Tag Archives: love

Love is not difficult

People are not hard to love. Children especially are really easy to love and in many ways we are biologically programmed to respond warmly to children. Humans find round faces with big eyes cute and appealing and this isn’t any sort of accident. Or at least, many of us do.

I’ve never met a person whose woundedness made them unloveable. I’ve never met someone who was too badly hurt to be worth caring for. Some of the people I love can be hard work, because of what they’ve been through and how difficult it is for them to trust, or open up, or accept help. There are quite a lot of people on this list, and they aren’t hard to love, they just don’t always know how to let anyone do that. 

Along the way I’ve also met the people who complain about how difficult other people are. How difficult I am. People who have told me I am hard to love, or too difficult in other ways. These were often people who wanted things from me – my love,  my work, my energy, my support… but were very clear about why it wasn’t reasonable of me to expect anything in return.

It took me a long time to stop thinking that the problem was me. 

The issue isn’t about whether a person is hard to love, the issue is more often about whether you are able to be open hearted. What is hard to love is coldness, selfishness and disinterest. I hit my limit when it comes to deliberate cruelty as a sport. I can stay in for people who do dysfunctional things because they are hurt and not handling it well. I can love people who find it necessary to test me, although that can be complicated and it isn’t ideal. 

If someone tells you that you are hard to love, consider that they have just confessed something important about their own insufficiencies. Ask them who they think it would be easy to love, if you’re feeling equal to challenging them. Deliberate cruelty is the only trait worth outright rejecting a person for. Anything else is just the messy consequence of being alive and dealing with the shit that brings. A person can be messy, complicated, challenging and difficult and still not actually be hard to love, because love is a very natural response between people who are involved in each other’s lives.

Love is also not the same thing as having the skills or resources to properly support someone who is struggling. You can love someone without being able to help them. You can love someone and need your own boundaries for your own reasons. The person who tells you that you are hard to love has some serious issues, and you may not be able to help them with that. If you love the person who cannot love you, don’t be persuaded that the problem in this is you, because it probably isn’t.


Matters of Pride

Coming out isn’t something you get to do once. It’s something you may have to repeat, many times, always with some anxiety about how people will react to you. It doesn’t help that it’s the people who get close that you will most need to come out to. The people you need to have understand you, and who may be impacted by the way you are and the kinds of relationships you have. It’s high stakes and a lot to lose if they don’t turn out to be ok with who you are. But, how close can you be to someone if you have to hide significant parts of yourself?

I take great comfort in my queer friends, and my kinky friends, and the folk I know will not judge me or think less of me on account of who I am. The people I am close enough to that I can be honest with them about the other people I am close to.

I get off fairly lightly. There are far too many people in this world who are not free or safe to love the people they love. There are too many people who are not free or safe in expressing themselves sexually in consenting ways with other adults. The consequences of coming out, or worse still, being outed, can be dire. Sometimes fatal.

Many human cultures have stories about who is allowed to do what with whom, what is moral, what is evil, what is acceptable to various gods, what’s abhorrent. Those stories are based on value judgements and priorities, and some of those stories are cruel, and toxic. If it seems more appropriate to kill someone than to let them love who they love, something has gone badly wrong.

Love is good. Love is always good. No one should be afraid of loving whoever they are moved to love. Sex is a good, beautiful thing and anyone who wants to do that in any way that works for them should not have to be afraid of how other people will respond. That there are so many people who are more horrified by what consenting adults choose to do together than they are by rape does not say good things about us as a culture.


Cats and Comfort

Cats have always been a tremendous source of comfort to me. My experience of cats flags up many of the things I find problematic in my dealings with people.

Most cats are really uncomplicated. If you treat them with care and affection, they will reward you with care and affection. And sometimes leave mice in your shoes. Cats have never been bothered about my face, or my body shape, or how I dress. They just want to snuggle, or play, or eat my toast. When I have been sad, the cats in my life have generally been inclined to comfort me. They bring their warmth and their purrs. When I have been ill, they have sat with me. When I’ve been unable to sleep, they have kept me company.

Cats just respond one body to another, one living being to another. There’s a beautiful simplicity to it. In that gentle acceptance, I find peace, and I get to feel a bit better about myself. Cats generally find me ok. They find me adequate and tolerable and reasonable. I know many people have similar experiences with dogs, and horses and other creatures.

I wish humans were better at being creatures together. I wish we were more straightforward about needs, and the need for comfort. I wish we cared less about appearance and more about closeness and what we can share. You won’t impress a cat with a fast car – rather the opposite. So long as there is food and shelter, a cat really doesn’t care about your bank balance. It is not that difficult to be a good enough person for a cat to like, or love.

Animals generally aren’t interested in the kind of posturing humans go in for to try and impress other humans. They’re much more accepting of our diversity than we are. They are entirely willing to find us good enough, regardless of age or wrinkles, or how well we conform to human notions of beauty. They aren’t afraid to be excited when they are pleased to see us. They ask for food, and walks and affection and so forth with the confidence of beings who know these are needs that should be met and that asking is fine. And we don’t mind them asking, where we might feel put-upon or otherwise uncomfortable if a person asked us so bluntly for things they needed.

Creatures we live with are quick to forgive us our shortcomings and mistakes. They don’t bear grudges very often. They don’t save up grievances to air at some future date. What they want from us is simple, and they express it as clearly as they can. There’s so much they generously do not care about that we take such issue over when dealing with other humans.

If I was a cat, I would not need to ask for your attention or affection. I could just climb into your lap, and the odds are you would be pleased, in a really uncomplicated way. You would feel warmed and affirmed by my presence, not uneasy, compromised or threatened.  I wouldn’t seem difficult, even if I wanted a lot of affection and attention.  We don’t second guess cats. We don’t worry about their motives, or what they might expect from us.

If only we better knew how to be creatures for each other, how to accept each other and take joy in those small interactions.


Unromantic poetry

I have a small, ongoing project around writing deliberately unromantic poetry. I’m on a mission to debunk things that are presented as romance, but are really toxic, or bullshit. Here’s the latest.

Refusing to die of a broken heart

I will not drink poison for you

I do not offer my last breath

Nor the blood in my veins.

I will not crawl over broken glass

For you. there will be no proof

Of faith in a death from grief

I will not cut out my heart

To place it in a box for you.

No slashing back of soul and self

To make offerings of wounds.

I will not become smaller for you

There is no romantic splendour

In the fatal cup, the ravaged life

The early death.

This is not romance.

I will not die for you.

I did not promise to suffer.

Tell me to live for you, to endure

To flourish for your sake also.

Love is measured not in torment

But in the co-creating

Of better days.


Stories about love

When you’re a straight, cis person in a monogamous relationship, being out is easy. My guess is that you don’t worry so much about how people will react to your romance unless there’s something else queer about it – a sizeable age gap for example,  or being in a mixed race or mixed religion relationship where the people around you might not be ok with that.

I’ve always been polyamorous, but I’ve not always been out as polyamorous. Early on I had no idea how to navigate around friends and family with this, so mostly I didn’t. The emotional expense of being honest about your relationships may be more than you can afford. For some people, owning the queerness is genuinely dangerous. Complicated, non-conforming relationships can be challenging enough without all the work of having to emotionally support other people in dealing with you well.

The worst part of all this, for me, has always been the breakups. The invisible, unspeakable endings of relationships I never made properly visible in the first place. When a conventional relationship breaks up, people tend to own it and the people around them tend to be supportive. When you’ve fallen out with your other lover… how do you even talk about that? Can you be confident  of expecting support, rather than blame, shame, judgement and more pain?

Many of my most important love affairs have been romantic rather than sexual, so I don’t entirely fit in what many people imagine ‘polyamorous’ means in the first place. I can get deeply emotionally involved with a person without it ever being a physical thing. So, what a relationship is and means to me is not necessarily the same as what it means to the other person – that’s always interesting to navigate. I know there are people in my history who, for me, were life altering love affairs, and who almost certainly never thought the same way about me. Which is fine – love is what I do, not what I expect.

So here I am, grieving the end of a love affair that never quite was. Letting go of something that, for a while, was pure enchantment for me, but that maybe only existed for me. Wondering what to say to who, and finding out who knew me well enough to have spotted it anyway. It’s a strange place to be. There are no maps for this kind of territory. There are no roles readily supplied to slot into, there are precious few stories to navigate by.

I’ve also got to the point in my life of being unable to be other than myself. I’m too tired to hide the inconvenient bits. I’m past caring about people judging me – and increasingly willing to shrug and let go of the people who aren’t ok with me as I am. One of the consequences is that I can, and will start mapping this territory and telling stories about love that are not the stories my society usually tells.


Worth and love

Talking with a friend last week, it was pointed out to me that many people do not consider themselves worthy of love. It is something I’ve struggled with, and for me it shows up around wanting things I think I can’t have and explaining why people haven’t treated me very well in the past. How this plays out is likely to be highly individual, based on what I’ve seen of other people.

For some people it means mistrust – if you don’t think you’re loveable, it is hard to trust that when people say they love you, they aren’t just after something. Anyone who has been manipulated in this way may doubt their own loveableness, and be wary of other people’s motives.

If you’ve had your worth tied to achievement, then your loveableness depends on what you can do. That’s exhausting, and demoralising. Mistakes and failures are incredibly threatening when your emotional security depends on feeling like you get everything right all the time.

For anyone who has grown up in an emotionally insecure environment, it’s like trying to re-grow a missing limb. We either learn to feel emotionally secure early on, or we don’t. For the person who has that fundamental experience of being loved and wanted, there’s some resilience available in face of other challenges life may create. For the person who was never sure they were wanted, never confident of an unconditional place in the world, all other challenges to worth are harder to meet.

No one can go back and re-do their formative experiences. However, we can take care of each other. We can look out for people who struggle around matters of love, worth and friendship, and look out for them. And of course it’s hard and scary if you’re both people with issues around love and worth because to say ‘I love you’ to a person is to open up all those fears about what your own unloveableness will mean. Of course it is harder for two people with these issues because it is so easy to read the other person’s wounding as a consequence of your not deserving to be loved.

When you don’t feel secure in your own self worth, it is harder to be vulnerable with someone. Harder to trust and to open your heart. But sometimes, if you can say ‘some people don’t feel worthy of love’ then you might get something back – even if that too is a bit indirect. Like a blog post.


For You – a poem

For You

 

Let me tell you a story about

How good you were, even when it seemed

Your were failing and flailing and could not

See what you put into the world,

How precious and vital you are, how glad

Was I for the fact of your existence

Your beautiful, unique presence

Your glorious, irreplaceable self.

Even when you were wrong

You were so utterly worthy of love.

It was never about what you

Could do for me, never use or utility,

Only the sweet delight of your being

The joy of your perspective, your insight

The way you see the world.

And even on your down days, your dowdy days

I found you remarkable and enchanting

Watched out for you with joy

Felt your friendship as a rich blessing

In my life.

When you were ill, tired, lacklustre

I worried for you, wished to do more

That could ease your load, comfort you.

When you raged, I felt your anger

And wanted to punch through walls to fight

Whatever threatened or horrified you most.

Even though I’m no warrior, no saviour.

When I was lost, you showed me paths.

When my heart broke, you held the pieces

Kept me together when I fell apart

You shared your food with me, your tears

Stories, hopes, fears and passions.

You shared what wisdom life had taught you

Reached out hands to welcome me

Opened your heart, your life, your soul.

You were more amazing than you ever knew

Your generosity humbled me and made me bold

A smile from you enough to transform

A grim day into a hopeful one.

You are a star in my sky

And my sky is bright with starlight.


Heart Lessons

Things I have learned about myself in recent weeks, shared in case it helps someone else.

I like me most when I can love fiercely, when I overcome fear and keep my heart open.

There are a great many difficult things that I can weather, but not being sure if I am loved is unspeakably hard. Trusting people to love me, and to stay heart-open to me is one of the things I find most difficult to do. Deciding to stay heart-open has been a real challenge, but I recognise that I have a choice here and do not have to be ruled by past experiences.

I really struggle with feeling powerless. I need to accept that there’s a great deal I can’t help with. Sometimes I can’t even meaningfully offer comfort. Wanting to ease pain does not translate into being able to. Waiting while other people take their own needful journeys is hard, but waiting and witnessing is the right thing to do. I need to recognise the work that is not mine to do, and not let my own feelings get in the way of people doing their needful things.

Alongside that, I really do need to get better at expressing basic needs and asking for what is most important to me.  I don’t handle this well, and there are triggering issues around it for bonus complexity. I’m going to come back and blog about this in more detail when I’ve got a better handle on the mechanics.

I get excited about intellectual challenges, and if there aren’t enough of those of the right shape and nature, I feel sad and worn. I need to look at this because it’s one of those basic needs issues and I might do a better job around meeting it.

Falling in love with people is part of who I am. It doesn’t happen that often, but it happens. Sometimes those people love me in return, and aren’t afraid to be open and honest about that. They are my soul tribe, my most beloved ones, the people I cannot do without. If I don’t at least communicate with them fairly regularly, I struggle. I do not know who I am without them, and I find myself, my hope, my sense of direction in those closest and most important relationships. These relationships have all kinds of shapes, it’s the emotional intensity that is key for me, and what we share and exchange.

To have had a beloved fall silent for several weeks is really hard. It’s left me not knowing who I am – because I exist in a context. To be me, I need to be in relationship with my soul companions. It’s not a case of being completed, or someone else filling in the gaps in me – it is that first and foremost I exist in my interactions and in what I do, day to day. This absence has taught me a lot, and what I’ve managed to do and hold during it has opened me out in unexpected ways. I find myself doing intuition and belief as never before in my life, and these are surprising changes indeed.

One heart lesson in all of this for me is to put down the pernicious ideas about how we are all supposed to stand alone. I am a tree in a spinny, I stand because others stand with me. Tear one of us down and we are all more vulnerable to the next storm. I need roots that intertwine with other roots. I need to share my soil. I am not complete on my own because I cannot be myself entirely if I am not connecting with and sharing things with other people.


Unconditional Love

I’ve always liked the idea of unconditional love, and I’ve always wanted to offer it. I don’t want to put limits on how I love, and my heart always wants to say ‘no matter what’. The problem with this of course is that if you run into someone who means you ill, then unconditional love is a really dangerous thing. Too much acceptance and forgiveness can put you in danger. It’s the sort of thing that really enables abusive relationships.

I’ve spent a long time looking for the right way to balance this. What I’ve come to at this point might be right for me. It might change over time.

There is how I feel, and there is what I do. Unconditional love in terms of how I feel is a thing I can do, and keep doing. It’s not quite a ‘no matter what’ – there are two people in my history who I truly loved for years and, as a consequence of their actions towards me, no longer love. In both cases it took some pretty serious shit to get me to that point. It is possible to break my heart such that I am no longer able to love in response to a person. I’m still not sure how to place this inside the story I want to tell myself about love.

Then there’s what I do – and I accept that what I do with someone I love will be informed by what they do. It’s not entirely my choice. I can’t do anything with someone who does not want my love, my time or my attention. I can’t enact love in a meaningful way when dealing with someone who really doesn’t want me to do that. I also can’t sustainably manifest love for someone who exhausts me and wears me down. I can love from a distance, and I can do the things in a partial way, but what I do cannot be wholehearted unless there’s a context where that works.

I’m finding this a useful way of looking at what I do, what I offer, and who I am. My heart says yes. My heart says yes when yes is not always a good idea for me. I can stay with that, and honour it, and recognise the limits on what I can do with those feelings, and maybe this will work.

 


Processing grief

There’s a violence to grief that surprises me no matter how many times I go round it. This is not simply an issue for grief around the deaths of loved ones. It comes up around other things and people that I’ve lost. There is a force to it than rams into me like a punch in the gut, and that can come out of nowhere.

Grief is at its most powerful, raw and predictable in the immediate aftermath of loss. You expect it then, there is a degree of preparedness and the people around you are likely to know and be supportive.

However, with life-defining grief, it can come back at any time, a sudden body blow that may put you on your knees in entirely literal ways. There are still days when the death of my grandmother hits me like a blow. There are friends whose absence can suddenly and unexpectedly reduce me to tears. There are cats I have mourned for twenty years and more. Usually this is quiet, and invisible, and sometimes it isn’t.

I’ve never liked the idea that grief is something we have to get over. A terrible loss is not something to forget or put aside. It becomes part of who you are, and you learn to keep moving as best you can while carrying it. Grief is deeply intertwined with love, and it is the memory of love without being able to ever see the beloved again that brings the body blows.

The worst kinds of grief are laden with regret. Those are the hardest to keep carrying, and often the most violent. It’s the things that can’t be said, or fixed or changed that hurt most, I have found. It’s a different negotiation to learn how to carry on when full of the grief of regret. It’s as much as anything, a process of self forgiveness. Processing the regrets isn’t easy, and is best not done alone – it can be hard to get a decent perspective on these things when you are overwhelmed.

Grief that is rooted in love becomes bearable over time, because we learn to carry the love and cherish the pain of loss as a measure of that love. Grief rooted in regret offers no such consolations and making peace with it is a harder process.