Greetings from the Land of Enchantment: Mastering Love

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mastering Love

“I am mastering my love for you and turning it inwards as a constituent element of myself.” Sartre I found this quote today and it reflected back to me the path I must be willing to take if I am to master the art of loving. When I was younger, I would lose myself into the other, the lover, and every time, wake up 6 months later, or 2 years later, or let's be honest, two weeks later sometimes, and wonder where I had gone. I couldn't remember any of the things that used to animate my own life, I had so lost myself in the other. Apply this habit to a marriage and you have a recipe for disaster, or do you? Even as I have watched for it and been ever vigilant, it happens--and the inescapable fact to me now--at a ripe old age of 45 in a brand new marriage--is that it's supposed to happen. I am supposed to loose myself, lose myself, in the other. I am supposed to drop my own ego and attachment to what I want in order to seek a mutual happiness, a shared joy, a journey together. And yet, the older pattern, the one in which I don't recognize myself any longer and have nothing reflecting back at me to acknowledge this self-sacrifice still haunts me. So this morning I find myself lost and feeling separate from and yet somehow drowned at the same time in the other. And this is the hallmark of the older pattern: standing in front of the mirror and not recognizing who is reflected back, not recognizing myself. So what would it look like to take that same practice of loosing myself into the other but elevate it into the perfection it must achieve in order to sustain a marriage? The first test is to not loose oneself into the role. If I don't behave as I believe a wife should, I can't automatically assume that there's a breach in the relationship. That's what's happened this morning; I slept in and he went to work with hardly a word. And I spend the morning feeling I've failed in some fundamental way and create the separation within myself. Whatever I do or don't do as "wife" is not who I am and it is not the mutuality we share, not immediately and directly anyway. Serving those roles nurtures the bond, but assuming the role is the relationship is a conflation that destroys intimacy. Allow the role to serve you, not the other way around. The second test is to love in the face of getting everything you want, or nothing you want; it cannot be dependent on circumstance--good or bad. Love must remain steady: through good moods and bad, through the bottomed-out sense of identity and loss that quitting one's job brings to the creative exploration that sends you out into parallel universes that you cannot share, through everything that a day to day relationship brings with it: making the bed, scrubbing the toilet, washing the dishes, making the breakfast drink and so much more. Finding the mutuality--actually looking for it--is the daily task. This is the love--to look for it and to see and in seeing to understand. This cultivates empathy and mutuality, which in turns, creates the love. The third test is to as Sartre states so brilliantly, to somehow incorporate the love I feel into a sustaining food for myself. To somehow embody that love for the other (in this case my husband) as myself--the two become one--and so the love that flows outward must also flow equally inward. If not, then we create an imbalance. We never feel loved enough. And this realization comes the morning after my somewhat reserved husband said more than once last night how much he loved me. So the insecurity comes from within--no fooling myself in that regard. Mastering love is a life's work. And I'm making every effort to be compassionate to myself for you see, I've never done this before. That is, I've never remained myself and loved another person. And that's the only way for love to remain. Yes we change. Yes, we loose and lose ourselves in the other. But if there's no there there, who can he then love in return? I must remain and incorporate, literally give body, to this love I feel so that instead of consuming me in a bright flash of fire, it instead warms us both in a steady flame.


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