Happy Valentine’s Day!
This is my (brief) love letter to you, to the world, or at least to those people who happen to happen upon this blog. (My longer love letter to the world for the day can be found on one of my other blogs—http://fullcatastropheliving.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/the-one-thing-prioritizing-and-choosing-whats-truly-important-over-what-feels-important-at-the-moment/)
I have written this letter hundreds of times. And after I finish this letter, knowing me I am sure will write it hundreds if not thousands of more times, depending on how many days and hours I have left upon this earth.
This letter (like so many letters I write) is about what I see so many of us starving for. It’s about love.
And in particular, it’s about love at the extremes.
And so it’s also a letter that touches in passing on why the world is the way it is, because it touches on why I think so many of our relationships are the way they are—because of the lack of certain aspect of real love.
Life is so short, so fragile, and so uncertain. We really know so little about the bigger questions in life—the questions that mostly frighten us (when we’re brave enough to admit it).
And so to me so much of what we seem to do here seems to miss the point. It seems to be unessential, trivial; things that in the next hour or day if we were given a terminal diagnosis we would come to consider to be “utterly valueless.”
Yet they seem to hold considerable value and importance now. Despite ourselves most of us can’t seem to get it right; most of us can’t seem to give up the distractions and the small stuff.
And that seems to be especially apropos in our relationships and in how we love others and the level of love we expect from them.
These two loves seem to be incongruent, out of alignment. The incoming and the outgoing seem to be mismatched. We seem to expect more out of others and from others than we expect from ourselves.
And how is that loving?
We expect others to love us when we’re being unkind, difficult, mean, stingy, selfish; but we don’t seem to demand the same from ourselves when the situation is reversed.
Are we even willing to try and love like this—love another like this when he or she is being difficult, ornery, moody, distant, cold?
It seems self-evident that love—whether it be romantic, erotic, paternal, familial or even philia (friendship)—if it is to really prove itself to be love and not some cheap imitation or counterfeit, must have an aspect of loving the unlovable, loving what is unlovable and unlovely, loving the enemy or what is foreign or alien or contrary to us, in it or else our love will always falter and breakdown.
I don’t see anyway around it: the love between a husband and a wife (or between any two people in a long-term committed relationship) must have this—each must come to learn how to love the other when it is not convenient or easy, when it is difficult, when the other is being difficult, moody, bitchy, ornery, unkind, resentful. And each must be willing to learn this.
Because this seems to be an essential part—perhaps the most central and essential part—of real love: that it extends itself, that it rises to meet challenges, that it isn’t neutral, that it doesn’t just try to be not too bad but that it actually tries to stand for something good and decent, that it’s always paying attention and trying to listen and learn and understand about oneself and about the other. I don’t think real love is ever neutral: I think it’s always involved and invested and trying its best—that when we really love we’re always trying our best—or trying to try our best.
And this aspect of love seems to be non- or little-existent in so many so-called love relationships!
The going gets tough and one or both of the two people take it out on each another. Or the going gets boring and flat and comfortable, and one or both of the two people take out their unhappiness and restlessness on each other and become more petty and ungrateful.
I think when we truly love another, among the many possible things that that means, it means that we start trying sincerely to learn about what love really is, and not just what we want it to mean and what fits well with our temperament and congenital preferences.
It also means that we start applying and practicing this sort of love when its not convenient to us—when it means that we have to cut our moodiness or self-righteousness off midstream and sacrifice it for a higher purpose.
It also means that we start examining ourselves more regularly, and not just the other person, to see how loving we are being to him or her, and not just how loving he or she is being to us.
And to my mind this is by no means an easy thing to do! In fact, it is one of the most difficult things to do—to turn our outwardly fixated and focused gaze back upon ourselves and to try to look clearly and honestly at ourselves. This is perhaps THE MOST DIFFICULT thing to do in life! —To examine ourselves, to confront ourselves, to scrutinize and critique ourselves fairly and honestly, to be a more honest and objective narrator, to try to tackle and remove the massive wooden beam from our own eyes: this is something truly heroic and all too rare in our society—in any society.
And yet I think this is a huge part of the learning and practice of REAL Love.
And I wonder what this world might look like if even just a few more people were to try to love others like this, or in some way similar to this. I wonder what the world might be like, and the conversations we might have, if more people were searching themselves and bookstores and each other for answers and insights on how to be more loving or how to live now more in alignment with what will matter most to them when they find out in no uncertain terms that their time left on this earth is only a matter of months and weeks, or minutes.
How differently we might live! How different might our conversations and interactions be! How differently might we love!
What would truly matter to us then?
Should it not also matter more to us now?
Happy Valentine’s Day, in the truest and deepest sense, to you who are reading this! I hope your day is filled with much love and warmth and that you fill the world around you with as much love and gratitude and warmth as you are able!
With Much Love & Gratitude,