Life TherapyTM
Psychotherapy & Coaching + Mindfulness & Meditation

Can you love when there is nothing left?

This is more of a rhetorical question. Sort of. Allow me a moment to explain myself. In the last several weeks, I’ve allowed my heart to be absolutely crushed. Why? Because I opened myself up to someone more fully than I ever had before, and in turn was met with the realization that not all people are ready for the journey that is two souls meeting, connecting, and deciding to make a commitment to endure. From the moment we met, it was like a movie.

Both of us were not looking for anyone, and we had spent the last 2 years single, and a mutual friend who had known both of us for over a decade was so happy about us finding each other he nearly cried.
We went from not knowing each other to spending every moment we could with each other, nearly living together, and planning our future within 2 months. He had met most of my friends and family, I had met his friends, some of his colleagues, and had spent time with his 2 children. Then, without warning, his mood shifted and within a week he was gone. It has taken me more than a logical amount of time to process what happened, and I’m still not quite finished.
Part of what makes this so difficult is my history of losses. I have had my fair share of broken relationships, but the most vulnerable fragile part of me resides in a deep rooted fear of abandonment. I was adopted when I was a baby, which when people hear this they tend to say, “Oh, you were just a baby, it didn’t really impact you” which I think is ludicrous. One, because how can they make assertions on what did and did not affect me, and two if we take a moment to really think about it, the first year of a baby’s life is crucial in its development. Who knows what happened to me in the first several months of my life. Did someone pick me up when I cried? Was I loved? Were my needs tended to? To complicate matters more, my adopted mother was very sick and the doctors were never able to figure out exactly what was wrong or how to help her. She died just as I started my freshman year of high school. My family had suffered the loss of our closest relatives starting when I was 5 when my grandma died in a car accident. Every other year or so after we lost another- it was always from among those who spent the most time with us. Losing my mother was like losing a part of myself or so I thought until I lost my best friend in 2003 to a cliff diving accident. I was in Hawaii for college, and received a call while on lunch break at work from one of his friends telling me he had drowned. I felt like the life had been kicked out of me. Everything stopped and I was sure part of my soul had gone with him. I had never felt more alone than at that moment when I realized the one who had convinced me of the existence of soul mates was gone. Irrevocably. My ex knew about all of this and had even gone so far, in addition to constantly telling me he loved me, to say “I won’t leave you. I know you’ve heard this before, but I’m not going anywhere. We’re in this together.” Just a couple of weeks later, he left. As the song “Forever” by Ben Harper goes, “forever never seems to be around when it ends.”
After tearing apart every potential scenario, word, and obsessively going over every moment of the relationship I arrived at a conclusion: I had no answers. None. Not a single explanation as to what exactly went wrong – no closure. My devastated heart was left writhing in misery with no solace to be found. Of course I went through the varying stages of grief – denial that it was happening – maybe it would be ok and it was just a phase he was going through. Anger – how could he do this to me? How could he be so selfish, careless, and reckless with someone else’s heart? Bargaining – maybe if I change this, compromise that, accommodate his life and forget mine… Depression – of course I had days of crying and not eating, gathering my resolve to walk on, then falling apart miserably at the most inconvenient places and times. Finally – (and not yet completely) acceptance. I deleted him from my life… and after much careful deliberation – my Facebook (laugh if you want, but that has become a huge part of our social schema, and I found that seeing his name and face every time I logged in hindered my healing process).
In the midst of my heartache I’ve learned several very important lessons.

  1. I am surrounded by more love than I could have ever imagined. My friends came to my side in an instant, and along the way, I met others who have been unbelievably supportive of me and my journey. This is indicative of not only the amazing people I have in my life, but of the progress I’ve made over the years in the connections I’ve made. I did not always have the support I have now.
  2. It’s not always (all) my fault. There are elements in a relationship that are entirely out of my control, and as much as we hear relationships fall apart; two people are involved- it doesn’t always mean you didn’t do the best you could. I gave 100% and for him, that was terrifying. He wasn’t ready to give back. Was I perfect? Of course not. But that is the nature of any relationship- encountering the inevitable difficulties and working through them together. You cannot force or persuade someone to stay in your life. They choose that, and if for whatever reason they choose otherwise, you must let go. I spent a lot of time doubting myself wondering what I had done wrong and how I could fix it, but when all was laid bare, I realized this: I had done the absolute best I could, and I had nothing of which to be ashamed. Sometimes, it doesn’t work, and that weight is not mine to carry.
  3. Do not give the power of your life away. I used to think that most people were like minded in that they want to learn, grow, and progress. They want to be introspective and understand who they are and why they do what they do, but I was wrong. I’ve learned that a lot of people would rather blame everything but themselves for the path of their life because that means they can avoid responsibility for themselves. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? What adult doesn’t want to own their life? Unfortunately, I’ve found an alarming quantity of people who play the victim. Life has created their circumstances and they are stuck. There’s enough truth in that to make it sound convincing. Life does give us our circumstances and we rarely get to choose, but the lie is that we’re stuck. For the most part, no one is stuck. I’ve seen people go so far as to hide behind the façade of faith to mask their cowardice. That is the ultimate lie and insult to what is meant to be sacred- don’t hide fear behind what should be an inspiration to LIVE.

When all had been stripped away, I had to look at myself and ask, “can you look at yourself and love?” Love your flaws, faults, strength and beauty? Do you know you are full of passion, hope and talent – that you have so much to give right now? There’s a bit of irony in the question “Can you love when there’s nothing left?” The fact of the matter is, there isn’t nothing – there is everything, and that everything is contained in that person looking back in the mirror. If I learned nothing else through this break up is that I can, will, and do love. I know more now than ever what I have to offer, and for the time being, that love must be used to heal my own heart.

It’s a struggle every day to remember to love ourselves – that our well being is just as if not more important than those around us. If we can/will not love ourselves, how can we give to others? How can we love anything? I am not saying, “You need to be perfectly balanced and have all of your life in order before you can love or be loved.” That’s irrational and entirely unrealistic. What I am saying is that we need to be able to see that, even when all else falls away, there is not nothing left. We, in and of ourselves, are of infinite value.
Will you love when there is everything left?

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