Why is it that this culture is so obsessed with the all-fulfilling, passionate and unconditionally loving romantic partnership? So many folks who, for all sorts of (good) reasons don’t have this feel “less than.” And so many folks who ostensibly do have this feel disappointed or vaguely dissatisfied. And even those that do have truly fulfilling relationships sometimes put all their energy into that one person and miss out on the love that is all around us, in so many less-valued, but equally powerful forms.
Now I’m not saying that wanting a romantic partnership is somehow wrong or is destined to be dissatisfying. Not at all! I’m just saying that putting all your eggs in that basket may give you blinders to other forms of connection. And that nurturing and being open to all forms of love is a very good way to soothe those feelings of loneliness, isolation, meaninglessness and emptiness that so plague this nation right now. (See the tie to our last few months of blog topics??!)
“So what are these so-called ‘other’ forms of love that are so amazing and can make your loneliness vanish in a poof of wispy smoke?” you may ask, looking at me sideways, with squinty eyes and one eyebrow raised. Whoa, whoa! First of all, I never promised that loneliness vanishes in a poof of smoke! Where ya getting that from? Just suspend your disbelief for a moment and I’ll tell you what I mean…
The other day I was on the bus, and the bus driver thanked me for (gently) shooing away the car that was parked in the bus zone. He struck up a warm and appropriate conversation. I smiled and felt appreciated and a little lighter. A few stops later, a man got on who didn’t have enough money for the fare. Because I felt good, I offered to pay, but the bus driver – the guy who was so warm and chatty and kind – said, “No worries, just go on ahead.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen a CTA bus driver be quite this nice! But it made my day, and made me feel more like a part of this big, huge community we live in.
Example number two: I like to talk across the fence (or the hallway) to my neighbors. At first, we just talked about the weather. But now, we take care of each other. I have their house keys and they have mine. We socialize and have fun and listen to each other’s woes. They are from all walks of life, and I love getting to hear their stories and experiences. Even though I’m alone in some ways, someone is always a stone’s throw away. It took time to develop this, but totally worth it!
Example number three: my car wouldn’t start tonight after work. I have colleagues who I can easily ask for a jump or a ride home. I don’t feel bad asking! They are there for me, and I’m there for them. Life is a little easier. I don’t have to solve everything by my lonesome.
And then, of course, there’s always Maple (my dog). She’s a little love machine! When I feel lonely, I can snuggle and play with her and she’s always happy to see me. She also doesn’t leave her dirty clothes on the floor and doesn’t snore at night. Why would I need kids or a partner? (Just kidding J …. We’ll get to that in the April blog.)
Why are these moments of connection any “less” than romantic love? They’re all cut from the same cloth, just different pieces.
I had a direct experience of this when I was meditating. I’ll try to explain…. I was watching my thoughts. Just calmly noticing them each go by, totally random, mostly unrelated thoughts. Things like, “I’m going to go to bed early tonight. What is that noise? Don’t forget to tell Maribel about the papers. Why did I say that stupid thing to Steve the other day? I can’t wait for the cookies after dinner tonight!” And so on, and on, and on, and on. Then I noticed a very vague unpleasant feeling tone. Not related to anything obvious, very distant in the background. I realized that I was annoyed at the mundaneness of my own “self.” Judging the ordinariness of my thoughts and of this meditation. Where was nirvana, anyway? Why hadn’t my ego faded away yet? Where was the merge and oneness with the universe that I so longed for? (And that we long for in romantic relationships too….) Then, kinda like a puff of smoke out of nowhere, I felt an expansive love and openness toward the mundaneness and ordinariness of me and of everything around me. All the sudden, the car motors and pop music blaring nearby, and the gray clouds and my planning, worried, little mind were just fine, just as they were. This is nirvana. This is oneness. Everything is cut from the same cloth. There is no difference, when you get down to the molecular level, between anything.
There is no difference, down at the molecular level, between one person who loves you and is committed to you, and the basic compassion and kindness that strangers can show one another. Once you open up to that, there is relief and a sense of connection, that is available more often than you think.