Humans and love

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I want to write about love. The urge sits in my chest like the ground presses into the earth. Heavy, strong and pulling down as though it was meant to be. I get saturated with words that catch pieces of love, grabbing them from the air, here a little there a little as if greedy for something more concrete and shaped. But the picture of love emerges only as the pieces come together, only as experience arrives at my door. Love makes sense the more the pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

But how can we talk about love without talking about pain? Read More

The right way to make assumptions about other people

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Is to not do it. Don’t go there. Just don’t.

There is this thing we human beings do. And we do it well – we assume we know people better than they know themselves. Not being the other person does come with a privilege – we can stand across them and see their blind spots much more vividly than they can. This, however, does not make us experts on who they are.

People are not blank pages that we arrive to write on with our fluffy fountain pens. They come with a lot of intricate stories tied to their past. They come with their own bags of experiences and awareness of the muddy paths they have trod. People come with themselves. And this is what they offer to us.

But in its organic form it is quite perplexing for us mostly because where on earth do we fit these people who are so different from us and so imperfect? Which cupboard in our mind could we shelve them?

It is sometimes uncomfortable to find spaces within us for people to occupy just as they are. And so we pick up hammers and start chipping away at the self they present to us until we can shave off all the excess bits that don’t agree with us. And so we construct our own version of who and why they are and the reasons they act the way they do.

There are different kinds of assumptions. There is the kind we do when we have never met the person before but because of all the whispers we have heard in the hallways we come to a conclusion about this person. Then there is the kind we do with people we know where instead of clarifying facts with them we simply find it easier to fill in the blanks ourselves.

Both types are hideous. The latter perhaps is more dangerous in the big and small squeezes of poisons it brings into our relationships.

Assumptions give us the power to hurt others by constructing them in a way that may not be entirely accurate or true. They can cause pain and misunderstandings because to assume something about someone is essentially to impute motives particularly to what they do and what they are. It is saying I know who you are regardless of what you say to me. It is at the core, misrepresenting and twisting a person’s self.

Assumptions reveal a failing in how we listen. Are we truly listening to what the other person is saying or are we hearing what we want to hear? Are we asking for clarification when we don’t understand or are we going to seek that clarity by talking to someone else about that person?

Make no mistake, our minds will make short cuts that help us make judgements about situations in life; and we are built to discern people and the fruits they produce. Making assumptions is different. It is an active speculation which sometimes involves sitting around a table with coffee and dissecting other human beings. I know this can’t be a lovely thing because I get a sickening feeling at the thought of being a subject for discussion on the table when I am not there to speak on my own behalf.

It’s easy to make assumptions, I know. We seem to come hard wired for it. Doing the opposite is much harder. It demands that we be brave and ask people the deep stuff; it is looking someone in the eye and asking that question that may fill the gap in our perception of them. It means we listen to what they have to say for themselves, holding the pieces of themselves they offer to us with grace and compassion. It requires us to embrace a kind of raw, crazy love that looks for the good in people first and wraps their brokenness in tender swaddles that heal not bruise.

I think we can align ourselves in the path of this kind of love. To become hard wired for it.

While it is true that what other people think of us is none of our business, it is also true that what we think of others has the power to harm their reputation, their integrity and their core. Perhaps it starts here, with the intention and commitment to do right by each other in our thoughts and in our attitudes.

                                                                                  

The power in our hands

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We should take a moment. And be silent. For the beginning of a new year. For the gratitude we must be feeling. For the chance to be alive, still. And for the power we have.

The power to love.

The power to give.

And this other power that has me sitting up in my chair and paying attention;

The power to break other people’s hearts.

Yes. It is as dramatic as it sounds. And it is as true as it is dramatic.

We walk into relationships all the time. This should never be a blind walk. Our eyes should be wide open. Our ears perched up. Our hearts naked and soft. Ready, steady, go.

I think we forget.

We forget that we are having relationships with other people. Real people. Not machines, not aliens. People just like us. Who at the core of them want the very same we do; to be loved, and to belong.

Society doesn’t seem to help us with this. The air waves are saturated with messages of love as personal gratification; looking after one’s own heart; making sure you hold back something for yourself. There is some wisdom in this, sure. But believe me it’s only a tiny bit. It is so tiny it wouldn’t even save a small city.

We have turned love into something that only works for us. And the moment it fails in this self-serving mission, it ceases to be love. We have turned love into armour that protects our heart, and from our vantage point, leaving the other person’s heart exposed.

But love is…love is…

Love Is.

It is not armour.

That we can hide behind. Love by nature is open. Unfettered. And without fear. Love is careful in the holding of another heart. It cares about the other heart in the relationship. The moment you choose to love is the moment you become custodian of another person’s heart.

There is responsibility in this. There is. No matter how many times the world tries to convince us that we are only responsible for ourselves. As good as that sounds it doesn’t actually work like that on the ground.

I am because you are.

We are interconnected in a way we will never fully understand. But we have to try. So we can get it right this time round.

Responsibility is power.

Just notice. Notice how relationships fizzle and crinkle when there is no care. No nourishment. No attention. No love. Notice. Notice the long-lasting pain when a heart is broken.

This is not about having perfect relationships that have no hurt or pain. No, no, no. that is unrealistic.

This is about you and I facing the fact that the moment we decide to love someone else, anybody else other than ourselves – friend, family, lover, and child – we receive the power to break their hearts. Anytime.

Let that sink in for a minute.

No, this is not about perfection. This is about having real relationships that recognise the choices we have to make within them; that honour the power invested in each of us to safeguard, protect, love and learn to love each other’s hearts.

You are not dispensable.

I am not dispensable.

People are not dispensable.

This is why love is important. This is why this matters.

And the day we carve that onto our skins. And onto our hearts. Is the day we move a step closer to being properly human.

For the things & times that don’t make sense

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There is a map.

No…actually, there is no map. For life. For you. For me. Not one that explains everything in detail. Like how the everyday should unfold. How people should behave in any given moment. This terrain, for each of us, is uncharted. Un-navigated. Its surface gets made as we go along.

And for those of us whose minds are elaborate patterns and tapestries of connections, this is one place where life fails us. And the why question walks into our front yard and pitches a tent. And for certain times & things, it looms larger than life itself. It invades the space where we eat, breathe and sleep.

Why is a powerful question.

When it is answered it can change the world and the lives of those it touches. Unanswered, it takes away life. Sometimes quick. Sometimes slow. It snuffs out the energy to try just more time.

There are two things that never made sense to me;

Unrequited love and death.

Both signify loss. The former is a mystery of the heart – this muscle that won’t often do what we want it to do.

But the latter is what’s on my mind.

When my father died 4 years ago, I thought the world would stop and mourn with me. I don’t know where this idea came from but there was something heartbreaking when it didn’t happen. A kind of betrayal. I expected a moment’s silence. Everything quiet. To honour the man he was.

Yeah, yeah. I know you might be thinking this is silly and naïve. And maybe you are right. But a mind in loss often loses grip on reality and expects this. Or rather deeply craves this. A kind of acknowledgement of the pain. The loss. The fleshly wound of deep hurt. Something much more than the standard, often unfeeling  “I’m sorry for your loss.”

This is one of those moments the why question walks from your front yard, enters your house and stares you right in the face. Almost daring you to challenge it.

So what should we actually do when things don’t make sense?

We wait.

We reach out for support.

We ask for love.

Love is a phenomenal thing. It has the capacity to cover the spaces of uncertainty. It holds one until the clarity comes. Until the answers show up. Don’t ask me how it does this because I don’t know. I just know that it does. It held me until I woke up one day and the pain of Dad’s loss was no longer a fiery dagger piercing my heart. But a gentle throbbing of awareness that will stay forever.

Loss shifts the map. Yes, the one that doesn’t exist. Sometimes like an earthquake re-aligning the surface of our ground. And to get through the shifting, we need to know that we are loved. With a powerful love. A love more powerful than anything in the world. A love more powerful than our greatest fear. A love more powerful than death itself.

So, here is my preposition, from one human to another.

Be a part of that love for someone else in their time of senselessness.

Be that love.

Be that support.

Don’t be hardened. Be soft. Feel. Gather that person’s “whys” and hold them. Simply hold them. You don’t have to answer. Just listen.

It’s only ever enough to love for those times when things don’t make sense.

And then when the time comes the One who ordained life will show up and take care of the rest.

It doesn’t matter. Every death we hear of. See. Glance. Should make us stop. In our minds and in our hearts. To offer silent prayers for the loss of another. At first I thought this is ridiculous because it would mean that we would be in a perpetual stand still because people are dying almost every second. That’s one way to look at it.

But no, it will mean we will be in perpetual awe of the importance and fragility of human life. That we will honour and respect. That we will acknowledge.

And to be properly human, we have to see the ways we can be better for each other. And acknowledging other people’s loss & pain. Sitting with it. And loving them through it. Is one such way. It is a better way.

On friendship

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In the spirit of being properly human, I’m showing up on the page today to completely bare myself. Sometimes I will write these kinds of posts. They may be uncomfortable for you but they are essential for me. For the work that I do and for how I show up in the world. Your job? Don’t judge. Practice empathy. Reflect.

I suck at friendships. I’m just putting it out there.

I love too much. Fiercely. Like a monster even. I am too selfish, fundamentally & deeply so. My kind of selfishness is the kind that wants all of the person. To myself. & to myself alone. I want to possess the person. I want to own. All their parts inside of me. All their heart, mine. I don’t want to share them. No. Not at all. I get jealous. The emotions rumble through me, passing like a thunderstorm, wave after wave after wave until I summon the courage to confront them.

When I step back and look at it from outside my body, I feel a sense of loss & sadness & pain & pity. I want to gather the self into my arms and hold her until her skin is moulded to mine & our hearts beat as one.

You see, all that stuff going on in my heart as I swim in that confused state of being is merely a cry for help;

“Please love me. See me. Value me. Walk into my life. Oh, please, please love me. Fiercely, like a monster even”

Life is forcing me to say goodbye at the moment. To friends. Some of this friend I have come to love more than my being. And goodbye is the last thing I want to say.

In the midst of all the heaviness & my own failure as a friend, I’m compelled to consider, to face head on, the sacredness of friendship. The all-consuming profoundness of it.

To be a true friend you have to be incredibly vulnerable. You have to be willing to have your heart broken. And sometimes you have to love expecting nothing in return.

This flies in the face of what we hear every day – ask for what you want, your rights, your needs, yours, yours, yours…it’s all about us.

We think it is the culture and the times that make us selfish but it is actually our own selves. We produce the selfishness that makes the culture that compels us to be selfish yet. It is a dirty web we help create.

True friendship flies in the face of culture. It goes back to the core. The basic of being a human being —connection— that thing, that essence that is present between people when they feel seen, heard & valued in all their parts, when there is no judgement over what they give & receive in the relationship, and they feel nourished & sustained & strengthened by the friendship.

True friendship is about being fully & wholly human – magnifying the good & working on the bad. A true friendship allows you to work through the parts of you that are imperfect, difficult & painful within the protective enclave of the friendship. She will hold your hand. She will feel with you. She will grow with you.

True friendship is showing your heart, letting it be seen by the other. And the other desiring to see it while showing hers.

This stuff means incredible vulnerability. And courage & compassion… It means putting yourself on the line.

Here is what I know now;

People don’t want to be owned or possessed. They want to be loved. To smithereens. So my jealousy reminds me of my need for love but it also calls me up on my responsibility – I need to learn to share people. How? By suspending expectation when it needs to be suspended. In those moments it stops being about us. And how we feel. It is about the other person. And what they need.

When we do this right, we come to this important point of truth that the world will try very hard not to tell you:

Friends who actively know and have learned how to love each other will love each other forever.

Because the truest of friendship is a choice. It is a scared space. You can’t bull doze your way in or stealthy sneak in. You have to enter through the front door, with courage, compassion, passion & sobriety. Because what is done in this space shapes the kinds of human beings we become.

I have much work to do on this. I don’t have it figured out. And I have no answers for you. I can only show you my heart. And my commitment to do this better.

Join me.

The man in my thoughts

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I was watching a baby.

He was so small. His little limbs, nose, & feet all delicate & sweet. His mother cradled him like he was the most precious thing that has ever existed. The picture deeply moved something inside of me. Maybe it was the motherly instincts or maybe it was this craving I sometimes get to carry a child of the man I love in my womb…I don’t know, but it made me settle back into my seat & in the midst of the stressful hustle & bustle of the airport I found a nook of peace.

The little one screamed with unhappiness, twisting his body this way & that way. I wondered what was troubling him. I wondered whether his mama knew.

Then my mind wandered off & carried him along with it. I wondered what kind of man he would grow to become; that small little heaving chest into that of a man – strong, sturdy & a comfort for a woman.

Men are scarce. Good men.

Or maybe they have just gone hiding. Men of character; men of stature. Men who can look you in the eye & tell you what it’s like to be a man; men who can tell you how God is a mighty warrior in their lives & how together with Him they want to love a woman in ways that will get under her skin & bring her to her knees; men who can show you the imprints of their hearts.

I watch this little man & I pray he grows to embody all the qualities of a man who is strong in all the ways strength is needed from a man, a man not intimidated by his role in the world.

I smile…maybe he will be an astronaut, or a pilot, an engineer & maybe even an architect. But that will pale in comparison to what he will build with his heart, mind & spirit – the stuff that will come pouring out of him, evident in the things he will say & do, in the way he loves.

I hope he will forever be grateful to his mama, who holds him now so tenderly – that he will remember her when he is grown, to hold her when she needs him to.

I hope he has faithful friends who will not lead him astray but instead have his back – challenging him to be a better version of himself.

I hope he treats all women with honour. Ah, how precious…for to learn respect for something as beautiful as woman is to cultivate all virtue – sacrifice, self-control, nobility & love. A man with these beautiful things out-pouring from his fingertips is a man indeed – one worthy of unswerving loyalty from all he brings into his camp.

I hoped this little one would grow up to be that man.

That he would beautifully morph into this man in my thoughts who I know nothing about except the most important – that he is a good man. & we desperately need good men. & good women.

I willed the little one to hush, concentrating with all my might, pushing all my tender affection his way. As his mama flung him over her shoulder, he met my eyes & stared. I held my breath & smiled. I whispered a prayer for him.  My work here was done.

This man in my thoughts exists. I know this to be true. & this little man will be a good man one day.

Every bit of together

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It counts. In all the corners of our being, growing from there & unfolding into one piece of human fabric; bone of bone & flesh of flesh. Attached in the all the ways important.

Sometimes, you see it green & I see it red; it gets complicated. The together we share is shaken. You storm out leaving the door to my heart open & bleeding. I’m angry so I slam the door when you return. in your face. It’s too hard to talk; it’s too hard to be vulnerable; to say, I’m sorry or I don’t know how to love you, show me. I want to learn. Instead, we say we used to be friends but the together we shared broke. & so we moved on. This is life, they say. This is sad, I say.

For life is short. truly short. A day ago, I was a little girl with pony tail braids running through the pastures behind our house, without a care in the world. I could name what hurt me & I giggled when my daddy threw me in the air & mama made blowing sounds on my tummy. I was easy to love.

Today, I am a woman with a heart that beats at a thousand miles per minute. Humming & pounding & breathing in & out passion, love, hope, need, longing & all the stuff that sit at the core of me. sometimes full & incredibly blissful with the abundance pouring into my lap. & sometimes, empty, lonely & broken, clutching my heart into my chest, desperate to give it away, please sir, will you love my heart? I’m still easy to love, I promise. Please sir”

But togetherness is not as easy as it sounds or looks. No matter how hard we try to make it so & dress it up in blog posts & facebook photographs. We leave out the bits that are raw; the bits where we cry ourselves to sleep because we hurt; the bits where we are giving each other the silent treatment because we don’t know how to voice the pain that is tumbling within us; the bits where we just want to know, like really, really know that we matter to someone. These bits of together are hard to capture or treasure & yet when done right they are the bits that together stands on. Not the sounds we make when we retell only the good bits of the story or the visions we send forth into the world.

Here is my heart, come closer & see, there is no guessing here, I want to say to every person who wants to hitch their togetherness with mine. I am not the most perfect creature you will ever come across, honey – I struggle with contentment & sometimes I can’t look my own beauty in the face. But the whole earth will give you no one as genuine. I am as raw as they come, right from the very ground. Even in my imperfection, my love is pretty damn good.

I want to show them my scars – the ones I gave myself because I loved without reserve; because I dared to cut myself open. it was scary. It was risky. But it was the only option worth the woman I have become.

I want to show them my bruises. The ones other people’s togetherness have left on me; the imprints of the misunderstandings, the working it out & the glorious love born out of those spaces; out of that vulnerability.

& then I want to show them my soul. So pretty & colourful, raw & intense, heavy & thick, sexy & passionate – everything lined up from A to Z. take your pick.

But instead, I tremble as I hand you the best & worst version of myself all wrapped up together, like two lovers making the sweetest love possible. To get to my heart, scars, bruises & soul you have to go through me. hook yourself into me. Every bit of togetherness we have counts. To get to your heart, scars, bruises & soul, I have to go through you. hook myself into you. Every bit of togetherness we have counts.

The in-betweens of togetherness have to be nourished too. Those moments when you want to un-cling perfect fingers from mine. When you want to stare at the walls all day & see nothing else but your shadow. Togetherness works because two separate beings come together, full & complete in their own way.  They create one new, beautiful thing. Without separateness, there can be no together. & so we learn to give loved ones space for growth & replenishment. For my soul to matter to you, it has to matter to me too.

I don’t know who decided to hitch fear to together. They should have talked to me first. Something so beautiful became something so poisoned. & so the world demands that we walk around with heavy armour protecting ourselves from all those selfish people who only want to keep their hearts to themselves; they don’t want to share. they don’t want to share themselves. they don’t want to get hurt. who can blame them? we don’t want to get hurt either. So, who is going to make the first step?

I’ll just sit here & wait…

Hurt will be present in together. always. Because wherever people are taking off their heart’s clothes, there will be nakedness & hurt & shame. Our greatest fear in many of our relationships is getting hurt, getting broken. I’m scared too. But logically the only fear we should tolerate is the fear of hurting & breaking others. If we all started our race from that point, we would all be loving each other like the days were made out of gold; we would be loving each other like superstars. We would be a little more vulnerable, a little more open.

Nobody said together would be easy.  Nobody said it didn’t require work. Nobody said it didn’t require your showing up with your knees steeped into the business of getting it right. This togetherness stuff is crazy hard but it’s crazy beautiful too. The kind of beauty that knocks the air right out of your lungs.  This is what together does – it brings beauty into our lives.

And that counts. Every single bit of it.