Recently, I read a blog where a mom who learned how to live “hands free” decided to stop rushing her kid. She had the kind of daughter who likes to notice things and really stop to smell the flowers in life. Yet as this particular mom was being pulled in about a million different directions and all at once, something I can definitely relate to, she didn’t always have the time or the patience to wait around while her daughter slowly took her time to notice everything. However, in a moment of clarity, everything changed for this mom when she realized she spent more time telling her daughter to hurry up, than saying to her child “I love you.” (See this article for more details: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rachel-macy-stafford/the-day-i-stopped-saying-hurry-up_b_3624798.html.)
As I read these words, they struck a deep resonating chord within me because as a single mom who works full time and still comes home to write and edit books, from the time I wake up, often until the time I go to sleep, I’m constantly in “go” mode. So I suddenly had an epiphany that I definitely was spending way more time telling my own son, who’s also a noticer, to hurry up than that I loved him.
That felt a lot like getting drop kicked in the stomach. After all, I do most of this stuff so my kid can have a better life, especially the part about working my ass off. So what was I missing? Was there something that had to give so my child could hear from me that I love him and that I’m proud of him more than words that reflected that he’s slowing me down from going to do something else that’s far less important to me than him anyway?
That’s when the Analyst in me went into root cause analysis and simultaneously introspection. During the last few days of this self-reflection mode, I started to understand a wider issue within myself. Namely, that I’m still somewhat of a commitment-phobe.
Maybe not in the traditional sense of what people associate with this term either. More so, I think that I’ve been too afraid to fully love anyone because I don’t want to disappoint or hurt them. This not only has been a recurrent issue in various romantic involvements I’ve been in, but to a certain extent, it’s what keeps me holding my son at arm’s length sometimes too.
While love is, or at least can be, wonderful and amazing, it’s almost never made me feel safe, comfortable or stable during my life. In fact, upon examining this issue with myself further, I think I’ve come to associate a great deal of pain with love. I’ve mostly seen love as requiring huge, nearly impossible amounts of self-sacrifice and I’ve seen that most people can’t maintain it.
This is when I started having a cognitive behavioral reality check with myself. Isn’t the reason that most people have a problem with maintaining love, no matter in what areas of their lives, because their dishonest? What I mean by that is that they don’t know what they want and even if they do, they never communicate it to their loved ones.
So their needs go largely unmet, loved ones needs go unmet too and all because of a lack of understanding, unreasonable expectations formed by that poor or non-existent communication and vicious cycles of resentment needlessly perpetuating on both sides. Honestly, the whole mess made me really sad the more I thought about it. Especially since it was all so unnecessary!
So that was when I had another epiphany. What if instead of harboring a likely unreasonable mental association with love equaling sacrifice, pain, disappointment and ultimately unfulfilled, or even worse, unrequited feelings, desires and needs, I took a new approach? What if I loved unconditionally without worrying about the consequences or even expecting anything at all back in return?
If I worked on just loving my son, as wholeheartedly as I could every single day, not just being with him, but fully being present during the precious time we spend together, wouldn’t that be a better use of my time? Me constantly being so busy and distracted couldn’t really be good for either of us. Then there’s the fact that of course he’ll grow up and have his own life some day, but that doesn’t mean he’ll totally abandon me. It means that the nature of our relationship will change, as it must in order for us to both continue to grow as people, over time.
So instead of bracing for what could be inevitable pain, why don’t I just focus on embracing the joy of each and every moment with my loved ones instead? That was the point at which I got really happy. I’m not just worried about how I can keep love as “manageable” as possible, mitigating all the risks associated with it along the way.
After all, this is my real life. Not some project to work on for my day job. I can’t be afraid of love just because it could become a tidal wave or avalanche that could consume me. Rather, I’ve finally fully accepted making the change to absorb it all and then allow all of that love to radiate back into the world via the people around me.
Is it scary? Hell yes! But let me just close my eyes and take the plunge anyway. Here goes…