Love in action… And Words of Advice

A few years ago I became a convert to the religion of love. I used to believe it was a gimmick to sell books, movies and red valentine hearts. Now I know it is real, and it is something beautiful. And it really doesn’t matter whether its source is chemical, emotional or spiritual. The real thing, if you encounter it, is earth-shattering and unsettling. And even though my story was not what romance readers would call a HEA story, it is still a positive one that inspired me to run a marathon, write a very bad Nanorimo novel, and post profusely on this blog. It also deepened my curiosity about a range of subjects from philosophy and meta-physics, to spirituality and religion, and literature and life in general.

I have come away from that experience a bit wounded, but also a bit wiser and more empathic. I am unable now to recapture the Love, as a noun, that expanded my heart to fit the whole wounded world. But in exchange I gained an ability to experience love as a verb, as an action that helps me get through the challenges of life. I love my teenage son, even when he is difficult, rude, or ungrateful. I find opportunities to love my colleagues by showing appreciation. I love the world by understanding its failings and limitation and acknowledging that I am part of it. I love my parents and family by being there for them and being kind. Some of this is hard work, but I do it, because it is better to act out love than any other emotion. It the glue of society and perhaps the universe itself. I write this with true conviction, and without sniffling or tears in my eyes, so I know that my love-outcome was positive, even after I packed away my love letters and quit looking at my older heartache posts. And although I did not leave the battlefield of love without losses, some of which have proven irreversible, I still believe that it was worth all the pain and the suffering.

It has been over a year now since I had my last (now I say final) intense conversation with the man I loved. It lasted over two hours, and it was one of the times when I told him I could not forget about him. He listened empathically. I remember him saying that if he brought this problem to the attention of wise people in his family, like his daughter, they would advise him to “cut loose”. I heard only what I wanted to hear from this. But I also suggested that he should write me a goodbye letter, I even drafted the text. He read it and said, that I wrote well. I never received that note or any other from him, and this again was misinterpreted. When I read these lines now, I smile at my naive self, but I also rejoice at the sincerity of the sentiment and the depth of my devotion.

I will send this note to myself now on his behalf, and do as I/he said.

Dear x. I appreciate that the feelings you carry for me are genuine and sincere. But I see that they are neither healthy for you nor helpful for me. I therefore allow you to let go of them without resistance. I set you free from any hold I might have unconsciously placed upon you by things I said or withheld. Think of me if you wish with fondness and compassion but release me from your heart as I will also release you in this life. Until the soul can decide where it will dwell in the next one.

Here are a few things that I learned from that experience. I would have liked to share them with the man who inspired them, but as I said, I already folded my unsent love letters and drafted my silent goodbye. Now it would be counterproductive to get in touch after months of silence just to say farewell. I am sure he will understand my silence for the goodbye that it is. It is possible that he will be even relieved that I finally cut him loose.

To all my girlfriends and women in love, you are important, so look after yourselves:

What you think he feels is irrelevant. Don’t try to interpret his messages, the jokes he makes, and the ambiguous phrases in his emails. If he did not spell out his feelings to you clearly, there might be a million different interpretations to the words he says. The interpretation you want is just one of them. Understand the odds and know that he might be only trying to be friendly, polite, joking, flirting or just humouring you. This is especially important to understand if you have been open about your feelings for him. If he is afraid to tell you how he feels after that then he has problems. You do not need that.

Take what he says at face value only. Never try to dig deeper or feel that you understand him better than he understands himself. Even if it is true, some people want to stay in their world of denial. It is not your job to fix them. Allow him to be what he believes he is.

If he is married, or in a committed relationship, always assume that the relationship is fine, and that his partner is a thousand times better than he will ever be. If he claims that his wife is not treating him well, always assume that she probably gives him the cold shoulder because he is an ass, and that he would happily kneel at her feet like a loyal dog if she decided to look at him kindly.

If you suspect that he is separated, divorced, or living in an open marriage, be bold and try to confirm this. Do not try to interpret the signs of missing wedding rings or removed family photographs. Most importantly, do not take his word for it. If any of these things are true then the partner or her friends would corroborate the story and you can take action accordingly.

If you want an affair you can do whatever you like, but it is also best to announce your intention so that the other person knows where they stand.

Remember: There are no rules. These are only guidelines for your own protection. All is fair in love and war is a correct statement but whatever you do, be aware of the consequences and take responsibility for your own actions. Do not blame the man for things you chose to misunderstand or misinterpret.

And if you have a girlfriend or someone you care about in a situation of heartache and endless wondering, try to be the sound of reason. Do not be a “pick me” friend by empowering and validating the emotional high. If she makes it, and gets the love of her life, you will be happy for her, and she will be so overjoyed that she will forget your scepticism. But if things fall apart you will at least be able to pick up the pieces with her and support her. This will not happen if you constantly validated her feelings and encouraged them. You might even end up as one of the people she wants to forget, a symbol of the emotional and irrational state she does not want to return to.

Some Final Words: Not everything I wrote above is reflection of my own experience, they are just imagined scenarios inspired by what I felt. I have written perhaps hundreds of pages on the man I loved, on how he made me feel and think. Only a fraction of my words made it to this blog. I recalled every detail of our few conversations, phone calls, and text messages, trying to analyse them and glean some meaning. This was a huge waste of time and energy and my best achievement and best work were done when I turned this energy outwards and created something out of it. I swapped the unattainable for the difficult but achievable, and loved those who wanted and needed my love, including myself. Love is powerful and beautiful, it holds the universe together, but we are mere mortals with finite time on this earth (or in this life) so we cannot hold its intensity for very long. This is not a limitation, it is a function of us existing in time. The transience of our experience enables us to survive through the trials and joys of our limited time. Nothing, not even enlightenment and transcendence, can be held for a long time. In the biography of the late Ram Dass, he wrote about his experience with psychedelics and how he progressively increased the dosage to achieve a transcendent state of consciousness. And every addict knows this, whether it is a drug, alcohol or sex, the more you turn to them the more you crave, and the less effective they become. In a sense, for us humans, less is always more. We should crave the doses of pleasure that we can handle. Or as Alan Watts said, “if you get the message hang up the phone”. I got the message loud and clear, and it is time to hang up that phone.

Love rules.. Always. Acknowledge it, honour it, and experience it. If it doesn’t lead you to happiness, it will grant you kindness and wisdom.

.

Don’t Grasp …

The parting gift of 2021 for me was a little bit of wisdom and understanding. It did not come to me cheaply or quickly, but I still believe it arrived on time.

Intellectually, and from my pervious dabbling with mindfulness mediation, I already understand that life is only the present. Yesterdays are gone, and the future is an uncertain gamble, at best. Those who grasp at moments of past happiness are reconstructing remembered experience in hindsight from the viewpoint of the present. On the other hand, dreams of the future are sometimes just an escape from present discomfort. Living this way is a permanent sleep-walking state. We become completely or partly oblivious of the present moment, either imagining a future that might never arrive, or re-interpreting the past. In either case we are missing the point. Life is moving along in ever-changing patterns of good and bad times. All of them are temporary, and the point of it might not actually be where we have been or where we want to be next. The point is just the journey, the dance we perform and the music we play along the way.

In the past few months I was stuck in such a futile pattern. I came here, to the city of music and culture from a place where I knew I was happy. It was a place where I found love and glimpsed my own version of enlightenment. I missed Kenya. I missed Africa, the sunshine, the people, the coffee, the avocados, the simple uncomplicated life. I felt overwhelmed by learning about my new job, the challenges of raising a demanding teenager, the difficulties of adapting to a different lifestyle, and of simply finding a place for myself in foreign city. Most of all I missed the person that I became when I was fully embraced by my beloved Africa. So I tried hard to recapture that luminous phase of my life, and I grasped at everything I thought I have lost. When I went shopping I tried to buy the exact same tools and utensils I had in my previous life. When I lost my beloved chain bracelet I tried to order an exact replica. I looked for Kenyan coffee, to recapture the taste of sunshine and inject life-giving warmth into my cold mornings. I grasped with desperation at memories, at moments where I felt my heart expand to encompass the whole universe, when I reached out to receive the world’s loving embrace. I remembered how well I loved, that I became wholesome in loving, and the universe seemed to hold and lift me, even while my beloved remained aloof and silent. I desperately wanted all that again.

The inevitable failure of my grasping phase came in little pointers and signs. The replacement bracelet was expensive and underwhelming, not at all like the one I lost, and the tools and utensils became useless white elephants, unsuitable for my modern European apartment. The coffee tasted like cardboard, and did not live up to my idolised version of African coffee. Each little failure was another loss, and another reason to wallow in misery and grasp even more at the past. In Kenya, I thought, everything fell into place for me, whereas here, everything went wrong. My spirit suffered as well. My attempts at recapturing the spiritual heights I experienced through running, yoga and meditation were half-hearted to non-existent. My heart felt closed and constricted and no longer capable of unconditional loving. I regained my cynicism in matters of the heart and started to re-interpret my emotional experience more rationally.

Comparing my present state of mind with the past one I remembered was jarring and unsettling. Sometimes I felt like I fell from grace, and descended from paradise to earthly suffering. At other times I thought that I must have been floating on an opioid cloud for the past six years, and just sobered up now to cold reality.

Eventually, and perhaps with the help of a lecture I listened to from Alan Watts, it dawned on me that neither my emotional nor my rational interpretations were correct. I simply failed to understand one basic lessons. Life is a flowing river, and it is a bad idea to grasp at flowing water. The clenching fingers fail to hold a single drop, and the tense limbs are no match for strong currents. That lesson holds for some things in the physical world too, like trying to fall asleep or trying hard to float in a pool. Trying too hard is sometimes the surest guarantee of failure.

Today, I have decided to float freely and stop grasping. However, in doing that, I also want to remember that I should not try too hard. True acceptance after all, is the absence of resistance, and sometimes the pull of the past will still be felt, but I need to understand it for what it is, an illusion, a re-imagining of the past from the viewpoint of the present.

There will always be things that I can, and should, work harder at, like getting an exercise or practicing meditation. But the present experience should be the heart of the practice. I should enjoy the meditation session, the single run, and the yoga lesson. And while the end goal of running another marathon or getting fit and flexible in my middle age years could work as a motivator, the end goal is not as important as the present experience. My present moment is all I have, and I will make it count.