This morning I was packing my backpack for work. I was wearing my workout gear, and packing my normal clothes, shoes, etc. It is a tiny backpack, and it was crammed full. I put my knee brace in at the top, and realized the pack would never close with it there. I spied a little empty place down the side where it fit, so I moved it to that spot, closed my pack, and was on my way. In that moment, some cloudy thoughts I’ve had lately came into focus.
I’ve always liked to arrange things so they fit and are functional. When I was in preschool I loved the little dolls that taught you how to tie laces, button up buttons, and zip up zips. I like spreading out everything that needs to be packed in a suitcase or trunk and making everything fit, just so. I love taking tiny spaces and figuring out how everything works, fits in, feels good, and is functional…hence RVs and tiny houses. By simply putting things in a different arrangement, you can make it all fit.
I think what clicked this morning, is how I do the same thing with my heart.
I’m going to tell you a story about rearranging my heart so everything fits.
Three years ago, I met a man. It was kind of funny how it happened. I had met him once in person, and hadn’t noticed him. I had been given the task of sussing out whether a friend of his was trouble or not, and I was pretty focused on the task at hand. (The friend was not trouble, by the way.) Then we were in the position of having to email each other about some business, and again, other than noting he was polite and humble, he didn’t really register. A few weeks later, before even being properly introduced, in front of a room full of people, he expressed his admiration for what we will call my gumption, and for the group keeping me and my gumption around. That caught my attention.
For the next two years we became what felt like very close friends. It is actually impossible in a blog post to explain the insanity, both personal and professional, that both of us went through during that time. For me, they were two of the best and worst years of my life. I suspect he feels the same way. I am an emotional creature and that time was a kaleidoscope of emotions, ever changing and dizzying. Even before those two years started I feel safe now in saying that I had lost myself. I had become jaded and bitter, I was suffering lots of health problems, I had lost my confidence, and felt directionless in my career. I had lost much of my kindness, thoughtfulness, and tenderness. I was playing other people’s games, and following their rules. It was not much better when we met.
One of the things I appreciated most about this man was his ability to make me feel more rooted. Our backgrounds were not the same, but they were similar enough that he felt like home. Like no one ever before, he could calm me down. His own kindness and thoughtfulness was such a shock to my system, I felt shame about how far I had drifted from myself. When I was really low, he reminded me that laugher is the best medicine. He brought me peace when I was a hot mess.
I wanted to give him anything and everything in the world he wanted or needed. Did you see how I said that? “I wanted to give him” versus “I wanted him to have”.
A love grew in my heart for this human, but it has been a two sided love. One side is so true and strong, it is like nothing I’ve ever felt. It feels like the pure essence of joy and the selfless hope that another person finds love and their complete path as a human being. Like it doesn’t matter if I never see him again, and all that matters is that he has what he needs. It is so strong some days it almost knocks me down, smiles across my face, thinking his life might be like this.
The other side has been a selfish side. A side that made me want more from him than he had to give. A side that was pouty and childish when it didn’t get what it wanted. A side that pushed away and pulled back. A side that stubbornly wouldn’t let go. A side that feels very rooted in the physical world and in ego.
For two years I asked a lot of him.
I wanted him to be very vulnerable. A level of vulnerable I couldn’t bring myself to be.
He loved me. Of that, I have no doubt. Not in the same way though. So there was pain. A pain of the ego. A pain of an inequitable exchange. A pain rooted in a selfishness I couldn’t seem to give up. A pain that grew larger with every interaction, until it got so big there wasn’t room for it any more.
So I kicked him out of my life. I walked away. When you love something, set it free. I couldn’t expect him to keep being my friend around all that pain. It was in the way. I couldn’t find a place to put it where it fit, so I had to rearrange.
Eleven months later, I feel like I made room for the pain. I found it a place to be while it got smaller. More importantly though, I made room for the love. It is still there, hasn’t waned one iota, and actually feels bigger. Perhaps because the pain got smaller, there was more room for the love.
I hope someday, if you don’t already, you all get a chance to feel this first kind of love. It is wonderful, and it is a privilege to love someone this way.
I don’t know if he will ever speak to me again. I was a real spur under his saddle, I know. I hope he does though. I want to see his big smile, hear his hearty laugh, watch the light dance in his eyes, and witness that all is well in his world. Someday.