Adyashanti talks about fierce love, and Ram Das talked about fierce grace. At first I didn’t really understand what they meant. But after being a care giver for over a year, I got it. I wrote the following, about love and grace, while caring for my 102 year-old father, who had mild dementia and some physical limitations. He was the last one in my family to die, after his wife and three sons died the previous year. It was a tough year.
Love doesn’t always look like I imagined it would, or should. Everything I thought I wanted to do with my life – the better future I imagined – is coming into play here. Unmet dreams hitting the wall of Reality: this IS my life, here, now. I have never not lived my life, here, now. I have only dreamed that I wasn’t, that I ‘should be’ doing something else. Would, eventually, be doing … something else. Something that I ought to be doing, should be doing, wanted to be doing – more than what I was doing because I thought I should be doing something else. (Anyone who denies that this doesn’t describe the circus they have – at one time or another – called their own life, is lying. This is the story we were all raised to believe in: a better future.)
Love is messy. Other feelings – like anger, fear, frustration or confusion – can overshadow it. If not seen, met, and welcomed, those feelings will continue to play out in life, in some fashion. On the small stage of our personal life or the greater stage of the global life. In this setting, I’m seeing, turning towards, meeting and welcoming long buried feelings. For example, sometimes in response to something my Dad says or does, an old tape of needing to be right plays. What a joke THAT is! A need to be right with an old man who’s memory is often so short he doesn’t remember what he ate 10 minutes ago? Wow. But the tape plays for a reason: to be seen. The feelings are allowed and all that has been hidden becomes visible, or conscious. There is so much to see in such a simple, seemingly instinctual act of rebellion, “No, it’s not like you think…” Who cares about being right? If I look for her, the one who needs to be right, I only find the heartbreak underlying that need. And it’s the heartbreak – the one who feels heartbroken, unheard, unloved – that needs to be allowed to finally stand up and be seen, not the one who’s right. In the end, even the heartbroken one can not be found. Only feelings. Felt. I label them heartbreak for convenience, and because the feelings often center in the heart area, but I could just as easily call them something else. Shakespeare would agree.
Love hurts. The world I have occupied for decades is filled with heartbreak and heartbreak hurts. But only when I let my heart break. It can’t break if it’s wrapped up in the tightly wrapped package that I’ve labeled: a better future. That package hides SO much of value. It hides what IS. And what IS is ALL there is of value. No future, no matter how pretty the package appears to be, will ever compare to THIS moment. Which isn’t even really a moment, because there is no such thing as a moment, or “the present” – (those words and concepts imply time, and there is no such ‘thing’ as TIME) – there is always just THIS indescribableawarelivingbreathingmessyfiercegraceLOVEshiningperfection.
Love is soft. It bends and folds and slips and slides and seeps through the tiniest cracks. But it is more powerful than water that can wear down stone.
Love has no enemy. It rejects nothing and no one. It embraces all, always, in all ways.
Love is eternal. It became clear to me when I witnessed the intensity of my mother’s physically contracted body, hearing her use her very last breath to utter, “I LOVE YOU” with a fierceness that belied the frailty of her 80 lb body, and then seeing that body finally surrender to the inevitable. We never, ever, fail to find love. And we discover that it doesn’t always look like or manifest in ways that we expected it to, or thought it should.
Every breath we take, every beat of our hearts is an invitation to love. And that invitation has no end date. We can live a thousand lifetimes filled with misery and longing and suffering and still – it’s there. In every life, burning fiercely.
If I were to offer anyone advice, let’s say, my own wee struggling self, I’d say this: “Don’t turn away. Face what is here, now, for it’s YOUR invitation to Love. You are welcome to turn away, of course, but another invitation will come your way. All of what is, is the same invitation. So be strong, my dear, and face what IS as if you wrote the invitation yourself. Because you did.”