A few more thoughts on love.

For someone who has endured chaotic, unreliable and unpredictable relationships, I ought to be disillusioned. These patterns have made me difficult and skeptical, but I have always longed to be loved in the ways that I need beneath all of the difficulty.

For years, I didn’t realize that I had the power to walk away from the cycles of unpredictability, chaos, melodrama I found myself caught in. I thought that I had to stay in relationships where I was being mistreated and misunderstood. I thought that this was my lot, that there was something wrong with me. I thought I had to be exceptional to be loved. I lacked the humility to realize that I don’t have the power to make people love me.

When I realized that “making people love me” didn’t work, I stepped up and tried to be assertive. When I loved myself enough to stand up for myself, I watched people who claimed to love me leave. Both manipulation and unconditional love… both make people leave, I concluded. So, I doubted all of the years that I worked on learning how to actually love. I let their leaving make me doubt my competence, my tenacity and my existence, until I realized that real love makes those leave who have yet to understand what difficult things love requires of us. Like self-control, self-accountability, self-compassion, emotional sobriety, courage and kindness, among other things. (Love does not demand perfection or exceptionality.)

As a Christian, you get told that “God loves because it is God’s nature”. What Christians are saying is that love is part of who God is and chooses to be. I’m not sure if I ever internalized this in a practical, embodied way earlier in life. (Sure, God is love, cool, got it). I didn’t really think about how that translates to personal relationships. A human being loves because it is part of who they are. They are filled with love, so they love. It is their choice, not something that I can control. It is not something that goes away or stays because of how good or bad I am. Love remains.

I have been relieved to realize that I can discover the tools and power in myself to walk away, and find people who want to love me because they choose to. When love is given freely and not dependent on myself, I feel more secure; I feel like I can love freely, without fear that I am being “used” or “robbed”. Love freely given is empowering.


 

There are people who I think about as “the loves of my life”. When I think about those people, I realize that what I experience a calm and peacefulness when we aren’t together. I don’t feel anxious and afraid. I realized that they have earned my trust and my mind and body are in agreement. My gut is not screaming. My mind is not tricking me. I am calm.

The loves of my life… I think about people who feel like my heart, my true self, outside of my body. The human qualities that are dismissed as “too good to be true”, like honesty, consistency, kindness, patience… and all those fruits of the holy spirit. And when I am loved by these people, I feel like anything is possible. I feel less silly and less ashamed for the kind of person that I want to be in the world. My heart is no longer dismissed and it brightens, expands. I am not just “naive” when I am with them. When I am with them, I know that love is something real that we must practice over and over again. Love is practice, a skill, as Esther Perel would say. I’ve learned that the “feeling” of love isn’t one — it can be joy and inner stillness, relief. Or when it is lost, grief.

When I think of how proud I am of myself, it is because I think about how I am growing to be like the people who have loved me well. I am learning their skill by being loved and by watching them be brave.

Being chosen to be in the lives of these people — no matter how long or short — is such a gift, such a honor. A dream come true. And it brings me a peace beyond what I knew was possible. The love they create, this commitment to create and practice, is evidence of those things unseen.

Loneliness is not weakness.

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I try not to double post Instagram posts unto my blog. But writing about loneliness — destigmatizing it — feels so important. I want to share more broadly.

I want to express that, in a society that expects us to not appear lonely, that it is very hard to write about my own loneliness. But, I am also thinking about how others have written and shared difficult things that have given me more courage to be myself. So, here we find ourselves.

I feel lonely. I feel it most nights. And I feel it most acutely when I am grieving that others aren’t ready to join me on the kind of life I want to live: an honest, reflective life. I feel it the most these days as I realize that some people I care about aren’t ready to be more honest with themselves and worse when I start to see a difference between how they treat the people in their lives who live in complacent self-deception vs. the aspiring truth-tellers in their circle. I try to trust that other’s choices and behaviors are not reflections of my worth, but it can still feel like betrayal when someone expresses with their dismissals and actions (and lack of actions) sentiments such as “that thing that matters to you, Rachel, I decided it doesn’t matter to me as much as I had initially thought. I liked it better when things were surface level, when I didn’t feel challenged. You care too much. Why can’t you be fun all the time? Why can’t you be more complacent?”

So here I am, feeling kind of lonely. I write in hopes that others can find what is authentic to them. Selfishly, I hope in the long term, by choosing their real selves, others can be honest with their peers, like me. Maybe it can help in my own loneliness.


From my Instagram:

I hate the kind of messages that suggests that loneliness is weakness. How many of us internalize that if we are lonely we must be ashamed of ourselves? 

Sometimes, you are lonely because you are trying to end painful patterns. Or because you are being brave. And you need more people who can keep up with that. Sometimes you are lonely because you are growing and you aren’t finding others who are meeting you where you are. Sometimes you are lonely because being honest scares the people around you. Sometimes you are lonely because you weren’t honest with yourself and you are learning to be honest now.

Sometimes, loneliness is a product of risk and trying really damn hard. And that takes courage. I am hoping to get through that valley of loneliness which seems to grow more and more these days.

It is scary to feel lonely during a time where you are teaching yourself you deserve better, kinder, honester, warmer. I haven’t heard many talk about how when you take care of yourself better sometimes you will feel lonely and misunderstood. I am trying to trust that this valley of loneliness doesn’t mean I’m failing. And that there will be more comfort and understanding and solidarity and kindness and love waiting to greet me on the other side.


From adrienne maree brown’s “Emergent Strategy”:

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Trustful mother

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Deep black
Bright white
No lack
Alright
Mystery depth
(Are you waiting for me?)
Dots of clarity
(Ah, I can see that.)
Dark gifts are dark gifts
are dark until
they aren’t anymore.

Mother
May I?
Maybe?
What do you know?
about life.
And how can I have some?
of what you know.


The plaque reads:

OMary,
mother of the living
to you we entrust
the cause of life.