“Teach me how to care and not to care.”
That has been my prayer these days. Along with, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I can’t do this.”
My personality lends itself to going to the extremes, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. Either I’m completely infatuated or entirely uninterested. I’m all in or all out. Either I feel safe or I don’t trust you at all. If you hurt me, it’s done.
Some may say this is passion, an admirable quality. I’m not sure if that’s true, but even if it is admirable, it is also highly problematic – at least if the goal is love.
I don’t mind being a passionate person, I don’t think I can really help it. But I want to love. It’s more important, and sometimes this ‘passion’ of mine gets in the way.
Passion implies strong feelings/beliefs about/toward something/someone. These feelings/beliefs aren’t the problematic part, the problematic part is when love becomes attached to these feelings/beliefs.
I feel this way toward you so I love you; OR, I feel this way toward you so I don’t love you.
Do you see how this is unhelpful? My love is contingent upon, attached to whatever feelings you evoke in me.
What makes you feel good toward someone? When they do what you want: whatever makes you feel loved, valued, important, seen, understood, cared for, special…
There’s nothing wrong with these feelings. My struggle – my impossible task – is to love in spite of them – not because of them.
You see, there are so, so many times when my sensitive self is hurt by the words or actions of others – most especially by those I care about. Often these words/actions aren’t even directed toward me, they have nothing to do with me. But I interpret them as a rejection, or simply because it’s not what I wanted from them, become angry.
Hurt so easily turns into anger.
This anger then fuels my decision to flee or strike back, to retreat or attack. The ‘love’ I had for the person quickly dissolves and instead the doors of my heart slam shut – protecting itself from any further harm.
But that’s the problem: that’s not what love does. Love doesn’t move that way; it doesn’t slam doors.
Love must remain above the primitive nature of feelings. It cannot be attached to the actions that please you or the feelings you like. Love just loves.
In other words, love allows room for disappointment, anger, hurt…even rejection.
Isn’t that awful?
I mean it’s excruciating in my opinion. But also the most incredible, wondrous thing. That’s why love, ‘true’ love, is so rare – so difficult to come across. It is beautifully demanding – few are up to the task.
This lesson on detachment has been one I wish I could have skipped. I wish that so much.
But I know that it has been incredibly valuable.
I have ‘lost’ so many things that I wanted/cared about this past year – I honestly find it miraculous that I haven’t shut down completely. Grace alone, I assure you.
There was a moment after the breakup, I was walking on the beach one afternoon when I was hit by the realization that I was okay. And by ‘okay’ I don’t remotely mean hunkey-dory-life-is-good, but more that I survived.
The worst thing I could have imagined, the thing that I feared so deeply for so long happened. My worst nightmare became my reality. And there I was, still standing.
It was a moment of true freedom. A moment when I realized that if I were to love someone again, I could do it with the confidence that – should they also choose to leave – it wouldn’t break me, at least not completely.
I was okay.
That is freedom. We can only love in freedom. Otherwise it’s not love, it’s just attachment/dependency/infatuation or any number of things – but not love.
Love is a choice made in freedom.
Of course he was not the only thing I lost. I lost the dreams I had held on to for marriage and a family. Moving away meant I lost my beautiful hometown, my close friendships that I had built for years, my dear family…all the comfort I had in the place that I loved – gone.
Even since moving I have had losses (including my beloved camera), smaller, yes, but loss nonetheless.
Yes, detachment has been a lesson forced upon me this year more vigorously that I could have possibly anticipated.
This whole time I thought my problem was that I cared too much. If only I cared less I would be unaffected, my heart could remain intact.
But I’m starting to see that’s not the problem at all. The problem is that I love too little.
Because if I truly love, it is free. You can hurt my feelings and I will still love you. You can make me angry and I will still love you. You can let me down and I will still love you. And if you leave, I will be okay. I may not want that, it may hurt, but I don’t need you. As soon as you ‘need’ something – choice (and therefore love) is compromised. Need doesn’t allow room for freedom, it can’t love.
In the strangest, most counter-intuitive way, love must remain detached.
“Teach me how to care and not to care.”
I can care, but I can’t care. I can care about you, want the best for you, love you…but I can’t care only about the effect you or your words/actions have on me.
I know it may sound nuts or even borderline masochistic but you have to remember that in a mutual, loving relationship the other person must do the same. It’s not that they have free reign to act and do as they want without any regard to you…both parties must continually strive to make the selfless choice of love over and over.
The point is, as much pain and angst and downright heart break this past year – especially the past six months – has brought, I hope, I pray that I am slowly making my way to a love that is stronger and more authentic than what I have been capable of until this point.
It hurts, my heart hurts, sometimes it hurts like hell.
But I don’t know, I’m not giving up I guess. I’m just holding on to the hope that down the road it won’t hurt so much. In any case I think it’ll be worth it – the pain – because learning to love is why we’re here, right? It makes sense that something so important wouldn’t come easily. It’s too precious.
My heart may be broken, it may be “ravenous and wild”, but its good, I think…ultimately. There’s hope.
I want to be “free to love once and for all” and if this is what it takes, so be it.
stay open stay open stay open