Archive | February, 2015

Becoming One’s Beloved

28 Feb

I’ve always hated the phrase, “You’ve got to love yourself if you want to be loved,” because it makes love sound like a class you have to pass before you can enter college or something. How is one to learn to love oneself other than by example and by being loved by others?

Life doesn’t occur in a vacuum. People need people and humans respond astonishingly well to love. Like plants receiving water, we are fed by it. If this weren’t the case, babies wouldn’t bask in the love of their caretakers and we wouldn’t pine so much for the acceptance of our friends and families.

When there is no one around to hurt us, some of us do quite well. If our self-esteem is somewhat in tact, and our abilities to self-soothe have been cultivated, we may live a very happy existence. But when we’re in intimate relationships, this sense of serenity can be threatened because another reality is introduced. We now turn to others for love instead of seeking it independently. After being in a desert, someone hands us a glass of water. We don’t have to forge for it ourselves. As this love pours into us, it overwhelms and excites us. We let down our guard. Like a puppy on its back getting its belly rubbed, we soak in the bliss.

Until all hell breaks loose. The magic potion wears off and we realize that our partner is not our parent here to make us feel like an infant at mommy’s breast. Instead, that person is an adult with needs of his or her own and flaws as refined as ours. They can withhold from us, disappoint us, hurt us, fail to commit, and ultimately, abandon us. To the infant inside us, this is death.

And it in this death that we have an opportunity to heal. Somehow, we have to walk into that nursery and tend to the screaming infant that is ourselves.

We don’t say to that child, “Here are your diapers. Figure it out.” Instead, we pick up the crying baby and care for it. This can be an exhausting process and at times, a thankless job. No one gives us a gold star for a task well done. Instead, we often do the work alone and/or with little help. We are indeed a single parent.

While this might seem unfair, it is the only way to become one’s own beloved because whether in or out of relationship, humans will delight and disappoint us routinely.

The heart of self love is not flashy, glamorous, or romantic. We don’t get wined and dined. Self-love isn’t delivered to us in a formula, or an orgasm, or a package from someone else. It doesn’t come from buying a new dress or coloring one’s hair. Instead it comes with the courage to face the pain of being human, while still longing for the unitive state, which is only truly experienced with God.

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When Life Collides With Heartache

13 Feb

I wouldn’t wish heartache on anyone. At its worst, it feels like death. A missile is launched at the heart, torpedoing one’s sense of being.

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What’s funny though is that no matter how much we may feel like we’re dying when loss hits, life goes on. The sun continues to shine, birds sing, and people go about their business. Healing requires a delicate balance of surrendering to pain while observing the life force that adamantly persists.

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Last weekend, while looking after my neighbor’s cat, I pondered how life presses on despite all the pain in the world.

My heart was hurting for various reasons, yet the cat, who is still a kitten, felt nothing but curiosity and joie de vivre. While I sat in the bathtub weeping, he charged into the bath curtain, attacking it like a predator. A la Diane Keaton, I oscillated between sobbing and laughing, as I watched the cat almost fall into the water.

I found him in the refrigerator and sitting on my book shelves. He knocked over a box of pasta and snagged my best jeans while attempting to climb up my leg as if it was a tree. He licked my stuffed cat as if it were real. Then I discovered him batting my dried roses. They were flowers I had preserved in memoriam of my own cats. At first I was saddened that he was playing with them, but then thought the action fitting.

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The cat was life force in motion. Yet the cat’s cuteness didn’t solve the problem of current loss. He merely collided with it.

 

Grief Like A Tsunami

1 Feb

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The other day I was driving on the highway when the most outrageous rainbow I’d ever seen appeared in the sky. It had been raining lightly in Southern California, which in itself is rare. I was so taken by the rainbow that I turned off the highway to photograph it. Right off the exit was a Denny’s, so I pulled into the parking lot. Of course when I later posted the photos on FB, people joked about the rainbow leading to Denny’s and not a pot of gold.

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Denny’s photobombing my rainbow was classic. What better place for Glory to descend than in the middle of an ugly, Southern California highway? If Beauty can lower herself to the banality of Denny’s, perhaps Grace can appear in our darkest moments?

I was having a rough day, filled with a sense of doubt about many things. For comfort, I drove to the church my mom and I used to attend. I don’t frequent there often, but when I long to feel close to her, I visit the church.

I don’t know my mother’s exact state when she overdosed on amitriptyline. I know her death was intentional though because she left me a suicide note. In it, she wrote that she lived in “a world of utter darkness, despair and pain.” She continued, “I cannot stand life anymore. There seems to be no way out. Depression has totally overcome me.”

Whatever the causes for pain of this magnitude, no amount of cheerleader pep talk helps. This vortex of existential angst can suck us into the blackest hole. Despite not harboring destructive tendencies, I sometimes perceive this state and and know why she ended her life.

Enduring intense pain is like sweating out a fever. Emotions, like toxins, move through us, begging for release. Running a fever isn’t something to be taken lightly and sometimes needs professional care. At the very least, tender love and care. In an ideal world, another human being sits with us and holds our hand until a ray of light pierces the night and we feel less bleak.

Grief can hit like a tsunami, knocking us down with little warning. I lived in Indonesia and remember watching, years later when back in America, the news coverage of tidal destruction that hit the Indonesian archipelago in the 90’s. It was devastating to think about and witness. The path towards repair can seem futile and the anguish insurmountable. And yet like the biblical story of Noah, in which a rainbow appears after the flood finally calms, sometimes a sign appears – a vision of color cascading through the sky.

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This wasn’t just some little rainbow gracing the skies of Southern California yesterday. This was a big honking rainbow. Thank you, mother for winking at me from the sky.

 

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