I had a spectacular experience today. I saw the face of love. It’s the most beautiful face I’ve ever seen.
The year before last two friends of mine relapsed into drugs. One sent me a message, asked for help and went to rehab. One spoke to me at length about being sober and having no problems, didn’t ask for help and didn’t go to rehab. It didn’t matter how we pleaded. Eventually I stopped seeing this person, not because I wanted to, but because I knew I couldn’t see them alone anymore because they couldn’t be trusted alone and because I had so much going on and couldn’t keep putting myself in a position where I had nightmares about other people’s lives. And that’s what I used to do. I’d wake up in a sweat dreaming about overdoses.
There was also a part of me that felt I failed. I failed to get them help. I failed to make them realize they needed help. I failed to get hold of the resources we needed to get them help. I felt I wasn’t good enough. In fact, that year I felt I didn’t bring enough to anyone, because everyone was struggling. I was overwhelmed with disasters in every direction and it was more than I could handle.
I often thought myself unwanted growing up and I tried to compensate by bringing something I knew was wanted. I brought my skills and my talents. So when I can’t bring that I sometimes don’t show up at all. That year when everything fell apart I felt so inadequate, so “not good enough” that all these old wounds started bleeding, without me even realizing it. I just retracted into myself, as I often do.
Today I bumped into my friend when visiting another friend, Tony who has cancer, and we laughed about old times. I also told them I want to see them. I want to speak to them.
As I asked them to have coffee with me old memories of having coffee with them flashed through my mind – one time them telling me their life story which is the most heartbreaking story I ever heard, I almost puked; another time me trying to convince them to see the light and move away from abuse. Mingled with the memories another image popped up; an image of me once again trying to make them see something. To convince them to find happiness.
With that image came fear and despair – fear I’d fail; fear I’d turn into some preacher; fear for them and the path they’re on. And that’s when something hit me; this thought telling me I love them smashed the other images to pieces and my fear melted away. I was reminded that the only thing I owe anyone in any kind of relationship is to love them, not save them. I can’t. It’s not up to me. I can tell stories about other people; about myself and my journey. I can do all of that, but it’s not my job to change them. All I owe the people in my life that I love, is love. And I can give that, even if I can’t give anything else.
Naturally, there are other elements to a relationship and if someone is hurting themselves you are likely to step in and get them help, but you can only do so much. By the end of the day you have to accept them for who they are and where they are at on their journey. You may not even be able to be too close to them if they are acting destructively, but you can love them.
As this came to me there was also a huge sense of acceptance – to love someone regardless of how they choose to live their life. For me that is pretty big as I was once a control freak who believed success and therefore love was granted if you perform well. As mentioned: skills and talents. In fact, one of my biggest fears growing up was drugs. I thought becoming an addict was as low as you could go; totally losing control of yourself. And if you don’t like yourself very much and fail, then you fail again to prove just how shitty you are for having failed in the first place and that means if you were to take drugs, chances are you wouldn’t stop. As I didn’t like myself very much growing up I stayed away from drugs like the plague.
I can’t cure Tony of his cancer either and for a period it really pained me that I didn’t have the funds to do something to change his life, his food (or lack thereof), his worries. It made me sick of myself as I felt someone that ill should be a bigger priority than some of my other projects.
You can help Tony here through Indiegogo/Generosity.
I think sometimes my own fear that I can’t do enough and be enough means I avoid something. That feeling of helplessness and an ability to suffer on the behalf of others make me avoid it altogether. I haven’t been to see Tony for a while – I saw him today, because I realized he wants to see me. Even if I can’t bring miracles. Even if I can’t bring skills. Even if I don’t always know what to say.
Sometimes I avoid calling my grandma, because I can’t cure her loneliness and I feel guilty because I don’t live in Sweden. After mom died my grandparents on both sides helped raise us. And I feel I owe it to her to bring her the happiness she brought me. The safety, the stability that I now try to bring to kids here. But whilst I can give her my love, I can’t give her my life.
Today I simply saw love. I saw how you love people even when they don’t love themselves. I saw how you love the imperfect. I saw what it means to people that you love them. I saw how I’ve sometimes avoided giving love as I felt that love alone wasn’t enough. That I had to do and be something more. I saw how I often haven’t loved myself. I saw love for myself.
I saw love in a torn person’s face and that made me see love everywhere.
Image source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/507780926708002855/