Sunday, February 10, 2013

Love and Living Deliberately

I was talking with a friend yesterday about living deliberately and I pulled up the quote from Henry David Thoreau's Walden that talked about living deliberately, sucking the marrow out of life, cutting a broad swath and shaving close, and driving life into a corner. The part that hit home for me the most was the part about how he didn't want, when it came time to die, to discover that he hadn't yet lived.

Life is short. We've been given a seemingly unlimited capacity to love other people, yet we hold back for a whole bunch of stupid reasons. Of course, we don't think they are stupid at the time.

The biggest one is fear.  We're afraid that the other person won't love us back so we push our own feelings down as deeply as we can or we refuse to express them. If I don't tell you I love you then you can't reject me, right?  That's just crazy, isn't it? Sometimes we're afraid that loving someone will take us to a place we don't want to go, a place that will cause us to bring disorder to the life that we've been so careful to order or a place that will cause us to hurt others we love. This fails to acknowledge that love doesn't eliminate your decision-making ability. You still decide who and what you are and how you treat others in your life.  .

Another reason we hold back is a misunderstanding of what love is . We think we can't love more than one person. Well, it's likely that you already do.  You love your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your children. Sure, you love all these folks differently because love for each person is as unique and individual as people are. You would never say to a second child, "Sorry, I can't love you because I already love your older brother." That would just be ridiculous wouldn't it? Yet we essentially do the same thing with our adult relationships.  We limit our friendships and other love relationships because we "already have one."

It's time to quit listening to that little girl on the playground in first grade who told you that you could only have one best friend. You can have as many as you want. In fact, the more you share of yourself and your love, the richer your life is. Real love doesn't diminish the other loving relationships in your life, it enhances them

And there's another reason people hold back their love, and I've seen this a lot among men - they think that if they allow themselves to love another woman besides their wife that it means they are making a decision to leave their wife. Whoa! The decision to give a piece of your heart to someone and the decision to rearrange your whole life and tear apart your family are completely different things.

Some consider it a betrayal of their spouse if they love another.  By the way, I'm not talking about sex here. I'm talking about love. I certainly can't tell anyone what their own definition of betrayal is, but consider this: If you are in a relationship with another person that is close enough that you are making the decision not to talk about love because you think that would be a betrayal and if you're keeping it a secret, then you have already crossed that line.

Personally, I don't consider loving another to be a betrayal of my marriage vows. I never promised to close my heart to all other people from the moment of my wedding onward. I never promised to ration the love in my heart and give it only to those my husband approved. I never gave away the right to my own feelings, my own life. Marriage doesn't mean he owns me, body and soul. It means we love each other and we're sharing our lives together and we've promised ever to leave each other, to support each other through sickness and health, good times and bad, etc.  I honor all of those commitments. But I won't give away my right to love whomever I choose.

In the end, it's my life. The regrets will be mine alone.  Those don't get shared. So far, I've never regretted opening my heart to another person, even when I ended up hurt. Love is about the only thing in this life that is all good. What rational reason could I possibly have for limiting it? All of the reasons listed above are compromises. They buy you some safety and security, but the cost is very high. Maybe you're ok with that cost. If so, ok.

But I'm not. I'm not willing to end up at the end of my life (which could be today for all I know) saying, "I had the chance to experience an infinite amount of love, but I limited myself to just a small measure because it was safer or because someone told me that's all I should have." No, I prefer to be able to look back and feel the flood of goodness erupting from all the love I gave and received.

This doesn't mean that I'll have romantic feelings of love for everyone I meet. In fact, it's pretty rare. But it means that when they do rise up within me, I don't hold them back, even if the other person doesn't love me back.  Ouch.  Yeah, that's the hard part.  However, my part of "sucking the marrow out of life" is about giving love and opening myself completely to the human experience. Sometimes that hurts. Another person's refusal to give love to me (or anyone else)  is really not my business.  It's sad for them. It puts them in with most people who are in great danger of facing death someday realizing that they didn't truly live.

I've never once heard someone faced with a terminal illness say, "I so regret loving so many people and telling them that I love them." No, they usually express regret for opportunities to express their love that they didn't take. They often spend a significant portion of their remaining time telling people they love them and opening their hearts to love.

Why wait until the end of life is in sight to live deliberately and to love? If there is someone in your life you love that doesn't know how you feel, regardless of the kind of love it is, tell them today.  Right now.  Quit playing the tape in your head of all the objections and justification and reasons for not telling them.  Just do it.

Let that be your gift to yourself today.


~McKPR said...

Kat, the timing of this posting is nothing short of impeccable. I have been holding back in my outside adult relationship because of how we are brought up and the notions of fidelity etc. I have no intention of leaving my husband or family but I have indeed come to love someone in all the ways one expects. Another reason I have not directly expressed those feelings is because he compartmentalizes a lot whereas I blend everything in my life as a way to find balance. I fear if I reveal my feelings, though he is a smart man and I suspect he knows we just don't talk about it, he falls under the category of thinking he expresses any emotional attachment to me means he's planning on leaving his wife. Which is not what the intention would be. I believe that I can love him, we can love one another, in parallel to what is our real lives...
Just what I've been thinking as I have been dealing with some medical issues and being so far away from him (very long distance, infrequent physically) has made me think about a lot of things....this at the forefront. Thanks for posting, I sent you an email about your recent posts as well :) enjoy your week!

HK said...

"Personally, I don't consider loving another to be a betrayal of my marriage vows. I never promised to close my heart to all other people from the moment of my wedding onward. I never promised to ration the love in my heart and give it only to those my husband approved. I never gave away the right to my own feelings, my own life. Marriage doesn't mean he owns me, body and soul."

The very definition of Christian marriage (which you entered into if I'm remembering our prior chats correctly) strongly encourages the exact opposite of what you've expressed. Husband and wife are supposed to, in an almost alchemmical union, be bonded to one another in one flesh, one spirit. There is a merging of two beings that in the Christian canon is simply not possible if exclusivity is not maintained.

That said, are you still a Christian, Kat?

You speak of one's infinite capacity for love. I agree with you on this point. People are capable of loving many different people in many different ways concurrently...but there is a catch. You can't force that choice on other people.

That's what I really don't understand about infidelity (and I do hope that you'll comment here because you are an insightful writer). It's fine if you want to be with as many people as will fit in your heart, but if your spouse hasn't agreed to such an arrangement, why not simply break the first arrangement (divorce) before entering into another?

Kat said...

McKPR - I hope your relationship works out as you hope and that the conversation you have, or choose not to have, goes well.

HK - You make me smile. Did you know that?

Yes, I am still Christian - a flawed Christian, but a Christian nonetheless. Of course, I disagree with the extent to which you take the bond of Christian marriage. The "one flesh, one spirit" description was figurative, as you know. We certainly do not meld into one human being physically. And as long as my salvation depends on *my* decision, not my husband's, I think it's pretty clear that I have a right to independence of thought. Why would God have given me the capacity to think for myself if He didn't intend for me to use it or if He intended me to subjugate it to my husband's thought?

As for the morality, from a Christian perspective, of infidelity, you know I can't make an effective argument. From a Christian perspective, it's immoral. Period. The fact that I'm immoral in this area does not make me less Christian, any more than your sins make you less Christian.

As for forcing love on other people, I don't see what you're getting at. Can you explain further.

And to answer your final question about breaking one arrangement before entering into another. .... it's simple. 1) I gave the list of things I didn't promise when I married, but I did promise to stay with him until death. No matter what. 2) They are not the same arrangement. I cannot simply replace one for the other, even if I wanted to.

Here's a question for you.... If my husband had his way, I would never speak with any men, I'd never be exposed to any men, I'd never have any male friends. If he could make me wear a burka, he would. Why should I need his permission to have a friend, to love a man as a friend? We're married, but I haven't given up the right to be an individual. he can speak to or befriend anyone he wants to, without any objection from me. Why? Because he's an individual. I would never presume to choose his friends for him.

I find it interesting that you just can't accept that I have a happy marriage and that I also find love and sexual fulfillment elsewhere.

It wouldn't work for you, so it is just wrong.

Would it be right for me to be sexually faithful and unhappy? Leaving isn't an option either way. You think that option is better?

Krazy said...

Amen sista!

Advizor54 said...

What a wonderful piece on love, and so closely aligned to what I was trying to say in "Honored" on my post.

I can love many people, and I hope many people love me. "LOVE" however, is not the same for all people, and in this internet world, will not, can not, be physical, but it is still love, and it still makes me happy to have it.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely amazing post. Probably my favorite of yours ever. Thank you for expressing something that is so dear to my heart. Your words speak to exactly how I feel.

Anonymous said...

That is a great post. I was/am still confused by the question of love. What if you go prowling and find someone (a woman in my case) you love? And when this is a mutual feeling? When hot sex actually becomes making love? -Then go home to your wife and kids ....
I like to think there is a way to make it work without breaking a marriage or being utterly un- happy.

If you want to be a christian, you should become Catholic. You sin, go to confession, pray the rosary, and good again :)