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.