Friday, July 13, 2012

With So Much Worry In The Way

A person can go a long long time thinking about themselves in a particular way and be mistaken. Sometimes the thoughts we think about ourselves are mean ones having to do with intelligence, body image, ability or worthiness. Other times the self-deception is harder to overcome because the thoughts are nice ones having to do with virtues possessed. For instance, I've spent the last 28 years thinking that I am a very open minded, judgement-free individual, and in many cases I am. When it comes to strangers in the world at large I'm extremely supportive. Everyone should be able to live their life in the best way they can, in the way that will inspire the greatest joy and the least amount of harm. The path of life is winding and I have all kinds of patience for people finding their own way in their own time.

This rule does not apply to my loved ones. I am invested in the way they feel to the point of holding great fear and judgement around the choices they make. I have a pattern of withdrawing my support when they are making a decision which may cause them what I perceive to be unnecessary pain or suffering. I pretend to know exactly what will happen and display great indigence over them putting themselves in a position which might cause them hurt, because it hurts me to see them hurting.

There are a lot of problems with this. First of all, it shatters the other self-delusion I've been harboring which is that I am more-or-less unconditionally loving. That nice Mother Teresa lady wisely pointed out that if you're judging people, you have no time to love them, and I dedicate so much time to judging the worthiness of my loved ones' choices it's incredible that I have any time left over at all for love. Ultimately there is love at the heart of all this activity, albeit perhaps a bit misguided. See, I love the people I love so fiercely and think so highly of them that only the best will do. I never want them to be uncomfortable or unhappy, so I attempt to control their experience of life with my worry and judgement.

Here comes another problem: suffering is important. Not forever, but for a time, in the process of learning something valuable that can only be experienced, it is vital to our "becoming." I would absolutely not be who I am today were it not for what I've suffered. With reflection, it's made me stronger, smarter and ultimately braver. Who am I to deny that to someone else? Because I lack the long term vision of a gifted psychic, I have no way of really knowing what the outcome of a choice will be. However, I have seen for myself how what started ugly ended up a beautiful blessing. The lotus emerges from the mud. There's just no way to know until you know.

The most compelling problem I see? If I'm all wrapped up in worry about the choices my loved ones make, not only do I have no time to love them, but I also don't get to enjoy them. Worry is fertile ground for resentment, anger and more judgement, and no one asked me to look after their lives for them. There is absolutely something to be said for voicing your concerns if you see someone you love making a choice that may be unhealthy or harmful. If you are going to do so, it should be done thoughtfully with great tact and care. After you do so, if they go ahead with their plan, you have some considering to do. Can you support them and not the choice? Can you love them unconditionally and enjoy them even if you don't agree? Can you gracefully admit you were wrong if things turn out well or gracefully avoid "I told you so"-ing if they don't?

If you cannot, are you prepared to let your connection go over a differing opinion? If you are not ready to stand behind the people you love through anything, it may mean losing them. These people we care about deserve our love and support, not our fear and judgement. There are cases where severing ties is healthier for one or both parties, but outside of extreme circumstances I think there may be a way to keep loving and supporting someone even if you don't love or support their choice.

My worry does nothing for the people I love and it certainly does nothing for me. We're all in the continual process of becoming and the only process that we have any business attempting to control is our own. Rather than drown in my worry, I want to learn to enjoy my loved ones as they are today. This means dropping my expectations that they change. It means dropping this sense of responsibility for other people's well being. It means getting comfortable with their discomfort and supporting them through it, rather than taking it on as my own. This is a healthy, helpful boundary to identify. Our experiences will be different and this is okay.

Imagine what sort of love could be possible without so much worry in the way. Imagine how much you could relax and enjoy your relationships. Is it worth it to try?

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