i’ve known my husband for over twenty years. we’ve been a couple for most of those years and married for nearly two. we’ve never lived together in the same house for longer than a month, for reasons too long to go into. suffice it to say that we will very soon and i’m looking forward to it with joy and excitement. he’s crazy talented and meticulous about his art. he’s a wonderful human being who makes me laugh and makes me think. i’m surprised every day at how funny his responses are to my inquiries, how much knowledge he possesses and decides to share about a multitude of subjects and how deeply he feels his emotions and the pain and suffering of others.
when we first began dating, i accepted him completely. our relationship was new and fresh and i was head over heels. as time went on, i began to slowly close myself off from feeling. i began to see small cracks in our ‘perfection’ as a couple. those cracks soon turned into what felt like abysses. the further away i removed myself emotionally and the more i resisted, the more desperately he held on, clinging to the ideal of us, to the us he remembered. but i was conflicted in my wants. i wanted him close in one moment and held him at arms length the next. i didn’t know what i wanted except i knew i didn’t want what the present moment had to offer. if i gave in, i was sure i would become less than what i thought myself to be. but when he would withdraw emotionally, i’d reach for him until i saw the light in his eyes, and then i would curl up and become small or enlarge myself with rage. i was thinking and feeling without awareness, without clearly seeing my actions and the reasoning behind them.
as i gave myself the gifts of inquiry that buddhism and spiritual oneness with the universe has to offer, i applied the teachings to this life, one tiny painful step at a time. i could feel the fears emerging that held me back from the joy and happiness i longed for but believed i didn’t deserve. one by one, they presented themselves for me to turn over, examine and know their origination. i asked why i was still holding onto them and their necessity in that very moment, suffering each time just as i had suffered the very first time. did i have to open to the suffering before i could transcend it? i understood, through eckhart tolle, that the “the primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but (my) thoughts about it” and what i needed to do was “separate (my thoughts) from the situation, which is always neutral, which always is as it is… unhappiness is an ego-created mental-emotional disease that has reached epidemic proportions. it is the inner equivalent of the environmental pollution of our planet” (A New Earth).
the recognition of my fears opened the doors to see and feel them for what they were. once they had been recognized, miraculously they seemed to retain very little of their power that had controlled my actions for so very long. i could then name them, thereby dividing their influence even more significantly. they were no long muddled into one agonizing mess. the most prominent fear was abandonment. i was afraid to put my trust and love in the hands of another. past experiences had taught me that whenever i had, emotional and psychological devastation ensued. my father left our family. in fact, he had never truly been a part of anything except his own destruction. my mother and i didn’t have much of a relationship due to both of our inabilities to love. every experience with men in the past had ended, often badly with guilt, pain and anger. often i would set the relationship up for failure, unconsciously, due to my fear of them leaving me. i was sure this present one would be no exception. my lover would leave as soon as i gave my love and trust up for his safe keeping.
another fear i could name was rejection. the seed was planted a century earlier that i was nothing. i was stupid, not good for anything except sex, a human being not fit to live and be counted. every action or situation i pursued toward a worthy goal, whether it be a college education, higher pay or prestigious employment, or trying to be a whole person, the fear remained constant in my gut and my thoughts that i would be ‘found out’ and rejected on all counts. i would be relegated to the lowest cast of leper. my lover would leave once he saw the real me.
the third fear i named was that if i gave our relationship a real chance, it wouldn’t work and i would have failed because i can’t do anything right. my life had been a series of failures; at love, in friendships, at jobs, and the final failure of being a good person. wasn’t the past pain and endless suffering enough? did i have to experience all that and more one more time?
being aware of the attachment to the emotions and feelings that were holding me from moving forward was the first key to unlocking my self-made, seemingly impenetrable and creatively designed pandora’s box. by recognizing, naming, accepting and investigating these fears, i could love without attachment to the outcome of my relationship with the man i loved.
to be continued. . .