23 January, 2012

True Love

Is there true love?


The closest I've come to it in relation to others is the love I share with my informally adopted children. I haven't found it with a partner and I'm sure that has something to do with choosing the wrong ones. And something to do with myself, if I'm honest, because I was brought up in a house with very bad models and I don't think I understood how to be maturely loving until quite recently. I'm sure it was a challenge to live with me in my youth because I was needy and insecure, always searching for some ideal that I projected onto my significant other, then being wildly disappointed when he couldn't live up to it. I know now that I should have been paying closer attention to myself, to self development, the enlargement of my own heart rather than looking outside myself.

If I had understood that, I might have saved myself a lot of heartache, but probably the only way to learn it was through experience and reflection. I'm sure some of you knew that early, but I've always been late through the gate.

Maybe you'll think this is a surprising post, coming as it does after a long absence of personal reflection here, but I've been thinking about the nature of love and relationship for the past few years, led by the breakup of a relationship that I thought was going to be enduring, the rupture of one of my children's long-term pairing, and the new relationship of a different kind with my mom, who I started living with and caring for just over a year ago. This last one might be the most challenging of all.

I read a book recently that seemed to help my thoughts coalesce. I can't recommend it highly enough, for anyone in or out of a relationship. It's the first book on the subject that makes real, immediate sense and helps us to understand the fundamental dynamics of pairing. It's Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find-And Keep-Love by Amir Levine, M.D. and Rachel S. F. Heller, M.A.

What did I learn from the book? Just that my failures in successive relationships during my life may have been due to one single problem -- choosing individuals who were not really capable of intimacy, and being a person who wanted a deep intimate bond. And that there is not some irreversible flaw in me, which is what I was starting to come to believe. What a comfort to learn that.

I have also come to the conclusion, during the past few years, that the search for someone to provide the creative, intellectual stimulation that I wanted was best found by being the person that I was looking for. In other words, trying to make myself that person rather than looking outside makes the most sense. Doing this single thing has made it possible for the loneliness to abate; even without a partner I am able to at last be happy. I can appreciate the beauty outside my window, I can make art, or write about it, I can make crafts that reflect my sensibilities, I can garden, I can cook and I can care for my mother and myself. These satisfactions soothe the constant sense of something missing that I've lived with most of my life.

Littlewing; hand knit for my daughter.

I don't have much money -- I gave up my job to move here. I do have happiness, and I found it in the last place I thought to look -- inside my own heart.

Whether you are in a secure relationship or on your own, I offer these thoughts for your consideration, humbly and with love.