I’m not going to tell you that you only need to love yourself, or that romantic love isn’t worth all the hype, or to love the whole world, or that love is all there is (although yes).
What if my lobster is addicted What if she's in trouble and her life has become unmanageable? Glennon talks about her family loving her very much, just not having a plan. I am stuck in this cognitive mess of "don't judge,” "just love,” but "don't enable,” "don't turn your head/sweep it under the rug/act like it's not happening" but I don't know what that is all supposed to look like from day to day.
Today is a really, really good day. I didn't know this news was coming. I am awful at keeping up with the going-ons in the world because I hate listening to the news and about a lot of things political and worldy I don't have an informed opinion, so I shut up. I'm often embarrassed by this. I'm learning. I do however have an opinion about same-sex love and marriage. A big one. This is a mountain I am willing to die on.
I saw the news come across this morning - Same Sex Marriage is a Right, Supreme Court Rules - and jumped up in my office and screamed "YES!" YES, YES, YES. Fuck yes.
Just yesterday, on our ride home from summer camp, Alma asked me if I knew what it was called when a boy likes a boy or a girl likes a girl.
I asked, "What do you mean, what is it called, honey?"
She said, "Like, do you know if it has a name?"
I didn't hesitate. I don't know how to answer 90% of questions this kid throws at me, but this was an easy one.
I said, "Yes. It's called love, baby."
"Yes. That's it."
She paused a moment. I looked in my rear view mirror and our eyes met.
"OK," she said, and turned her gaze out the window, toward the ocean. The warm breeze blew her hair back out of her eyes as she took a sip of her Slurpee.
That's it. That's the beginning and end of the story. It's called love, baby.
Stay with yourself.
This is something I used to tell my yoga students when we were holding a particularly hard pose. It came out of my mouth during one of my first classes and I thought, where'd that come from? But it felt like exactly what I was trying to do myself. And what I wanted to try and give others. Stay with yourself.
Not like, grit it out with a stiff upper lip. More like hang in when you want to bounce. Just a moment longer. Hold your own hand. Sit there with your best pal: you. Make an ugly face, wince in pain, grit your fucking teeth, let the sweat drip and the body shake. Check out the edges. On your mat and in the world.
Stay with yourself.
I let go of a relationship (and by "let go" I mean it laughed me out the door) a few days ago. I’ve been alternating between states of clarity, optimism, raw anger, resentment and humiliation every twenty minutes or so. It is exhausting, the end of a relationship. It is relief. It is deep sorrow. It is, for me, often a lot of anger. It is a practice in compassion for yourself and for the other human being who also just did the best they could. Even if their best was to laugh you in the face, drunk, as you stood in the middle of the street vibrating with rage.
Why do we do things even when we know better?
Why do we want to bury ourselves in others so badly?
Why are we so afraid to be alone?
Why does it hurt so much when we discover we are not loved the way we thought?
Why does it surprise us each time we stick our hand back in the same fire?
How could I not see how this would turn out?
Perhaps it’s all a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. Our hard hearts that rail against forgiving that other person are really begging their own forgiveness. Our rage we blast out at another is really directed inward.
I know – in my mind, at least when I’m operating from a more centered place – that this is probably true.
But what about if it’s not? What if the rage I feel toward this man when he is laughing at me in the street is the same rage I felt when I was laughed at as a child for being so sensitive? The same rage that burst hives onto my chest when the boy who got me pregnant in college laughed at me when I asked him why he never looked me in the eye again, took me to the abortion appointment, or gave me money to pay to cut the thing out of my body that was part his?
What if that rage is not about me because I didn’t do those things to me? What if I’m not feeling spiritual about it and I just want to fucking smash things?
I did a yoga retreat with Seane Corn last fall. She talked about the danger of "over-understanding" things because we've read all the self-help books, we seek spirituality, we meditate and do yoga and practice loving kindness. But we can't skip right past processing the experiences we have straight to understanding them – why they’re happening, how we should feel, what the deeper spiritual meaning is, blah blah blah. She called is skipping past the “fuck you” and going straight to the “I forgive you.” It doesn’t work.
Today I am in the “fuck you” stage. I want out of it BADLY. I want some kind of relief. I want to drink. I want to do drugs. I want to sleep for 1,000 hours. I want to scream and run into the frozen ocean and shock this out of me.
But I keep breathing.
I keep writing on this page.
I keep lighting a candle and filling my tight, constricted lungs with air and closing my eyes while I exhale.
I stay open even though I want to close up shop and shut down.
Life is weird.
The night after the scene on the street I was asked to chair my first meeting. It’s a big meeting, about 100 people big, and the format is the person chairing speaks and tells their story for 20-25 minutes before opening it up to the rest of the room. It’s very rare to have someone as new as me chair, but I’ve been going there for some time and am close to the guy who selects the speakers this month. The person who was supposed to speak cancelled that morning. My friend called that afternoon and asked, would I do it? I said yes.
Had I not been laughed off the street the night before I wouldn’t have been available to say yes. I would not have answered the call.
God puts us where we need to be and all that.
It was magical to speak. Before I started talking I was anxious, nervy. But I prayed to just let whatever I said be honest and once the words started to come a wave of calm came over me that I’ve experienced only when teaching yoga. Like something was coming through me and I just had to have the courage to stay open. It was important to hear my own words -- to hear my own story in my voice. It was necessary.
This morning a friend called me who I recently re-connected with after a five year quiet. He’s a special soul friend, a kindred, someone I have missed and thought about often. We lost touch for life reasons and some personal ones and we talked about that. We talked about what’s happening in our lives and in our hearts. How he’s suddenly afraid of dying and I’m suddenly sober and feeling my way around a new life. I sat there on my couch, looking out the window at the blizzard building drifts on the ground and across the water. A sea of white; a whistling blur. While he talked and I listened I fixated on the only splash of color against the white: an American flag, whipping on the pole, flapping into full view with one gust and then shimmering down into an accordion with the next. Up and down; expand, contract; whip and pause before collapsing again and again, sometimes turning around the pole just right so I couldn’t see it at all. I listened and talked and stared this way for over an hour with my friend’s voice humming to me like an old song. I would not have been available had I been wrapped up with the boy. I would not have answered the call.
We can’t understand why things are happening when they do.
So we wait.
We fight to keep our hearts open.
We answer the calls.
Today’s let go is directly inspired from something Elizabeth Gilbert posted on her Facebook wall earlier this year. I’ve pored over it at least a dozen times now and haven’t stopped thinking about it - not for a single day - since I first read it. It hit the truth nerve and magically put to words something I hadn’t been able to name up until that point. I hadn’t even known I was doing it, but oh, I’ve felt the pain of doing it.
Now that I can see my own spell-casting for what it is, it takes away some of its power. Her writing has given me this gift of perspective more than once.
(This is one of the many reasons I am profoundly grateful for good writing and storytelling, by the way. Certain books have changed my life and a small lot of them have probably saved it. Better than therapy.)
I’m not even going to try to say it better than she did, so I’ve just copied her entire post below. Some of these let-go’s are heavier than others. This is of the heavier variety and something I’ll need to practice releasing again and again, I’m sure.
"DON’T CAST A SPELL OVER YOURSELF AND IMAGINE THAT THEY ARE DOING IT…"
Dear Ones —
I was so touched by everyone’s responses to my post yesterday about the dangers of losing yourself in love. Infatuation is a dangerous game, you guys, and an alluring one. Sounds like we’ve all been there. There is something so compelling about the idea of completely surrendering yourself over to another person. There is a vanishing of the self that happens in this process which can feel so delicious at the beginning (who doesn’t want to escape the self?) but which also comes with this potentially disastrous side effect: You have now completely given over your power to another human being.
After which, as Scooby Doo would say: “Ruh-roh.”
We often call this process “falling in love”. But whenever you give your power to somebody else, you have actually fallen under a spell, which is not quite the same thing as love. Here’s the curious part, though — that person (the object of your infatuation) did not cast a spell over you; YOU ACTUALLY CAST A SPELL OVER YOURSELF. You fell in love with an idea about love, and let yourself become enchanted, and even blinded, by it. You blinded yourself. Because bewitchment in infatuation always comes from within, from your own imagination, and generally has little do to do with the actual truth or circumstances of the other person.
Waking up from that bewitchment can be a horror show. What follows next is the crash — disappointment, depression, rage, shame, withdrawal…or even, as we discussed yesterday, a desire to end one’s own life, because we decided that we must live or die by the other person.
I am reading a novel from 1946 right now by an author named J.B Priestly, and he speaks beautifully about the dangers of infatuation. I just stumbled the other day on the most gorgeous passage on this subject, and I wanted to share it with you all.
In the novel, a young man named Gregory has become obsessed with an entire family called the Alingtons, and an older fellow named Jock is warning Gregory about the dangerous path of infatuation he’s taking, emotionally.
Jock says, about the Alingtons: “You mustn’t make them stand for more than they ought to stand for. You mustn’t turn them into symbols…The Alingtons are an amusing, rather clever, very charming family, and I’m fond of them all. But don’t try to make them add up to anything more than that. Don’t turn them, somewhere at the back of your mind, into something they aren’t, and wouldn’t pretend to be. Don’t make everything stand or fall by them. SWITCH OFF THE MAGIC, WHICH COMES FROM YOU AND NOT FROM THEM. DON’T CAST A SPELL OVER YOURSELF AND IMAGINE THAT THEY’RE DOING IT.” (emphasis mine.)
Then Gregory asks if Jock he is being warned him about the Alingtons — if there is something dark in this family’s collective character.
Jock replies: “Not warning against them. Warning against you in relation to them. You can go a long way — and give us something good in return — if you travel easily and lightly, seeing people as they are, just as people and not as symbolic figures, and not leaving parts of yourself behind, frozen in some enchantment.”
I highlighted the entire page.
This is what I used to do in my life, whenever I become infatuated with anyone (and I’ve done it with friends as well as lovers): I have turned people into symbols of something larger and more magical than they are, thus putting a spell on myself about them. Leaving myself frozen in enchantment. And also, I may add, I did those people a great disservice, by not permitting them to simply be themselves — flawed, lovely, normal human beings. Because when they failed to deliver on my dream (how COULD they deliver on my dream?) the whole relationship fell apart. And then it got ugly.
Don’t do it, you guys.
Wake from your dream, switch off the seductive internal magic, look around you.
Real love — healthy love — is waiting for you somewhere, if you can just keep your eyes open.