So, with that, let’s dive into some questions I have played with around the idea of love for several years now. These questions change my experience of life and my way of being in it.
Is Love available, even here?
First, from Sufi teacher and business coach, Mark Silver, “Is Love available, even here?” This is a profound question to ask ourselves when we are facing desperate and painful times in our own lives or when we look at catastrophes in the world. Is Love available, even here? Can you find it, feel it, access it? Might Love be at play even when times seem the bleakest? What’s the opportunity?
I recently talked with a friend who is grieving the dying of a beloved pet. It hurts so deeply to let go of those we love so dearly. And yet, we know that death is part of life. The more we love, the more it will hurt. So how might we use our alive time to honor walking alongside someone at the end of their life?
I suggested that there was a gift in knowing that the end is near (and also gave her permission to tell me to F off because I know it doesn’t feel like a gift in this moment)… that she has time to spend with this animal, to let it know all it’s meant to her, to do some ceremony around saying goodbye, even when she doesn’t want to say goodbye. How can we weave love into our living days with those we love, whether the end is near or not?
'"Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."
~ Alfred Lord Tennyson
Loving someone who struggles with substance use disorder can lead to a chaotic existence… there can be a lot of anger, blame, shame, and broken trust. Things can get ugly and painful in a deeply wounding way. Is Love available even here? Even as relationships are torn apart, words spoken that can’t be taken back, and fear rules the day. Can we remember the essence of this person, the bond that brought us together, and if it’s our child, the bond that runs deep and may be non-negotiable? Can we find enough ground within ourselves and get enough support to bring Love to the situation? Can we trust in a Divine Love surrounding us, even in the hardest moments?
What does Love look like?
Through my journey with my son’s substance use disorder, I’ve struggled to find the Love many times, getting caught up in the human messiness more often than I’d like to admit. I’ve also had to redefine what Love looks like, what love means, and what a loving mother is or does.
We have ideas growing up (or at least I did) about these things. In my case I believed a loving mother was kind, gentle, caring, nurturing, and never got angry… at anyone, but especially not at her children (anger was a “Wait til your father gets home” situation). This was not a healthy foundation for me to step into the reality of parenting, and I am grateful for the counselor who early on challenged my belief that I would never get angry with my child and gave me permission for this very natural human response.
Active addiction stirs up lots of anger along with exhaustion which is a recipe for disaster. It can be hard to find or feel the love. And, in the moments I get good support, care for myself, and have some practices to find my center, I can love my son in a different way. I’ve learned that loving my young adult son is different from loving my baby or little boy, and that I can no longer mend all of his wounds or keep him safe. I’ve learned that love shines through in clear boundaries communicated in a straightforward way, and that love also allows us not to be rigid. When love enters in there is room to determine what feels right and doable in this moment. Love doesn’t always say “yes,” but it doesn’t always have to say “no” either.
When I am the loving mother I desire to be, I walk alongside my sons. I see them for the beautiful people they are. I listen to them and allow them to guide their own journeys. I honor their uniqueness and that each of us have our own journey. I take care of myself and know that my life is most certainly affected by theirs, but it is not determined by theirs. I remember that there is love for them and also love for me, and that when I love and honor myself, I am better able to love and honor them. I no longer believe that a good mother sacrifices herself for her kids. I also love myself enough to allow for and expect imperfections along the way.
What would Love do?
Perhaps my favorite question of all, which I believe I first heard from Elizabeth Gilbert (but I can’t confirm because I often don’t remember for sure), is “What would Love (with a capital L) do?”
Oh, man! Such a great question! And, here’s why… because what Love would do is so often different than what my little pissed off, resentful, hurting human self would do. Now Love still wouldn’t sacrifice me or encourage me to save someone else, because Love knows that’s not my job. Love wouldn’t ask me to do more than is reasonable or to suffer abuse.
However, Love would reach deep and find compassion. Compassion would allow me to consider another person’s point of view. Love helps me to see the humanity and soul of another being, no matter what I see on the surface. Love helps me to show up to the world from a softer place.
When Love is our intention, our guiding light, when Love is how we want to live in the world, how does that change our words, actions, and way of being with one another?
So, I leave you to consider: Is Love available, even here? What does Love look like? And, What would Love do?
What questions do you have about Love? Please share in the comments! I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts!
A little musical inspiration for you - Love Wins