Tag Archives: love

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.


What is love?

It might be more obvious to talk about love in terms of emotion, but it’s a subject I think benefits from a more philosophical approach. What is love? A body chemistry event that gives us the desire to seek pleasure with another person. The chemical bonding effect that enables us to parent small children. It is easy to reduce love to evolutionary functions.

We tell stories in which love is rare and scarce and you are supposed to only really love the one person, forever. We can choose to love. We can choose who and what to invest in emotionally – people, places, creatures, ideas, objects… there are no limits on how diversely we can love or how much we can love. There are limits on the time we have to deploy, but that’s all.

Love as a feeling can just evaporate, especially if we treat it as something that happens by magic. When love is what we choose to do, it doesn’t mysteriously go away, because we do things that sustain it. The everyday choice to love brings feelings of love to a person in a way that they have a lot of control over.

The stories we tell about love tend to focus on events and drama. In practice, love has far more to do with the small, everyday choices. It’s what we do in our lives. It’s how we approach other people, or places, or beings. Love is taking your litter home and picking up someone else’s. Love is what we have when we take care of each other and make a point of being kind to each other. Love is the decision to invest time, care and energy somewhere – and that can include ourselves. There’s certainly nothing wrong with including our own bodies, lives and feelings in how we take care and put kindness into the world.

You don’t have to be able to love yourself to love others – that’s a lie that kicks people who are already down. But, one of the things you can do for the sake of love is model how you want people to live, and not beating yourself up can be a gift you give to others. If people care about you, then taking care of yourself is an act of kindness to them. When we make networks and communities of kindness and mutual support, we hold each other, lift each other and help each other.

Love in moments of drama can seem intense and important. Without the day to day stuff, it is more fantasy than reality.


Love and inspiration

I’ve always been quietly out as a polyamorous person. What this has mostly meant in practice is that I occasionally become smitten with people. There’s often a creative aspect to it – love and inspiration are words I could use interchangeably. But, my best outcome around this is usually a slightly awkward conversation about inspiration and muses.  There have also been some deeply distressing  reactions from people who were horrified by me.  The exceptions are rare and are my most important relationships.

However, when it’s allowed to flow freely, when there is connection and love between people, things work very differently.  I know Tom’s story around this runs parallel to mine with similar issues of inspiration and transformation. I think Dr Abbey’s story has a different shape, but creative relationship, love and respect run through everything that’s been happening for the three of us.

 

Re-enchanted

 

I fell in love first

With your captivating use

Of language.

I do not start these things

In any kind of conventional way.

I fell in love with

Snow on your skin

And cherry blossom

Found you unexpectedly

In my dreams, kissed you

Confessed all on waking.

I fell in love with your willingness

To love me in return

Fell for your clowning playfulness

And only then did I

Become besotted with your face.

You showed me other faces

Other selves. Complicated

Hard to keep up with

But my heart found the way

At every turn.

Falling in love with your tears

Your courage, your fragility

Your wild imagination,

Your ability to show me things

About myself I had lost

Or not known

Or not dared.

Loving your enchanted knack

For opening hearts

Watching people I love

Learn to love you in turn.

Watching the impossible

Become possible

As your magic seeps gently

And washes dramatically

Through my life.

Until falling in love becomes

Who I am and what I do

A day by day process

Re-opening to the world

To hope and soulfulness

Learning to love

Who I might be

As I grow into this

Strange new charmed relationship

With life.

I fall in love with you.

 


What do I love?

I started falling in love with people when I was about fourteen. I did not know then that I had already found my adult form in terms of how I would love, but I’ve never changed. I was always plural, always passionate, able to love for the long haul from early on. My first attachments lasted years, some lasted decades. I wish I’d know that my heart deserved to be taken seriously.

One of the curious reoccurring themes is the number of people along the way who have told me that I can’t possibly love them because I don’t know them well enough. It is not them that I love, they tell me, but an idea of them that lives in my head. This raises so many interesting questions about what we think love is, how we think it happens, what we think it means and in what ways we will accept it from other people.

I’ve done love at first sight. I’ve done love at second email. I can fall for people slowly over time or in sudden heart explosions of dangerous proportions. Usually I know exactly what it is that I love – it tends to be about creativity, imagination, intensity, originality of thinking, kindness and generosity. I’m responsive to other people’s passion, to the folk who are inspired, driven and perfectly themselves. These are the things about people I fall in love with and by the time I mention it to anyone it will be because I’ve had time to be sure that what I’m seeing is probably real. I’ve made the odd mistake, but not many.

How I see people is not always how they see themselves. I know from experience that it can be challenging to have someone love you in ways you don’t recognise. Tom’s perception of me remains a long way from how I see myself. But, I think he’s entitled to that perception, and having known me closely for over a decade, differences of opinion are not measures of misunderstanding. Sometimes we see things in people they do not see in themselves. There is a loss of power, potentially, in someone loving an aspect of you that you cannot even see. It is confusing, but maybe it isn’t terrible and maybe they aren’t wrong.

How well do you need to know someone in order to love them? Can you simply love them for the fact of their existence? Can you love them with a spiritual love that sees the spark of the divine in all things? Does it matter? How much do we need to understand the exact reasons why another person undertakes to love us? Do we overcomplicate the natural affection of our creature selves?


Love and other feelings

Love is generally presented as a reaction. It is styled in books and films as an unexpected, uncontrollable thing that just happens in response to one special person. As someone who loves plurally, I’ve always found that part of our stories about love rather difficult. And of course what just happens mysteriously can also be assumed to just go away, equally mysteriously. If we make ourselves powerless in face of it, can’t control it, can’t control ourselves… very little good comes of this.

Attraction can be very sudden – a simple animal desire based on the appearance of the other person. I chalk these up as entertaining but have never acted on it. Desire can be fleeting, and isn’t reliable. I have always been more interested in what a person has going on inside them than how they look.

It’s usually what people do that affects me – what they create, how they think, what they share of themselves, what I can do with them. Love, in all its various shapes and forms can take root in this kind of soil.

Then there are the others, the remarkable, life altering love affairs that have shaped me, and continue to do so. The people whose fingerprints remain on my soul. Looking at those relationships I am conscious of how important deliberate choice has been – mine and theirs. The choice to be vulnerable, to offer something of self, to care, to be open to care in return. Stepping deliberately into more involved ways of relating. Undertaking to love.

The most important love affairs in my life haven’t been accidents of attraction. They’ve been choices. Not just the choice to have a go, but the day by day choices about how I deploy my time and energy, what I pay attention to and what I choose to give. It isn’t something I’ve thought about in quite these terms before, though. I do not belong in the conventional narrative in which love is an accident. Love is something I choose to experience and bestow, and that people dealing with me choose to accept or reject.


Working with Fear

Fear is a difficult emotion to experience, and is harder to work with. All too often, what we do with fear is to take it out on someone else in the form of anger. When you do this, you get a brief sense of having power and being in control. This can be uplifting in the short term because fear is usually underpinned by a loss of power, or the expectation of powerlessness. However, venting it as anger on whoever is to hand is a quick route to more stress and less emotional support. It also doesn’t solve the original problem.

Unprocessed fear can also turn inwards, and become an anger we take out on ourselves. Self-blame, shame, obsessing over what we can’t change, obsessing over the risks and spiralling into every more despairing thought patterns doesn’t really solve anything either.

Our bodies do a very short term fear response when we need to get out of situations. Fear should kick in our flight/fight responses to get us out of trouble. When we’re dealing with something other than immediate, physical danger, it needs a bit more thought. However unattractive a prospect it may seem to be, the best thing to do with fear is sit down quietly with it and examine it.

Fear is most often underpinned by love and pre-emptive grief. That love may be directed towards ourselves – we are afraid of suffering or dying. We are afraid of what we may lose that we value. We fear for that which we love – be that people, landscapes, wildlife, cultural features… Conscious that we are threatened with loss, we can enter into pre-emptive grief processes. We can go through grief stages over things and people that are not yet lost to us but probably will be. Sometimes this can turn out to be a useful coping mechanism, sometimes it brings the reason for fear into sharper focus.

I think the best way to deal with fear is to get to grips with what you are afraid of losing. What you’ll find there is what matters to you. Your love. And if at first glance what you find seems selfish and all about you, then it is simply your love for your own life and experience that you are afraid of losing.

Fear isn’t a simple thing. It isn’t a ‘negative’ emotion to try and avoid. It can teach us about what matters most. It can show us the truth of what we value. It’s easy to lose your real values under layers of social conditioning, but fear can cut through that bullshit at a terrifying pace to tell you what is most important, least bearable and in that insight, is the scope to find your heart.

In the end, we all die, we all lose everything. We’re all on that trajectory together and there’s not much point being afraid of our unavoidable destination. But along the way, we can take care of what we love, make the most of it, cherish it while we can.


Relationship assumptions

The dominant stories we have about the kinds of relationship shapes available to a person, are, from my perspective, unhelpfully narrow. Emotionally speaking I’m polyamorous – I can choose fidelity, but it is fundamentally in my nature to love. I’m attracted to pixies and wizards – gender has never really been a factor. As someone with wizard and pixie attractions, it makes no sense to me that one set of genitals equates to potential lovers and the other to potential friends and that you shouldn’t be friends with people who have different genitals to you.

I find the hard lines we draw between friends and lovers a tad perplexing. It doesn’t leave me much space for adoration, for people I want to hold and kiss but maybe not shag. It doesn’t allow for my massive and very intense creative crushes or for what happens with me when people inspire me.

Conventional relationships tend to assume similarity of age. Again, this has never worked for me. There’s a huge age range across my love/friendship relationships.

For me, entering into a relationship with a person has always been about finding the shape that is right for that particular exchange. That may, or may not be sexual, it may be affectionate, it may be a creative collaboration, or something else entirely. I’m interested in what might happen, and not in getting an interaction with a person to fit a pre-determined shape.

I’m also entirely comfortable with unbalanced relationships. I often love people who do not feel the same way about me, and I’m fine with that. My emotional response does not create an obligation. I might want things that aren’t available – again I’m fine with this. I am confused by people who expect balance. I am very confused by people who think I should feel about them something that reflects how they feel about me! I am largely convinced it’s because we tell each other so many stories in which two people fall in love with each other at the same time and to the same degree that we assume this is normal. It’s never worked that way for me.

I want there to be more room. I don’t want to be told what I am allowed to feel, or be cut down by the limited nature of other people’s stories. I’ve had more than enough of that already. I want space, for all of us, to be who we are, explore who we might be when dealing with each other, and to engage on whatever terms actually make sense.