wouldn't disappear when I need it most.
In my tiny body lived a big belief, "What you need won't last. Love won't last."
As such, nearly every intimate relationship of my life was built on this silent contract -
"I will do my best and if I'm good enough you will love me and you'll stay."
That wasn't my conscious mantra, it was the mantra of my unconscious behavior: isolation, anxiety, internal panic, incredible self-imposed pressure to do well in school, to look good, I began restricting my food by drastic amounts, and then I began purging almost everything I ate. In relationships I would wear myself out trying to bend the wrought iron unwillingness of my partners and wonder what I was doing wrong. The seed of this behavior has yet to be burned up - I still feel panic when I leave a commitment unfulfilled, when I need to set boundaries, when I need to say no. I have also tended to this part of myself consciously enough to feel a real strength and self-confidence in my daily life. There is a newfound (yes, does that shock you?) understanding that changing a lunch plan doesn't make me unreliable and speaking my truth doesn't make me disagreeable. But the most aggressive internal confrontation yet has been in love, in falling in love with a man who has forced me to reckon with my sense of unworthiness simply by seeing me as his beloved. I have never felt more worthy and I have never felt more clear, and yet it's still not totally safe to let my guard down. I've been walking around with a tin foil hat and a necklace of garlic for 34 years, and he looks at me like, "You know that's not going to help, right?"
I know. I know it's not going to help. I've just been doing it for so long.
I've believed love is only for some for so long. I've relied on self-defeating coping mechanisms for so long.
I've defaulted to being at fault for as long as I can remember. I have practiced this for my whole life.
It's not strange that it would be taking a while to untangle this very intricate chain-link knot in my heart. And that's where I feel it. I feel a bind from my stomach to my throat- a high and tight feeling in my heart and lungs, a plug in my throat keeping me from saying exactly what I need in the moment.
Still, in spite of the self-awareness, it takes a concerted effort to keep at it, like speaking a language I haven't lived with fully, fumbling for the basic nouns and correct conjugations to be in the present.
It takes daily nourishment of singing and cooking and dousing myself in fragrant oils and indulging in time alone, being naked, dancing, writing and watching the sky. I read myths instead of news because they remind me of what is actually true. I practice every day being my own touchstone, my own teacher, my own source of love and reverence, my own. I practice every day allowing that sense of self to inform my relationships, my work, my view of the world and my purpose in the world.
Each day reinforces my dharma in its sameness AND creative recapitulation of drama and chaos.
Each day reveals my dharma in the opportunity to choose love OR the absence of it.
Each day reveals my dharma in the gifts of confrontation AND witnessing and vulnerability.
So my question to you is, what are you practicing? What is that you repeatedly do and is it fulfilling your misunderstanding of yourself, or your most expressive and soulful self?
From where do you derive such a deep and sustainable sense of Self that you can let go of everything you've ever known and open yourself to all that is? I want to share my tools, which are really touchstones for you to discover your own personalized, deeply intimate tools.
Please join me this spring as we burst out of our teeny tiny shells. It's time to occupy your life.