I was recently reflecting on the almost surreal fact that I have been seeing clients now for over 20 years – it seems impossible that it has been that long. In all of these years of having the great honor (and responsibility) of being invited into the most vulnerable inner experiences of other human beings, I have noticed some universal themes. One of these is the deep sadness many of us carry around the loss of a love. Sometimes this disappointment involves the actual loss of a relationship and other times it is related to an inability to have the kind of love we want.
To you who have been disappointed in love, I say “welcome to the human condition”. You feel alone, but you are in good company. You blame yourself, but its not your fault. I know this from talking to many, many people who have walked in your shoes.
If someone you opened your heart to hurt you, know that you are not alone and its not your fault. There are so many hurting people out there and in reaction to their own suffering, they sometimes end up hurting others. Although your personal influence in the love equation is worth considering, know that the causes and conditions are limitless and complex. A confluence of many factors, some of which you will never know, lead to the unfolding of these events.
If someone you loved died or if one or both of you changed in a way that created an insurmountable obstacle for the relationship, know that this is also part of the human condition. Even when we get lucky and find the love we desire, everything is impermanent. All things must change and this too is impersonal and incomprehensible.
The interdependence of all things means that those of us who have somehow found sustaining love, can’t really take much credit for it. I often reflect with gratitude upon my good fortune to be married to an amazing person I probably don’t really deserve (and by deserve, I mean that there is nothing I can personally claim that made our relationship happen or work). I can identify many factors outside of myself that have contributed and most of these involve the generosity of others past and present.
We also can’t take love for granted once we have it. The impermanence of all things means that fortunate circumstances are only temporary. My gratitude is deepened by the understanding that my relationship with my husband will end some day and that it could happen at any time. Neither of us are the sole deciders of our relationship’s fate.
There are some things we do have some real influence over though – our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. This is the only steady foothold we have in making a difference along the path. We often fail to nurture and care for ourselves in a way that would allow us to embody the love we are seeking. We also contribute to our own disappointment in love by rationalizing away intuition, ignoring and discounting inner experience, and hanging on stubbornly, even desperately when its time to let go. Our best chance at being loved is to do our very best to love ourselves.
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
– Derek Walcott, Love After Love