Unlike the old Stephen Stills song, I actually mean LOVE the ones you’re with as the third entry in my series for the holidays about finding ease as you gather with family and friends. For the sake of making an entry in Jenny Matlock’s AlphabeThursday after being MIA for quite some time, let’s think of it as DECEMBER holidays advice since the letter this week is “D”. In the first two posts I talked about how “people are who they are and they do what they do” and about recognizing love the way it’s offered instead of waiting for it to arrive the way you wish.
Once you know who someone is and know how that person shows love you’ve come a long way. But I think the next step is to know who someone is and how s(he) loves and then decide: can you love him anyway? I began asking myself that after being involved for many years in conversations with unhappy spouses who complained incessantly about their mates—and I was around enough to know that the bitter recriminations went on daily in their households.
The complaints were not unreasonable and for a long time I agreed, “Yes, that’s bad, blah, blah…” But as I moved along this path I began to put myself in the shoes of the “bad guy” and ask myself, “What must it be like to be married to someone who tells you every day you’re not enough, you’re wrong, you’re annoying…”? (I learned the hard way not to ask that one out loud…) And I wondered what might change or how the marriages might work if the complaining party decided to just love the one she or he was with instead of wishing for the partner to be someone else. It seems to me that if you really know who your loved ones are and what they do and you know how they show love then your choice is either to accept and love the person you’ve got or to leave and try for someone who meets your expectations.
Some of my teachers feel that finding the way to love and accept your family members is the highest spiritual calling and that when you can find your way to staying in a space of love with your most difficult relationship(s) you can hold that space for everyone. I’m somewhere on the road with that lesson.
It’s helped me to see that when I’m irritated by someone it’s usually really some issue of mine that’s leading to the irritation; other people rarely make a point of trying to annoy, they just unwittingly press your hot buttons. [Unless you've got a mean one like my late aunt (see previous post) who loves to stick an ice pick in your ribs, in which case I think the “don't take anything personally” advice applies. And then try for the love. Well, you know, as best you can.]
When I hear people dreading the holidays because they’ll have to hang out with family members they don’t get along with I find myself thinking “figure out who they are and what they do and how they love and then try to just love them”. Of course my family is tiny and I don’t actually see anyone for the holidays whom I don’t see otherwise. But I have occasion to practice most of the year and I’m finding that it’s pretty easy for me to figure out who they are and what they do and to understand that a lot of criticism and unsolicited advice is their way of loving but I’m finding it harder to hold that space of lovingkindness. When I do, though, we get along much better. Just trying helps. So my unsolicited advice for the holidays is, just try to love the ones you’re with… for (in spite of?) who they are and what they do.