I’m going to apologize right now for the fact that the next several “love” posts – indeed, I can’t even predict how many – are going to revolve around the stream of ideas generated by a single TED talk. This one, in fact:
Frankly, nothing I write about (in my opinion) will be as useful as what’s in the talk, so frankly you could just watch it instead of reading this post.
That being said, I don’t get paid to not write – wait, I usually don’t get paid to write, either – anyway, I do have some things I’d like to say about it. So if you don’t have time to watch the video now, that’s fine; I think you’ll still get something out of this.
But please, at some point, watch the presentation. There’s so much wisdom packed into that 20 minutes that it made my head spin.
Think of the Children
At one point in her talk she paints a picture for you of a child, just reaching the point of wanting to explore the world. As that child is vacillating between stepping away and looking back, Ms. Perel says we have a choice:
…if you tell them, “Hey kiddo, the world’s a great place. Go for it. There’s so much fun out there,” then they can turn away and they can experience connection and separateness at the same time. They can go off in their imagination, off in their body, off in their playfulness, all the while knowing that there’s somebody when they come back.
But if on this side there is somebody who says, “I’m worried. I’m anxious. I’m depressed. My partner hasn’t taken care of me in so long. What’s so good out there? Don’t we have everything you need together, you and I?” then there are a few little reactions that all of us can pretty much recognize. Some of us will come back, came back a long time ago, and that little child who comes back is the child who will forgo a part of himself in order not to lose the other. I will lose my freedom in order not to lose connection.
This was a part of the talk that brought tears to my eyes. I suspect I’m not the only parent who feels that way. And if you aren’t a parent, you were, at some point, a child, and you may recognize in her words what happened when you went out into the world.
Or you may simply say something along the lines of “Yes, that’s well and good for children, Gray, but we’re talking about adults here. We’re not timid little children just exploring the world, or running back in fear from some big scary.”
I probably could argue with you some about that particular logic, but for the duration of this post I’m actually willing to stipulate it. Just for now. God help you if we ever end up with some good port, a fine cigar, and a couple of hours to spend debating it…but that’s not the point right now.
Let’s say you’re right. We are adults, not children, we make our choices regardless of whether the couraging was en- or dis-.
I’m not talking about that, even if Ms. Perel was. No, I’m talking about the creation of your passion. I’m talking about your love.
Love Your Way
You can feel free to think of this in terms of romantic love. Or you can think of it as something more personal – love of a cause, love of an activity, love of yourself. I think that last one, though, may get a bit scary, so you might want to pick one of the others for starters.
Imagine that child in Ms. Perel’s thought-experiment not as you or your partner. It is the love itself. Let’s put love in the noun category, and anthropomorphize it, and realize that it is a creation of our own, just like a child. Maybe with a co-parent, maybe with a donor, maybe just all on your own, but you have created something.
And now that something wants to explore. It wants to push boundaries. It wants to grow. It wants to move beyond what it is and where it is to what and where it can be. That is the nature of life, after all.
Go ahead and imagine what that looks like for your love-child. Does it mean your love of a subject makes you want to go back to school? Your love of a cause makes you want to start a blog? Your love of someone else makes you want to reveal more of yourself to them? Those are just possibilities I came up with; what your love really wants to do is something that I can’t imagine for you, and you can only realize for yourself. Thank goodness, you don’t actually have to tell anyone else about it; this can be just between you and your love.
Because it is, really. And you have to ask yourself: that lovechild that you have created, that really is your responsibility – how are you treating it? Within that realm of choice Ms. Perel described, how are you, the “adult”, treating this growing and living thing?
I dare you to think about that, long and hard and real, instead of just clicking to the next link.
And then, just before you finally let your finger move on that button…I dare you to ask yourself “Why?“