Ah, the biggie—love. How much time, money and energy we spend in our quest for love—that murky, ephemeral feeling. It is fascinating how relentless we humans are in trying to grasp something that will dissolve in our hands like sugar in water. Feelings, by their very nature, arise and then pass, time and again.
When I shift my perspective and view love as conduct, I give love the opportunity to flourish no matter who is (or isn’t) in my life. Some of my hardest lessons in life have been about discerning the difference between what love in action is, and what it is not. Over and over, I have been blessed by teachers (in the form of my children, friends, mentors and therapists) who have shown me my error. “Your help isn’t helping...do not rob someone of their experience...take your hands off.” This has gone counter to my strong tendency to believe I was a loving person, and loving in my desire to help and heal.
The other challenging and exhausting lesson I’ve had to learn is the parallel between loving myself and loving others. I tried many times in my life, to pour all my desires for love into another, while I was filled with self-loathing. It doesn’t work. It’s hard to admit, but my behavior in the name of love was often manipulative, suffocating and controlling—everything except loving and it came from often unconscious fears and a belief in lack.
A big turning point came a couple of decades ago when I made a concerted and consistent effort to simply love and accept myself as I was—including taking a hard look at all of my “flaws” and accepting them, too. (This is an ongoing process.) As I walked my usual hike and bike trail in contemplation, I experienced one of those moments that literally made me gasp. I had a moment of grace. A feeling washed over me that I could only describe as being in love. I felt giddy, joyful, filled with light and possibility. I felt connected to everything—the ground, the trees, the water, the birds, the cars, the city—everything. What was extraordinary was that not a single thing had changed in my outer life. In my late 30s, I was not in a romantic relationship. I had financial struggles and I hadn’t even completed my undergrad degree. Still, I was flooded with the experience of a deep and abiding love that has never left me, no matter my circumstances. More than a feeling, it was a knowing—this is who I am, who we all are...
Loving life and loving others from this state of being has become easier, clearer and more authentic with time, practice and courage. I do my best to choose loving actions that honor me and allow others the freedom to choose for themselves. It ain’t always easy. Of course, like with all learning experiences, I still misjudge and misstep. I sometimes still feel anger and fear. I fall back into old patterns. I course-correct over and again. I take deep breaths and remember the love within even as I hear all the mind chatter to the contrary. I keep breathing, holding my tongue until I am able to take responsibility for my feelings. I wait until my behavior toward others can be congruent with what I know to be true. Love is a condition of our existence. Loving is a verb.