As I turned 40 on Friday, the questions I was asking myself were “Have I loved enough? Have I given enough? Have I dared enough?”. (The enough here is not meant as some kind of measurement constructed to compare myself with some ideal or others and bring competitiveness into the picture but rather as a reference to the potential). Not surprisingly, I came to the conclusion that I was able and willing to give, love and dare more.
It’s been quite an adventure loving others but I had to admit to myself that I had yet a lot to learn about giving myself to love wholeheartedly. The love I was offering to my partners and close friends often have been tinted with the desire for them to be a certain way or do specific things, if only for a few minutes. While this was something I honestly believed in earlier, it was a shock for me to realise this has not been how I have been living the loving.
In “Everyday Zen” Joko Beck makes a radical statement: relationships don’t work. In fact, it is the very fact that we want something to work that makes relationships unsatisfactory. “We all want something from the people we are in relationship to. None of us can say that we don’t want something from those we are in relationship to. And even if we avoid relationships that’s another way of wanting something. So relationships just don’t work.”
The only thing that works, according to her, “(if we really practice) is a desire not to have something for myself but to support all life, including individual relationships.” When someone loves/supports someone, there is no book-keeping going on when we try to balance the sheet: I gave this much and now I want something back (be it about preparing meals, doing the dishes or giving emotional support and time). So what does it mean to love/support others on the moment-to-moment basis, choosing love again and again? Loving the person because I want to be with them and not because I want them to be someone else or do something else.
Joko Beck: “To truly support somebody means that you give them everything and expect nothing. You might give them your time, your work, your money, anything. “You need it. I’ll give it to you”. Love expects nothing.”
Quite a different perspective on love from the one we often see in films, books and definately not the one shared by the cultures I have been living in, which are driven by the concern that we cannot get enough of something. We cannot get enough of good food, trendy clothes and gadgets, wise books, cool hobbies, time. Love. We actually start believing someone actually can give us love while love can only exist within ourselves, this is something we feel.
For the moment it might seem like I am doubting my own feelings, often returning to the question, “Do I love him/her or do I want them to be someone else?” but this is the only way I know that can wake me up from the confusion. If I am not getting enough love, can it be that I am not feeling enough love, not choosing love but instead balancing the sheets too much?