It is odd how we take for granted the most basic of our sensory capacities until life teaches us otherwise. Losing our sight is one that is common to most of us as we age. Although both my parents wore corrective lenses, I boasted perfect vision until suddenly, as I approached 50, small print became illegible. It was the first real wake-up call for what was coming and I must admit that I didn’t go willingly towards the declining capacity that before then, seemed like things that only happened to other people. Suddenly I started to pay attention to what I could see well and maybe even more attention to what I could no longer see. My attention alone made colors more vivid, gave the subtle textures of fabrics and plants more depth; and the tones of the gray overcast sky became more subtle.
Archive for the 'Sustainable Love' Category
My father died last weekend, peacefully in his sleep. He was sick and unhappy for a very long time, so while his death was anticipated, the reality of it still surprised me. Even as I worked with hospice and caregivers daily over the last few weeks anticipating the moment, when death arrives, it turns things over on its head in ways you can’t anticipate. Finally, at the moment of his departure, all the years of trying to forgive him came clear. During all the efforts to forgive him and his persistent disrespectful and abusive ways, I never once looked at forgiving myself for not being able to love him. Going through his wallet now and finding photos of him on his driver’s license and one he had just gotten to carry a concealed weapon, I was at last able to see him beyond the anger, which was his primary interactive mode to keep people away. I could see into the grief and isolation that his photos showed. I wept for my own inability to love him more. My 17-year-old son, ever wise, said, “You loved him as much as he let you.”
If we could learn just two things about love that might just cure us of our broken relationships and dissatisfying sex it is this- that love does not come made to order and that we must be willing to ask for what we want. These two misunderstandings about the limits of relationships wreak havoc in the development and maturity of many long-term partnerships. Maybe it is all the romantic comedies or being brought up in a Disney culture of happily ever after, but the sad and happy truth of real and lasting loving relationships is that we don’t have control over how other people love us. Combined with the other persistent and unhelpful belief that other people should know what we feel or want from love without our telling them, and suddenly, the brokenness of our collective love lives comes clear. So here are three fixes for this useless cycle of love breakdowns that will cure your Valentine’s Day blues and carry you into a fertile new cycle of love this spring.
A good friend of mine recently told me that her resolution for this year was to become more human. She laughed as she shared the story with me, of how some of her friends from Silicon Valley didn’t quite understand the meaning of her pronouncement. “I am serious,” she said. “I want to feel more.” We all need to feel more, to become more human. As our lives are becoming increasingly dominated by digital gadgets that offer a superficial connectivity at best, we lose the face to face and heart to heart contact that in fact makes us human. Science bears this out, as more and more research is confirming how the combination of voyeurism and narcissism through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are drastically reducing the amount of real relating time we engage in. Worse still, we are losing the primary skills required to do the messy and gratifying work of truly showing up, communicating and committing to the loving relationships that give life its purpose and meaning.
“I believe that if you’re healthy, you’re capable of doing everything. There’s no one else who can give you health but God, and by being healthy I believe that God is listening to me.” -Pedro Martinez
We all want to be better than we are. I think this is the basic truth that drives the annual New Year’s resolutions, which more often than not barely last until February and too often leaves us feeling failed instead of renewed. I think our resolutions fail because we come at them believing we need to change ourselves, and often in ways that are so unrealistic that the discomfort of trying makes it impossible to act on or even hold onto. At the same time, we resist the changes that are happening all around us almost all the time. Consequently, our relationship to life is skewed- we long for change we can’t quite manifest while fearing change we can’t stop. Resolving to shift our relationship to change may be the one resolution we can keep, not only for the sanity it brings to our efforts to change, but even more for the clarity it brings to the world around us.
Early this morning when my 15–year-old daughter who shares the daily morning makeup and hair routine with me, turned towards me, straightening iron in hand, to do my hair; for a few minutes time stood still. I like to think of myself as close to my teens, but honestly, we don’t talk much during those morning makeup sessions, except to ask to switch sides of the sink. But today as I felt her fingers and the weight of the iron as she pulled it through my hair, there was only that moment. The rush of the morning routine stopped with her spontaneous attention. Her unsolicited touch lingered long enough for her to prompt me to do my makeup. It lingered longer still, as I hurried out of the house with a short wave to my husband and then reversed the car back down the driveway to run back inside and give him a real hug goodbye. These brief interludes where we feel seen or have the generosity to extend that seeing to someone else slow time down.
I remain convinced that at the end of the day, at the end of our life, the only thing we are going to count is the people we loved and those who loved us back. I have heard that the final moments of consciousness are a rush of memories, images that have been indelibly etched in our heart where we connected, where we had let go and opened to love, where we had been received and loved just as we are. Our days are full of opportunities to cultivate more of these moments of true intimacy if we would only become attentive and available to them. Here are three simple attitude adjustments that will fundamentally alter our perspectives and allow us to get closer to our lives and the people that inhabit them.
Fairness is a value construct that is inborn into all of us. Even the smallest of children recognize and bear witness to experiences of injustice among their peers. This very human urge towards making things fair is one of the fundamental ways that love acts as a currency in life. All of our sporting events that occupy so much of our attention are a reflection of the drive we have towards fairness, whether in little leagues or professional sports, we are content that there are a set of rules that make the game fair for everyone; without them, it is not a game. In fact, in some tight contests, a bad call that throws the fairness in the game is rehashed passionately for days after the event. In intimate relationships we rely on each other’s capacity for honesty and authenticity as the shared set of ground rules that make growing our vulnerability possible. And yet, most of the world’s most urgent crises can be traced back to unfairness both in the distribution of natural resources and the capital that serves as the accepted currency to make things happen. Many of life’s most challenging moral dilemmas stem from the cognitive dissonance created by our inherent tendency towards fairness and the many realities that support life’s inherent unfairness.
Here is one of the great truths of life that many of us are missing in the constant search for something new- is that experience alone too often leaves us empty. Instead, it is our attention, curiosity and opening that we bring to our life experiences that make them the powerful source of transformation that they are. This truth also explains why so many of us live such ridiculously distracted lives that often only detract from our immediate experience, keeping us at arm’s length from the insight and depth that our experience can offer us. We are born with the tools to cultivate and wake up our capacity for experience, which shifts our perspective on ourselves, our relationships and brings meaning to our life. Like most things in life, it is all about the questions we ask- here are the three simple questions to grow your capacity.
A near tragedy was averted by love this week in a Georgia elementary school when the school’s bookkeeper was able to connect with love to a troubled, angry, lonely young man who could no longer bear the weight of being unloved. He arrived with a loaded gun and enough additional ammunition to kill everyone in his path. He was accustomed to being rejected, even by his family and no doubt was surprised that someone would react with something other than fear upon seeing him. Antoinette Tuff’s calm presence engaged him with personal stories of her own loss and disarmed him by including him. The shooter, a young man of 20, was ready to die and wanted to take as many people as possible with him. When he admitted “no one loved him “she replied earnestly that “she loved him and was proud of him…” Afterwards, when she was asked how she was able to respond with love, she said, “That wasn’t me; that was God.” Certainly meeting fear with love and acceptance is at the foundation of all spiritual teaching.