The New Year began under the light of a blue moon, although I couldn’t see it as I drove down a dark freeway in the driving rain. I was trying to follow the lane markers when the car started to hydroplane. Then a light symbol showed up on my dash that was uncomfortably close to my warning lights. As I floated right looking for dryer road I was also checking my lights. Minutes later I look up to see flashing lights behind me.
My car clock struck midnight as the state trooper came to the window. After hearing about the hydroplaning and light problem, the officer took my license and asked for the insurance and registration, which I quickly learned was on my husband’s desk instead of in my glove compartment. The officer came back and told me I was ok to go. No ticket, ‘just be careful going home.’
Having a positive run-in with the law seems like a good portent to the New Year. Not only was I able to expand my idea of state troopers to include a helping aspect, but also I was able to reduce my fear of being seen by them. It was transformative and as I made my way through the pouring rain, I felt some mix of protection and luck lead me into the New Year.
Before the meeting with the state patrol, I was in the near constant negotiation with my son about his new years plans. I was distracted and impatient as often happens when my kids’ continuous requests, needs or expectations fill what feels like all the breathing space. I am not sure which of us was more indignant when the car tires slid. During the last two weeks of vacation with our four children finding an easy togetherness with so many competing agendas was a challenge. As beautiful as the scenery was, I often found myself exasperated and exhausted by the ongoing work of relating.
I realized that as much as I do for others in the name of love, often the takeaway for those I am trying to love feels more like obligation. I don’t want to love begrudgingly and I don’t want the experience of my love to feel halfhearted, I want my efforts to show up to be authentic. Yet with so many constant and continuous demands, fatigue and overwhelm can often get the better of the love and before I know it, I am resentfully following through. Doing what I promised without the love.
I have often confused this place of love and duty, even in my work of teaching and writing about what it means to make love sustainable. I still hold to my belief that loving people can and will require us to keep promises that we may not feel like keeping, but what I now realize is that if we allow our acts of love to continuously degenerate into this place of duty, we can miss the act of loving entirely.
This is what I discussed with my thirteen-year-old son after the officer wished us a safe journey home. The idea that Love is boundless and acting as if I have no boundaries is where I have and often do take the wrong turn. The truth is that what I have to give is limited by my energy and my ability to attend. Honoring the limits of love turns out to be one of the surest paths to actually feeling it.