Let it

Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it.”
Harvey MacKay

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Loving without Owning

How often do you see a cute puppy, purse, pair of shoes or even a car and immediately think, "I NEED that!" As humans it happens to us on a daily basis. Something in us triggers the greed switch and we must own the object we love. It's not always a bad thing. Sometimes it serves a real purpose. And it's not surprising, considering that we are bombarded with advertisement every time we turn a corner. We are conditioned to want. I think a real issue arises when that conditioning transfers to our view of the people around us.
I have a sweet friend whom I adore. She moved into my neighborhood about 5 years ago, and the first time I met her I couldn't help but think, "I want to keep her!" From accumulation of past experience, I know that it doesn't work that way with people. My friend and I spend a lot of time together for a few months, and then when that didn't work well, we saw each other rarely, and felt awkward when we did. Then one day as we talked, we realized we could adore each other intensely, see each other periodically, and still live our separate lives. We didn't have to get matching t-shirts, adopt each others hobbies, and go to yoga class together to have love and admiration between us. People aren't objects. You can't buy them and carry them around in your pocket. That's not love, it's selfish in every sense of the word. The problem is that our consumer society is conditioned to work that way. Why are divorce rates so high, and physical and emotional abuse so rampant? When you look at it simplistically, and for the sake of making my point, marriage is our only legal way of owning a person. My husband is mine, and I am his- willingly and happily in our instance.
We find someone we want to keep, and we legally bind them to us. We dress up pretty, say our vows and pledge ourselves body and soul. That commitment is a choice to be honored. Physical intimacy can become a separate control aspect. The attraction is intense and you just want. It is one of the easier ways in our human condition to exert power and ownership. But what happens when suddenly there is more than one cute puppy? Do you cast your current favorite aside? Do you start a collection?
I recently read about a man (from his own point of view) who was very much in love with his wife of more than a decade, but found himself falling in love with their close friend- wanting her. He wrote of his confusion and desperation. How could he love more than one woman?
This is what got my brain jogging. I looked internally and found situations in my own life that might compare. Do I have people in my life that would potentially threaten my most committed relationships and cause me to hurt the people I love most? It may surprise you that the answer is yes. Every one of us has them- and for the most part the threat lies not in them, but in ourselves. I think the answer lies in the way that we view them. Must we own everyone that we love? Can we let go of that need to own, and love without condition? Without requirement or qualification?
We must love a person enough to allow for their needs. We must allow them to learn and struggle. We can be there when they need us, but let go of our need for control.

Learning and experiencing this principle of unconditional love has not only brought me the most nourishing, lasting and beautiful friendships I have ever had, but has strengthened my relationship with my husband. He is secure in his place in my heart and my life. It is not a slot to fill, to be changed out at will. Our relationship exists because of the two of us.
When I realized that people were not objects there to fill the slots- best friend, husband, neighbor, acquaintance, etc. - my world expanded. The 'slots'- those places in my life, are infinite and beyond definition. As infinite as the number of people I may ever come in contact with.
We can let go of requirements, and realize that just because we don't share views or don't see each other often, it does not make that person unworthy of care. We can also have everything in common and love intensely without the obsession of ownership and without endangering the relationships that we have.
When it comes to personal relationships, the choices aren't own or shun. There is love enough.