Want to know what I learned this week about love?
I learned to take it. The hard way.
Nothing scurrilous about it, get your minds out of the gutter, unless they weren’t there already, in which case maybe you should give it a try, you might enjoy a dip now and then.
No, it’s been a week of rather unusual challenges in my life in a few different ways, and as I’ve just recently moved, I already had plenty of challenges to deal with. There were moments that I felt as though the world was crumbling, literally, around my ears.
Then I got a message from a friend here in Seattle. It wasn’t a friend I knew especially well, but she had become aware of some of my problems, and she sent a simple, succinct message:
You’ve fallen into the land of people who want to help. All you need to do is ask.
The Hardest Thing
“All you need to do…” HA! As if that was as simple as, say, a text message or a phone call. I’m an Amurrican male, dammit, raised with a picture of John Wayne on the wall. I’m not supposed to need help, I’m supposed to have these bootstraps and just pull myself up and out by sheer sweat of my brow and force of my midichlorion count…
At least, these were the things that went through my head. Luckily, I tend to hang out with people smarter than me, and that flurry of “supposed to”‘s was neatly disposed of by a simple question: Who says so?
Good point. Another good point is that I happen to really enjoy helping other people out of a selfishly altruistic narcissism – that is, I feel better about myself if I know I’ve helped someone. Why was I going to be cruel and deny that of someone else?
Another good point was simply this: I was stuck. I needed help. I bit the bullet and did my best to accept the help that suddenly seemed to surround me, from people I didn’t know that well, people who just wanted to help because it was a part of their innate character.
What is a red-blooded American male to do in that kind of circumstance?
You try to take it with grace. You humbly say thank you, you pay attention, because this is not something that happens every day. You watch how they do what they do for you, because it is a quality that you’d like to develop in yourself. You swallow your silly bootstrap pride and let the world around you love you.
And it’s hard. There are all kinds of reasons I could list for why it’s hard, but the sneaky secret is this: that list is the reason it’s hard. Nothing else. That list is the story I keep telling myself about why I shouldn’t need this and why I’m supposed to do that and it keeps reinforcing the idea that the world is a scarce and barren place, a desert of love with occasional oases that you must scrabble towards with every fiber of your being.
Or…maybe not. Maybe it’s actually full of people who want to love. Not love you, per se, but just enjoy acts of love and kindness and altruistic narcissism.
All you have to do – well, to be fair, all I have to do – is learn how to take it. Even when it’s hard.
Try that, this weekend. See how much love you can take before your inner monitor tells you “that’s too much!”
Then take that monitor down. Hard.
At the suggestion of a couple of readers, I’m including an audio version of this post below. Like it? You can subscribe to the Love Life Practice Podcast.