There are two painfully self-restricting words we humans have a habit of using too much. I hear them all of the time.
Anytime we use those words, there is some form of self restriction at play. We’re applying a sense of duty, of honour, of what’s expected of us, of guilt, of shame, of caution, or a lack of confidence to our decisions. We think we should study medicine because our parents have high hopes for us. We don’t think we should quit our job because we’re not sure if we can make our dreams work. We should push away loved ones because we don’t feel deserving or worthy of it. We shouldn’t take a chance because it might not work out.
Every time we use the word should, a story is being repeated to ourselves. Ones we learned from teachers, parents, mentors, friends, and celebrities. Stories of the status quo. Stories that were meant to keep you safe, but actually keep you feeling small and afraid.
Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone should have a code. Everyone should know and keep their own boundaries. But there is a difference between healthy boundaries and self imprisonment.
But the word “should” is one that is much better used to free yourself of your own prison, rather than keep yourself in chains.
You should open your heart to love, because you deserve that special someone who loves and cherishes you. You should chase than dream, because you were born to do just that. You should quit that job sucking the life out of you, because you deserve happiness in this life.
Men think. A lot. Sometimes, thinking too much doesn’t allow much room for feeling.
When we’re sick or something is broken, we try to figure out the problem. We look at the issue systematically. What’s broken? What can we use as a replacement? How do we fix it? Finally, after identifying the cause of the issue, we decide on a solution.
Eventually, depending on the problem, we buy new brake pads, take some antibiotics, or smash twelve shots of whiskey and put an irresponsible bet on the number six horse. Just like that, the problem is solved.
The brakes aren’t screeching anymore, our head cold is gone, or we blew off the steam we needed to blow off – even if we lost our rent money for the week in the process.
When we relate to women, our problems start when we try to approach issues in the same way. When we try to force our way of doing things onto the women we love.
We have plans with her in the evening. When we arrive at her house, we’re instantly aware that she’s in a shitty mood. She’s wearing a permanent frown and won’t speak to us. We watch as the storm brews inside of her. The room goes dark with her anger. We’re a bit put off by the entire situation. There’s something repulsive about her wrath. An ancient piece of ourselves is a little afraid at the dreadful power of our wild woman.
What’s HER problem? We think as we immediately go into problem fixing mode. Like virtually every other problem in our lives, we assume there is a single problem we can find and fix to make this situation better.
We think and think and think, but can’t come up with anything. We don’t know what we said, or did, or didn’t say, or didn’t do that caused this issue. What’s worse is, no matter how much we ask her what’s the matter, she constantly tells us it’s nothing.
Why does she have to be so COMPLICATED, we ask ourselves.
Eventually we become sick of asking what’s wrong, so we simply sit next to her without speaking. Maybe she breaks the silence by lashing out at us for not knowing what’s really going on. Maybe we make the very dumb mistake of saying “calm down.” The storm finally breaks, and we feel as though we’re forced to duck for cover.
We walk out, telling her to call us when she’s willing to talk about things calmly. At this point we’ve not only failed our woman, but we’ve failed ourselves as men.
We’ve wrongly assumed our woman’s situation is the same as a bike with a broken chain. We’ve wrongly assumed it’s as simple as finding the piece we need to fix. We’ve wrongly assumed – like all other problems in our lives – that it’s our time as men to TAKE CONTROL of the situation. Like a ship’s captain that finds his vessel has strayed off course, we attempt to change her direction.
We’ve tried to steer her, but our woman is not our ship. She’s the ocean that we’re sailing in. Vast and mighty, if we try to wrestle her immense waves we will lose every time. We will drown. She might not even know she’s doing it, but she will swallow us.
Our job is not to be the captain, or a ship. Our job is to be the rock, standing strong off the coast of the ocean that we love. Our job is to be there, and to be there for no reason other than our love for her waters.
Like any body of water, there will be days when she crashes against us. Wave after wave, it might feel like the ocean will never again be calm. When her tide is high we may feel like we’re close to drowning. Sometimes she hits us so hard we think we might crack. But if we remain full and abundant in our love for her, and constantly present in our masculinity, it will pass.
Her waters will quiet. She will once again lovingly caress us, her waves gently lapping at our ankles. She will completely open her heart in response to our stubborn love. She will trust in our strength, and feel safe in showing us the depths of her dark and healing waters. She’ll let us dive into her completely and we will taste her salty kiss. She’ll show us just how much we have to learn from the mysterious gifts she has to give us.
Until, of course, another storm shows itself on the horizon. But our job as the rock never ends.
So, if you cannot love her sunrise as much as you love her stormy weather, she isn’t the woman for you.
If you cannot find humour in the situation and need to lash out or walk away, you’re not the man for her.
If you cannot give unconditional love to her when her waters get rough, you’re treading in waters too deep and powerful for your abilities. It is better for you both if you find a smaller pool to dip your timid feet in, and for her to find a man willing to embrace her inherently wild and endlessly passionate nature.
We’ve all heard it before. We’ve heard it from our friends, our parents, our siblings, and our teachers.
Don’t get TOO excited.”
It doesn’t even seem to matter what the scenario is;
Trying out for a team and you made the first cut? Don’t get too excited.
Applying for a job and got an interview? Don’t get too excited.
Had the most amazing day with the person you love? Don’t get too excited.
Finished the second year of a three year degree? Don’t get too excited.
Lost a couple pounds of body fat? Don’t get too excited.
The excitement police is ever vigilant. But my question is this: When, exactly, are we supposed to get excited? The “don’t get too excited” warning – in my opinion – has two negative suggestions that accompany it.
The first is the suggestion that something may yet go wrong. You could still be cut from the team, you could still be passed over for the job, your loved one could leave you, or you could still fail out of your degree. You might slip up and eat some cake, putting those pounds back on. “Don’t get too excited” suggests we shouldn’t be excited about these things because they can still be taken from us – as though there is anything in this life that is permanent.
The problem is, the “may yet go wrong” mentality never ends. Once you make the team, you can still be benched, released, or break your femur in a thousand places and never play again. Once you get that job, you can still be fired. Once you get married, or start a family, you can still lose that loved one to death, or divorce, or circumstance. Once you get that degree, you can still be jobless or considered under qualified. A lack of permanence is in no way related to your ability to enjoy and be excited about a moment.
If you’re waiting to celebrate something permanent, you’ll be waiting a very long time. Laying on your deathbed, many years from now, you’ll realize nothing can be truly grasped in this life. So, no matter how fleeting or small the moment, get excited about it. It is these tiny moments of success, progress, and joy that – when their tiny parts are finally collected and assembled – we look back on and remember the life we created for ourselves. You’ll never get a second chance to get excited along the way, so do it now and do it every chance you can.
The second suggestion that comes with the “don’t get too excited” warning is that you somehow haven’t finished yet. You’re not at your goal or your destination. It carries the dastardly assumption that there IS a destination in the first place. But what if, at the end of all of your days, you realize there never really was a destination. What if you looked back on all the little steps you made along the way, and realized life was about the journey? Would you wish you got excited about and celebrated the little moments a little more?
Thinking about life as the destination leads to false regrets. You’ll always focus on the places you didn’t reach rather than the joys and growth you were lucky enough to experience. You’ll see yourself as never have making it to the big leagues, rather than seeing all the friends and mentors you met along the way, and the positive experiences you shared with them. Even if you do eventually reach that destination, you’ll replace it with a new one.
I’m not saying having goals or dreams is a bad thing. I think we’re all born with dreams and we should all let that call of our soul guide us.
What I am saying is this life is inherently exciting. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The small moments and the grand ones. It’s all part of this journey we call life. The journey naturally excites us – so allow yourself to get excited about it.
Get TOO excited about it, even.
Be good to each other,
Featured photo courteousy of forums.marvelheroes.com
“Don’t do it,” my cousin warned. “Don’t get attached.”
I laughed at him. He obviously didn’t have to worry about that.
But my laugh didn’t seem to convince him.
“You have no idea who she is – she could be crazy.” His warnings continued.
Valid point, I thought. I hardly knew her.
I had met her only a week previous, on the night of her birthday.
The mood was festive. Her sister was visiting and her friends were with her. The weather was perfect. Anyone could be a pleasure to be around in such a perfect setting.
“You could get hurt.”
I hated to admit it, but that one struck a chord.
He’s right, I thought, I could get hurt.
But sometimes we can’t shake the feeling that it doesn’t matter.
Sometimes we just can’t shake the feeling that we’ve found someone that we want to be attached to.
So when did we start to correlate suffering with attachment?
It’s a thought that sort of worked it’s way into the western mentality from its distant origins in the east.
The idea of dis-attachment is nothing new. Various Buddhist and Hindu sects have always determined attachment to be a major source of human suffering.
Attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.” The Dalai Lama at Harvard, 1988.
A very superficial understanding of the concept has worked its way into our psyche.
We see attachment as a bad thing.
It means opening up to the chance of losing something.
It means being vulnerable.
It means falling in love with a person who could take that love away from us at any time.
It means getting hurt.
But how much truth is there to this simple understanding of attachment?
I look around me, and I see that attachment makes up the very foundation of life.
On a purely molecular level, hydrogen molecules attach themselves to oxygen to form water – the elixir which makes life possible.
The biological attachment of man to woman creates life, and the attachment of a mother to her child is what allows that child to survive infancy – as her mother cares for the child out of that attachment.
The tides of our oceans are intricately attached to the gravitational pull of our moon, which in turn is attached to the pull of the earth, which spins happily in its attachment to the sun and our solar system.
The bloom of the African lilly is forever attached to the spring for the perfect conditions, the bees for its pollination, and the sun for it’s nurturing kiss.
In an infinitely interconnected universe, attachment is creation.
Attachment is life.
And yet attachment can be a dangerous thing.
It is when our attachments are based on reliance that it has a high propensity to cause suffering.
It is when we fill the void inside of ourselves with attachment that those attachments gain the power to hurt us.
It is when we attach ourselves to the love of others rather than the love of ourselves that our attachments become toxic.
It is when we attach ourselves to the acceptance of our peers rather than ourselves that our characters become weak and dependant.
Someone close to me always says that you have to fill your own cup. It is when our attachments fill our cups that they become dangerous, because at any moment we may lose them.
This leads to cycles of loss and gain, unbalanced relationships of power and reliance, and, for the most part, pain.
That is the lesson of the west, the lesson of the Buddhists and the Hindus. We mustn’t attach ourselves to sources of love and happiness that we should be getting from our own heart and souls.
But fearing attachments because we may lose them is only weakness.
It is a fear of loss.
It is a fear of being hurt.
It is a fear of not being worthy.
But we are worthy of love.
We are worthy of acceptance.
We are worthy of real, committed relationships.
Allowing ourselves to become attached is one of the greatest forms of vulnerability that we can demonstrate to each other.
The more attachments we have, the more we’ll lose.
The more we’ll suffer.
But that pain is the price we pay to live life to the fullest.
To avoid pain and live life in solitude is the life of a monk.
It is the absence of vulnerability, and it is the absence of the awe and wonder our indulgence in this human experience provides us.
It is human to be vulnerable.
It is human to attach.
The vulnerability that we demonstrate in attaching ourselves to another forces us to dive deeper into ourselves.
It is an essential journey into finding out all the intricate details about ourselves – the good, the (not so) bad, and the things we need to work on that we would have never noticed otherwise.
But finally, it teaches us acceptance.
It teaches us to accept ourselves as perfect just the way we are.
It teaches us to accept another as just as perfect.
It teaches us to accept that we may lose that person or thing at any moment, and that’s okay.
In fact, it makes that person or that thing even more valuable and beautiful because we may lose them tomorrow.
In the acceptance of eventual loss we find appreciation.
We find gratitude.
We’re not perfect. We never will be.
We will struggle to reach that higher place of existence for the rest of our lives.
But we can learn to be happy by ourselves.
We can learn to love and accept ourselves.
And along the way, when we get that undeniable feeling that we’ve found someone we want to attach ourselves to, we’ll be absolutely fearless when we do it.
I’ve never been the best with goodbyes; I don’t think many of us are.
It might be why I’ve come to dislike airports as much as I do. If you’re in an airport, you’re saying goodbye to someone, or something, in some way or another.
Part of me wonders why we put ourselves through these types of feelings.
And here I am, in another airport. I’m looking around and watching the goodbyes everywhere. Sisters holding each other tightly in an embrace. A father holds his little boy who is crying because he’s leaving. Lovers hold hands until that final, desperate moment.
The older I get, the more I realize that every goodbye could be the last we have with that person.
And yet I realized today that it’s for that reason exactly that goodbyes are a beautiful thing.
In a little over an hour waiting to board my plane, a million memories of the person I had just said goodbye to flooded my mind.
I felt a strong appreciation for all of the times I was lucky enough to spend with her. I laughed aloud at the many good memories, and replayed with understanding and compassion the uncomfortable ones. I found myself momentarily regretting all of the times I wasn’t completely present in the moment with her.
The experiences with our loved ones are special because we have to, at some time or another, say goodbye to them. With this in mind, each moment becomes a singular treasure to be cherished and appreciated.
I used to want to live forever. I wanted my friends and family to live forever. I wanted to stay close to home. I didn’t want to say goodbye.
But what would relationships be worth if we were not doomed to one day say goodbye?
So spend time with those you love. Connect with them on the deepest levels. Laugh off the perceived issues and embrace the great times.
Stay completely present, because one day you’ll say goodbye.
The moon showed but a silver sliver of its full self. Laying in bed, I waited patiently for the Cheshire Cat to open his eyes and reveal himself in the night sky. He never did. Still, there was something in the way that celestial scimitar was standing triumphantly in the cloudless sky that inspired a deep feeling of romance inside of me as I remained caught in its gaze. Romance, I thought with a bit of a laugh. What is Romance?
Well, Google aptly defines romance as:
1. afeeling of excitement and mystery associated with love.
“I had a thirst for romance”
2. a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life.
“the romance of the sea”
Growing up as one of the many young Romeos, all of us chasing the collective Juliet, I thought I conformed to a pretty standard notion of romance. It seemed pretty simple in those days. The boy bought (or stole from the neighbour’s garden) flowers, and then professed his love from beneath some sort of balcony. If he was a particularly adept romantic, he would do this by means of a sonnet.
The timing was important; it was best to perform the monologue under a full moon, but at sunset would also suffice. The woman was, for whatever reason, constantly awake, available to listen, and always waiting for young suitors to visit her at strange hours. At the end of the performance, the Juliet decided she was either:
(1) Not into the idea and sent the boy home, or;
(2) Was satisfied with the romantic gesture and let her hair down for the young man to climb up.
Sure, I might have gotten a few different love stories mixed up at that age, but I had the gist of it. In those days, I wasn’t sure what ensued in her bed chambers afterwards, but I knew it represented the climax – no pun intended – of the romance.
As I grew older I began to realize that my vision of what was romantic might not exactly capture the essence of romance. For one, my sisters began to give me an inkling that a truck load of chocolate might better serve a romance than any type of flowers – unless they were chocolate covered and edible. For two, I started to wonder what was in that “happily ever after” that always occurred after the curtains were drawn.
We didn’t realize it then, but everything we watched or read during our youth emphasized the beginning of a love story as what should be considered romantic. Whether it was about new love birds or an old couple breaking apart before rekindling an old flame, the romance always lay in the chase; it was the pursuit that was romantic. It was always about that opening gambit and a few initial speed bumps before both prince and princess were ready for that royal wedding. Then the credits rolled.
Even now I think of the happy couple, rosy-cheeked in their romantic infancy, reciting the story of how they met for an audience of half-interested single people. It often runs along the same lines. Initially, the female wasn’t interested but the male romantically wooed her into changing her mind. We cover our hearts and say “aw” when we hear of the cheesy and “romantic” gestures that helped to sway the odds in this particular Romero’s favour.
There’s not much to say after the “how we met” stories concludes; they are in the middle of their happily ever after. The movie is usually over by now. Babies start coming, fights start happening, and a divorce will probably be the result. The spark has faded. The spark that, we’ve been taught, represents the romance. Of course if we see romance – and by an extension, love – in this way, we’re doomed to a never-ending cycle of needing the hunt. Like freezing Neanderthals in the winter, our lives will be spent focusing on chasing the spark, never enjoying the fire we’ve already set ablaze. Is that really what romance is?
I look around me and I see that isn’t true. I see romance everywhere I look. It floats on the breeze that swirls around the elderly couple walking hand in hand in the park. At the arrivals gate in the airport, it swims in the teary-eyes of two lovers locked in an embrace. When two people are separated by an ocean, romance twinkles in the stars they look upon while thinking about each other. It’s in coming home to that familiar face after a long day’s work. It’s in missing someone, even if you just dropped them off. It’s in the strange way you can be overwhelmed with frustration but still love that person with all of your heart.
Romance lives in forgiveness, and understanding, after arguments both big and small. It’s in the first handful of dirt a widower throws on his wife’s coffin. It’s found in the breast pocket of a dead soldier, in the recently dried ink of a letter home to his high school sweet heart. When we’re a shoulder to cry on, romance is that little wet patch of tears they leave on our sweater. When we’re the ones crying, romance is the familiar smell of perfume or cologne that we inhale as we bury our face in their clothes.
The sorrow of lovers parted before they met, laments over promises betrayed, long lonely nights spent sleepless until dawn, pining thoughts for some far place, a woman left sighing over past love in her tumbledown abode – it is these, surely, that embody the romance of love.” – Yoshida Kenkō, A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees.
Not one of us will ever master love, or understand it. That is why everything about love is exciting and mysterious. As such, there is romance in all of it. We just need to move past our Hollywood conception of it and start enjoying the little things. Love isn’t perfect, and neither are we.
Our happiest and most exciting moments with our significant others will lay perilously close to the saddest and most dull ones. It’s all part of it, it’s up to us to appreciate each moment to the very last. There are little Romeos and Juliets in each of us. We are all romantics. We just need to embrace the romance that’s all around us.
From the time we’re children, we’re taught by society that we aren’t good enough. By the time we reach young adulthood, we try to paint over the people we are with the brushes society suggests for us. We ignore who we’re meant to be by wearing the hats of the people we believe we’re supposed to be. We eventually forget who we are.
The modern culture of romance, or “dating culture”, is the result of the complete lack of importance placed on the vast substance inherent in our own humanity. We spend our days painting beautiful masks of ourselves and spend our nights wearing them out to down town masquerades.
Every weekend is our carnival, every club is our Venice. With all of us dressed in the height of fashion and wearing the dreamiest of disguises, we’re content to dance our youthful years away.
We paint our masks with the simple stripes of the surface. We think of ourselves, and others, as white or black, male or female, gay or straight, Christian or Muslim. We continue to identify with our surface and mistake it for who we are, when the two are not exclusively connected.
We’ve traded complexity for simplicity. With all of us exchanging our identity for identical illusions, we have slowly rendered ourselves interchangeable. All of our masks look the same.
We build sand castles in the path of crashing waves. We find beautiful partners and we dance the nights away. Sometimes our dance partners stay the night and maybe even for breakfast. Sometimes, we share a second dance. On extremely rare occasions, we find their outer shells so shiny and sparkly that they capture our attention for an entire handful of dances.
These dances last long enough to facilitate relationship status changes on our Facebook and inspire overwhelmingly cute Instagram photos of our morning snuggle and romantic gestures. We do everything and go everywhere with this person. We’ve found the one we want to save our last dance for. We’re totally and completely in love.
And then our surfaces begin to erode. They become difficult to maintain. We struggle to keep up the act. Our polished smiles and filtered personalities begin to crack. The weeds from our overgrown interiors begin to force their way through those cracks. We’re confused, and so are they.
We thought we had already shown one another our true selves when we let them see us in sweat pants or without make-up on. They smelled our morning breath. They caught us with food stuck in our teeth. One time, we even farted in front of them.
Our own shallow notions of ourselves had us equating who we are as people with what our natural surfaces used to look like, before we painted them with water colours and doused them in exotic smelling oils.
But there’s an entire other world inside of us. It’s full of scars, dreams, mistakes, passions, light, and darkness. It’s a place we’ve ignored while we focused on our appearance, on the character we’re acting as. That place of substance deep inside of us – that place which makes us different and beautiful – provides a journey that would never truly end if our loved ones were to explore it.
But that place scares us. It scares us because we’ve never explored it ourselves. It scares us because we have no idea who we are.
It becomes a terrifying prospect to open this place up to the person we think we love. It’s our own little house of horrors. Even if we did muster the courage to ask them to come inside, how can we expect someone to want to see us for who we are when we can’t even stand the thought of it ourselves? The fact that our significant other is also probably feeling the same personal insecurities only exasperates the situation. The situation becomes unstable because both partners have awoken a deep-seeded self-hatred.
We begin to miss someone loving us for the surface appearance that we’ve spent so much time perfecting. We long to feel that superficial attention and shallow admiration again. We return to the masquerades.
We prefer to spend our time there, hiding behind our masks and having them admired by similarly veiled strangers. We begin to look a little too long at new potential dance partners, with shiny new faces that haven’t eroded like those belonging to our significant others.
We’re bored with what we have at home, because surfaces are simple. There is no journey for us to go on.
That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is. Most people love you for who you pretend to be. To keep their love, you keep pretending – performing. You get to love your pretence….the sad thing is, people get so used to their image, they grow attached to their masks. They love their chains. They forget all about who they really are.”― Jim Morrison, 1981 Creem Magazine interview with Lizzie James.
Eventually one (or both) of the partners will realize how difficult it will be to excavate our identities with the appropriate teams of spiritual archaeologists. The road toward self-love has become long and treacherous. We decide a quick reset is much easier.
Being with another person is no place to hide from ourselves, after all. It becomes a race to see who can come up with the perfect wording for whatever arbitrary excuse we’ll use to break up. We’ll call it “losing our spark”, “growing apart”, or “not being happy”.
We’ll break up, get a gym membership, and work on painting over the tiny cracks left from the waltz that lasted a tad too long. We’ll return to the carnival and, thus, the cycle is born anew. We’ll swear off the opposite sex, and then love itself – as though they were the core issues rather than our festering self-loathing.
Eventually that human desire to share ourselves with another will overwhelm us again, at which point we’ll put on our glass slippers, head to the ball, and once again spiral out of control toward midnight.
I’m not saying to ignore your surface, or that it’s not important. I believe the maintenance and development of your body is just as important as your mind and your soul. I believe in balance. Try to indulge in an ignored inner passion.
It makes no difference if that includes cooking, playing an instrument you suck at, or listening to old Led Zeppelin records, as long as it fuels your soul. Read a chapter or two of an old, classic novel while you’re on the stationary bike doing fasted cardio instead of reading your texts. Work a little bit every day on that part of you that we can’t see, that part of you we’ll never be capable of fully exploring. Work on remembering who you really are.
Show me your beautiful and meticulous surface, and I’ll admire it. It might even lure me close enough to share a dance. But if that’s all you have to offer, it’s a dead end. It’s boring, and I’m out. Show me that endless inner garden that you’ve grown, maintained, and explored for yourself, and I’m in.
Take me by the hand and let’s explore one other. Like two children on a magical adventure, I don’t care how much time we spend in there. You’ll have my interest and wonderment forever.
As humans, we love order. Our entire society is built upon it. We define, separate, categorize, analyze, dissect, reduce, and group everything and everyone around us. We build borders and set boundaries. It helps us to understand complexities greater than ourselves.
We break up our whole world into tiny pieces and keep them in the little boxes we’ve made for them. We define athletic greatness with numbers, statistics, and box scores. We measure wealth with commas, assets, and the contents of our safety deposit boxes. We peeled off the layers of nature until all that remained were atoms and then we sorted them into a table full of neatly named elements and little numbered boxes.
We like to live inside the box. Even our notion of what makes a human being hasn’t escaped this obsession to break things down. We’ve reduced the idea of ourselves to a simple vessel carrying two hundred and six bones, some vital organs, and a built-in laboratory capable of internally conducting complex chemical reactions.
The soul doesn’t scientifically exist because we can’t measure and categorize it. As humans, we love to restrict.
I’ve never been able to fully relate to our society’s ruthless obsession with categorizing everything. Especially when it comes to the notion of love, which has unfortunately fallen prey to these restrictive and reductive tendencies of our species.
I’m not referring to the Shakespearean kind of love – which funnily enough is an example of the categorization I’m referring to – but the type of affinity that occurs naturally between humans. We’ve taken that inherent feeling of togetherness, tenderness, and appreciation toward one another and we’ve broken it down and analysed it to death.
We’re taught to rank our love and have been given various definitive categories that we can sweep that love into. They place limitations on what displays of love are acceptable in our relationships depending on the category it falls into. Like an aisle in a grocery store, we force our love into clearly marked boxes and shelve them accordingly.
Looking for way to show your buddy that he’s appreciated? Try a manly, five-tiered handshake to fist-bump-explosion combo, found in aisle five under “bromance.” Looking for a loving way to say goodnight to your daughter? You’ll find just what you need with a kiss-on-the-forehead located in aisle two – “parent-child relationship.”
As a society we’ve bought into this merciless dissection of love despite the fact that it contradicts everything we truly know about it.
Love is a powerful universal force. By its very nature it is raw, wild, and free. It is not something that is tamed, controlled or bottled but something that is channelled, nurtured, and unleashed. It is not restricted by earthly words and its language is spoken from within.
Yet we rush to bury the budding bulbs of love into the labelled drawers society has marked for us. We throw today’s bulb into a drawer labelled “friend-zone” and tomorrow’s into “too old for me.” In these darkened drawers we keep these bulbs and then actually wonder why the love that blooms is as black as Cornelius van Baerle’s tulip.
I think of all the amazing people in my life and I’ve realized it has been the light of a love that was never bottled that has attracted them into my life, and what has kept them here. It is a love which, admittedly, is a love that can be a little silly at times.
I’ve given some of my closest male friends big wet kisses on the mouth when I felt the moment called for such a display of love. Despite the fact they are rugged, heterosexual men, they accept my random smooches on the beak because they know where it comes from. They know it comes from a love that is unfiltered and unrelenting. They know that I know their every fault and all of their vices and yet my love has blossomed infinitely regardless of this.
Love is an untamed force. When we try to control it, it destroys us. When we try to imprison it, it enslaves us. When we try to understand it, it leaves us feeling lost and confused.” – Paulo Coelho, The Zahir: A Novel of Obsession.
This is because wild and natural love grows alongside wild and natural acceptance. The people that remain in my life – near and far – are all people who I’ve loved and accepted in this way.
Whether its an unexpected Skype call or a postcard in the mail, I’m constantly reminded of how strong of a bond is created by just loving people with all of my sincerity.
I truly believe those who are in my circle of love – and those I’m grateful to say include me in theirs – are there through very little influence of my own and largely through the natural and powerful selection of love itself.
They have each accepted and embraced my untamed and crazy love – the love of a wild wolf. They have returned that love with as much or as little love as they possibly can. It doesn’t always add up, but love doesn’t keep score. The important thing is that they have accepted my silly love and, in exchange, I’ve accepted theirs. This is how I know all of the people in my life, all of those I hold dear, are supposed to be here with me.
To be honest, I can’t think of anything more pure, noble, and sincere than letting love continue to govern who is and isn’t in my life.
Love is love, and your love belongs to you alone. It isn’t defined by the norms of your culture or your society. It is defined by however you choose to allow that love to manifest itself.
So go out and unleash your love. Let it be silly. Kiss your bestie. Fist bump your mom or pops. Hug it out with that old lady next door.
Be the crazy love you want to see in the world.
Be the unconditional love and acceptance you want in your life. Don’t tame the love of that wild wolf under your skin.
Stop defining your love. Instead, let your love define you.
Our minds are lined with shelves overflowing with advice that we’ve accumulated over the years. Mental libraries, divided by subjects such as love, life, and happiness. Many of the tomes covering these various subjects are made up of simple but memorable sayings to help us along our path.
Though I believe these expressions are beneficial in keeping the bigger picture in our minds, I find they often lack depth and substance. One such expression I hear used often, and have been guilty of using myself, is:
if you love something, set it free; if it comes back to you, its yours.”
When I paint a picture in my head of what this expression means to me, I picture a person opening a birdcage and letting a yellow canary fly out of a narrow apartment window, or a little boy letting his excited terrier off of the leash in a park. Eventually, both owners have their pets return dutifully back to them. I think this expression serves as a powerful microcosm of the dependent relationship dynamics which characterize many modern romances.
The problem with this expression, and the picture it paints, is it associates the notion of love with both ownership and reliance. I think both the notions of ownership and reliance are contrary to that of love, yet they’ve found a place in many of our intimate relationships.
The one you love is not a car. You didn’t buy him from a salesman. She does not come with ownership papers. In order to set something free you must first be the owner of it (or at least have it in your possession). You had to of restricted his or her freedom in the first place. It seems tragically contradictory to fall in love with something when it is wild and free – whether its a bird soaring in the sky or the beautiful stranger you met on the train – only to try and capture and cage it. We have allowed the complex toxins of private ownership to leak into the simple, pure, and unrestricted stream of love. Loving someone isn’t releasing them. Loving someone is never wanting to cage them in the first place.
Reliance, in my opinion, is a much more subtle and dangerous form of ownership. The canary doesn’t return to its cage out of love, it returns because its the only source of nourishment and drink that it has ever known. The canary has grown to love its chains. It no longer believes in itself. The canary is in a state of dependency and has learned to fear a life without the cage. It fears being apart from the owner it depends on for safety, warmth, food, and water. The decision to return to the owner is both self serving, and convenient. The relationship has, from the outset, fostered a sense of real necessity.
I see so many words which emerge during conflict in today’s relationships that expose the same sense of necessity. We haveto stay together. We need to work things out. We can’t just give up. These words are followed by the revealing of the foundations of reliance the relationship has been built upon. “She is the only one who understands me.” “No one else will accept me like he does.” “We’ve been through it all together” “I can’t be happy without her.” “I’ll be alone without him.”
We pile up these imagined conclusions as though our world didn’t exist before this person came into our lives. We begin to perceive life with this person as essential to maintaining the things we value in our world. These things range from the relatively narrow in scope, such as a specific circle of friends, a shared living arrangement, custody of the children, or the new puppy, to those broader in scope, such as our ability to be happy, accepted, appreciated, or loved. We become the canary. Our reliance becomes our cage.
I think it’s important to note that not all reliance is bad. Being committed doesn’t mean being caged. Too many people confuse commitment with a lack of freedom. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean being reliant on someone else. I really do hope the people in my life that I love the most know they can rely on me. I hope they know they can come to me for any type of help – for advice (although I can’t promise it will be very good advice), when they are feeling blue, need a shoulder to cry on, a wing man for the night, a hug, the shirt off of my back, or all of the above.
I want my significant other to rely on me. I want her to be certain she can rely on me for unconditional love, acceptance, and support for the rest of her days.
But there is a major difference between being in a relationship where you can rely on one another, and one where one (or both) of you feel like you must rely on your significant other.
In the former situation, a couple is adding additional wind under each others’ wings. In the latter scenario, one or both partners are chained to the other by shackles cast in iron reliance.
The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” – Michel de Montaigne, The Complete Essays.
We must be the canary without the cage. Be responsible for your own happiness, acceptance, self-belief, growth, success, and well-being, because no one else can ever give you those things. Don’t create your own prison by accepting the delusion that someone can.
And, as much as you may want to, you can’t provide any of those things for another person, either. So don’t be the one caging another canary with promises to provide them with those things.
Instead, accept that you are responsible for your own life, and others have the same obligation to themselves as you do. The sooner you do that, the sooner you’ll find another canary just as wild, free, and as perfect as you are.
There is nothing more powerful than a love that is born out of love. I can’t think of anything more pure or beautiful than two souls soaring together for no reason other than the mutual respect and endless love they share for one another. That is a flight that will last an eternity.