Thursday, June 23, 2016

Love Doesn't Always Make Things Easier

I am humbled to admit that for a long time, I held this against my mother: she struggled to raise me the rest of the way to adulthood alone. 

I have only realized this recently - meaning - I was aware I was angry with her, and upset/disturbed that some things went (on occasion, horribly) wrong in my adolescence. But recently I've come to understand I also associated those feelings with an assumption that somehow she loved me less.

Because if she had loved me more, wouldn't things have gone better?
Wouldn't it have been easier, for both of us if she had loved me more? Enough?
Luckily, just in time for me to see that these beliefs exist, I am able to let them go.

Somehow, with the work I've been doing in EMDR, with reading and contemplating and meditating in the more open space my "summer" creates, I am able to access this odd belief and see it for what it is. We often carry around beliefs we don't realize we consciously have - if you had asked me, point blank, even a few weeks ago, if I believed she didn't love me enough and that's why things went wrong, I would have laughed at you. Even now, it feels odd to say it, because consciously, I don't believe it. But there's a shimmer of recognition - the kind that comes when the subconscious beliefs are ready to be belied - and a knowing that this strange equation was how I understood what was going on.

I now know, in my heart, that she loved me plenty. Part of the belief that she didn't love me enough was a way to protect myself after she died when I was 19 - if she didn't love me very much, then I didn't lose much. This fable/fantasy/way of coping got me through my twenties, but kept me very lonely and unable to receive much love from anyone else. Underneath there is likely also a belief something along the lines of "She didn't love me enough/very much because I am unloveable." Not an uncommon thing for children to think when the connections with parents get interrupted or severed in some way. When the love doesn't get through, you can always blame yourself. Or them.

Blaming someone seems better than understanding there is no one to blame.

In my own marriage - this year is ten years since Ilana and I met - I have come to realize that loving someone doesn't always make things easier. That's an understatement. There are so many ways to love, lots of them quite confused, neurotic, and based on older coping mechanisms way outdated. But even the purest love, love without codependence, unconditional love - even that or those way(s) of loving (perhaps especially those ways of loving) are exquisitely painful.

Even if all the suffering of confused love is stripped away - even if you have no narcissistic aspirations as a parent for your child to reflect well on you, even if you don't expect your parents to be perfect or anyone other than they are, even if you 100% accept your partner without question - even then, the pain of love is still there. 

The fact is the people we love will die, and so will we. Try as hard as we might, there's no way for us to fully accept that all the time. The confusion and suffering we have around love and loss are thick, and often fog over the source of the love itself - the deep connection, the unconditional positive regard. And in a lot of cases, it isn't until after the other person is gone that we think to say to ourselves or others that we really did love them, truly, madly, deeply.

My mom never got that chance, not completely. And by the time she recovered from losing her own life love - my father, who died when I was 12 - I was into full-on adolescence and rejected just about anything she tried to offer me. I am quite certain now - both consciously and hopefully, subconsciously - my mother loved me a great deal. She was proud of me, watched out for me, wished the best for me. And she also found me annoying, petty, obsessive and tiring at times.

That's how love goes. If what I mostly remember are the surface level rejections, underneath, in the part of me that is finally ready to grieve the positive losses, I can feel there was a solid base of love. Even with that in tact, then and now, loving and losing are not easy. 

But loving can make it worth it. Healing, retrieving, finding the core of love in our relationships. Learning to find the basic love - the relational version of basic goodness or bodhicitta - and having faith in that, speaking to someone from your own basic love to their basic love - helps to prioritize and penetrate the haze of self-hatred and doubt through which so many of us lose contact with love.

Still may not make things easier - life is complex and painful, and work like this takes practice. But it makes life - and love - more rewarding and less torturous. If you are looking for a miracle cure for your heartbreak, you will not find it. Go into the heartbreak but feel it fully.

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