One of the problems with being my age is that I forget how inexperienced I am and how much I have to learn about myself and life in general. I sometimes trick myself into thinking I can do anything and everything. I am wrong, but I still persist, sometimes to my detriment and that of others around me. Nowhere is that truth driven home more forcefully than in relationships and the delicate dance that is loving another person.
Loving other people is hard. It requires faith and trust and courage, the belief that you can put your heart in someone’s hands and know that they will keep it safe when you’re not looking. But it also requires that you learn the particular way the other person needs their heart to be handled. You have to respect that everyone’s heart is unique and has unique preferences.
It’s like keeping cats. Some cats like to be sought out. They don’t mind being picked up, chased, and smothered in love. In fact, they need it, otherwise they feel neglected. Other cats need to be left alone, but they will snuggle up on your lap and let you pet them, but only if you don’t force them. Neither kind of cat is better or worse than any other; they are all wonderful. That’s just the way they are. You can’t train cats, and they will love you in their particular way. You have to adjust to that.
Ok, so the metaphor got a little out of hand, but I think it got the point across. People are not cats, obviously. Unlike cats, people can and should meet you halfway on things. But, I still think we tend to try to make them conform to our preference too often. Better, I feel, to care about them, without trying to make them do things our way. If it’s an honest, trusting relationship, they will do the same, and the result is a kind of dance where both parties give and take in proportion to their ability, with a graceful performance being the final product.
All you need is a lot to handle
Love is a very emotionally active process; you can’t love a person the same way you appreciate art from a distance. Not really anyway. True love requires involvement and engagement, even if you aren’t physically present or taking an active role in the other person’s projects. You need to feel their concerns are your own to an extent. A father can love his daughter, and be fully invested in her career aspirations, without telling her what to do, supporting her materially, or living vicariously through her. Sometimes those things are warranted, but sometimes they are not.
Learning the difference has been challenging for me. When I see a problem, I just want to fix it. I like helping people, so I’m sure I’m motivated out of kindness, but it’s true that sometimes real kindness is letting the other person handle their own stuff.
I happen to be blessed with a girlfriend who manages to do all that with amazing grace and finesse. It seems to come naturally to her.
I want more than anything to be able to reciprocate in kind, offering strength when it’s needed, pushing when appropriate, and offering a comforting shoulder when that’s the best thing. I find it difficult to split my focus in many directions, though. I am passionate about many things: writing, movement, health, ecology, Buddhism, and martial arts among them. I don’t just treat these as interests. They are incorporated into my daily practice of living, or shelved entirely. I’m starting to realize that emotional investment is finite.
Right now, I need to be totally present for A, my wonderful girlfriend. She has done a lot this year to enable me to write regularly, put out a book, and contribute a lot to you, my readers, not to mention holding my hand while I freaked out about my graduate school application. With the ridiculous demands on our time that Korea has imposed, all that would have been completely impossible without her. Therefore, I hope you will understand when I say I need to back away from this for a little bit to make sure I am there for her right now.
When my life opens up a little bit and I can be here and there and everywhere without sacrificing my ability to be present in any of the places that matter, things will pick up. Until then, I will be posting less frequently.
So, this is a sort of temporary goodbye while I regroup and consolidate for the last months in Korea. You have been amazing. This year, I have found so many new friends and inspiring connections through my blog, Twitter, and Facebook. I want all those people to know that I value that connection. I have been loathe to miss even a single posting date because I take the relationship of blogger and reader very seriously. But, I anticipate I’ll lose some readers between now and January. I’ll accept that. Hopefully, they’ll be back.
Fight On, Brave Warriors!
(Photo credit: *^ ^* Sherry on Flickr)