One of the greatest obstacles to giving unconditional love is our fear that the love may not be returned. We don’t realize that the feeling we seek lies in the giving, not in the receiving. If we measure love received, we will never feel loved. Instead, we will feel shortchanged. Not because we really were, but because the act of measuring is not an act of love. When you feel unloved, it is not because you are not receiving love; it is because you are withholding love. ~ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Good morning, friends. It’s autumn, can you feel it? October has always been one of my favorite months because it’s the herald of colder weather–and all the coziness that entails–and my favorite holiday, Halloween. It tosses all my favorite colors at me, and whips up eddies of brisk air that stir the fallen leaves, the patio wind chimes, and the red in my cheeks and nose. With all its death and dying, it’s a happy month, but then, I’ve made good friends with death and dying. Not that I invite them for myself, nor welcome them for my loved ones, nor am unsympathetic to those who are experiencing them in their own lives. I just have come to see them as part of life, and have embraced them as such as far as I can. I love this life, but am not afraid of the next one, nor of what comes in-between. To tell you the truth, I’m excited about both. I like adventures.
And if I’m wrong about everything, and there’s nothing at all after we die, just annihilation and a cold stone marker in a dark graveyard, well, I won’t know about it, will I? So it’s nothing to get all het up about. Faith is what it is because it’s something we choose, not something we can prove. I’ve made my best guesses based on the information I’ve gleaned in myriad ways over this lifetime, and I’m happy with what I’ve come to believe for now. But I don’t expect you to believe the same. John Conley said, and I agree, that each person has his or her own unique belief system, our very own religion, specific to us. It’s true–even if we’re the most dyed-in-the-wool adherent to one religion or another, or don’t believe in God at all, we are still going to hold tiny variations to heart that differ from anybody else’s. I like that. Kind of like we’re each shimmering facets of the same big beautiful diamond. It’s a great argument for respect for everyone, as well as for willingness to learn from each other. For open eyes and open hearts.
This morning I needed a new book to read because I’d just finished Letters to My Friends and–I’ll be honest here–if I don’t spend at least a few minutes every day immersed in spiritual stillness, in encouraging messages from those who’ve taken the time to publish them, then I’m. A. Mess. No kidding. I get all negative and depressed and black-mooded and will sit on the edge of my bed with my head in my hands and want to die. Death, in those moments, seems not so much an exciting new chapter to enter as a warm swaddling blanket to disappear into.
[I’d like to pipe up a moment in defense of people who commit suicide, for despite what a lot of people think, they are not acting selfishly. They have simply reached the end of their inner resources and believe that there is nothing left to help them live. I’ve been suicidal enough in my life to know this is true. So next time you hear of someone killing themselves and leaving behind that loving spouse and those helpless children etc, if you’re tempted to judge, pause a moment and offer a little compassion to the one who committed that violent act against herself instead. Or himself. It’s all sad. And while I’m at it, the same goes for those who commit violent acts against other people, no matter how horrifying. To do something like that, they had to have had horrifying things done to them, or have biological, mental, or emotional problems they’ve been unable to solve. Nobody in their right mind would hurt either themselves or anyone else. /Rant, with love.]
So anyway, I picked up Life Lessons by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (and David Kessler). Along with Eckhart Tolle, EKR is one of my most beloved and respected author/mentors. There are some people with whom you connect deeply, and for me she’s one of them; I never fail to receive life-altering revelations from her, from nearly every paragraph of everything she’s ever written. If your interest is at all piqued, and you know her only through her famous book On Death and Dying, I urge you to pick up her later books, which are far more vulnerable and wise, due to her own growth through experience. By the end of her life, she was literally buzzing with the energy of her truth, and every word is a delight. She had become a take-no-prisoners, brook-no-bullshit, crotchety, incredibly loving old woman and she made me LOVE HER./Rave. :)
Holy smokes, where is this post going anyway? I keep chasing bunny trails. Oh yeah.
The revelation I had this morning as a result of reading her book was that most of my relationships have been primarily ego-based, conditional-love interactions. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. There are always enough intermittent moments of pure-self shining through to keep me fooled into thinking they’re largely unconditional, but they’re really not. It’s impossible for humans to have a completely 100% unconditional-love relationship, as working through challenges with each other is part of our growth process, and realizing this helps me accept, so I can begin to understand, the lessons I’m supposed to learn from my own struggle in this area. It helps me see that those who have hurt me most, who have brought out the worst in me, are really my greatest teachers. Each of us, no matter how popular we might be, have only a small handful of people throughout our lives who play or have played significant roles, and those people are very, very important. They’re our teachers–those we love now, but even (and maybe especially) those we no longer love, even those we hate, the ones who abused, rejected, or abandoned us, and those we abused, rejected, or abandoned. Everybody has someone like that in their life. Nobody’s exempt. We can change the way we see each other, and in the seeing transform bitterness into gratitude, and actually maybe find some modicum of peace as we navigate through these rough waters.
When I remember that I am a microcosm of love, that inside of me is a chewy nougat center of pure love, of wholeness, then I can be grateful to my teachers. I remember that I stand on my own two feet without the need to lean on or look to anyone else for my definition and value. Storms can buffet me on the outside and neither disturb nor destroy my inside, because I’ve chosen to make peace with the pain. When I remember this, I don’t have to sit on my bed and court death with chocolates. When I remember. May you remember, too! Love. xo