The hardest thing about loving someone is having to live with their decisions, particularly when they take paths that you would not advise or choose, leaving you disappointed, alienated and unwilling to tolerate more. I don’t mean people who hurt you or make excuses. I mean people who deserve your loyalty, but with whom you also lose patience or wish to be freed of or pointlessly hope you can change.
Do you leave or stay? Argue or give in? Force them to follow your direction, and lose their uniqueness, agency and independence even though you get your way? Do you focus on their failure to fulfill your needs or focus on their need for you to be there, accepting them for the honest-to-goodness souls they are, as much as they are imperfect and as much as it feels easier to walk away?
Relationships, whether with parents, children, siblings, friends or partners, make us all ask these questions, for those we love often drive us completely mad or lose our respect, make themselves burdens or unintentionally hurt our feelings, or stumble along, annoyingly, not being like us and not protecting us enough from their vulnerabilities, egos, and their long, uneven road.
In such moments, I wonder if and when to set boundaries, and what kind. Or, committed to care for another, how much do you sacrifice to share your capability and your power? What about your desires? What about the principles by which you declared you would live?
How much can love ask us to give?
Driving home after work, with Zi cocooned in the car, I wonder what each moment’s lesson is. How to honour our differences? How best to support the unyielding freedom fighters in our midst? How to be feminist and woman when there is no pure place for resistance?
I endlessly discover the need to learn more patience. Just when I think I know exactly the right analyses and goals, it turns out that if I waited a little longer, an insight and appreciation I needed to be a better person appears. Nothing teaches humility like realizing you were not actually being your best self despite righteous certainty, and someone was loving you anyway. You are gratefully relieved they let you walk your own path, without threatening repercussions or anger, enabling you to grow, so you could bluster about a little more gently.
I’m constantly realizing I must be more kind. Surely, patience and kindness go together, because one slows down your breath enough for you to notice the god in the other person, their breath connected like yours to their emotions, to their short time on the planet, to the aspirations and defeats that fill their spirit and their days. Just when I think I’ve figured out how to be responsible for my actions, I discover I can cause hurt, and in the darkness of regret, pray everyone knows we all make mistakes.
Kindness goes beyond clearly demarcated deeds. It is in seeing that none of us wants to fail or be abandoned, and every one of us wants to be able to count on those we love, when no one else knows our dreams or fears, or will care for our diminished sense of self. When disagreement, disconnection and resentment are options, kindness is in somehow being present with peace in your heart.
The hardest thing about loving someone is recognizing that frustration and compassion combine to challenge plans and expectations for how things should be. Today’s lesson is to learn to care less selfishly just as it is to learn to love more carefully.