I woke very early this morning, minutes after 4:00 am. It’s a work morning, so making any effort to sleep longer isn’t likely to be very satisfying. I get up, and linger in the shower, while I take the chill off the apartment by pre-heating the oven. I’m up early enough for a proper breakfast. No idea what I’ll make, or whether it will actually require the oven. It’s definitely autumn, now; I am no longer making any effort to cool off the apartment. I have been here in my wee place long enough for the seasons to change. 🙂

Enough.

Enough.

There is very little drama in this experience. I sip my coffee and let myself wonder what ever kept me in any abusive relationship, ever, in the first place? Love? No – because that sort of treatment doesn’t qualify as being loved, and doesn’t tend to produce love as a reaction. I learned that the hard way. Fear of being solo, of being unqualified to adult all alone? Could be, at least the first time. I was very young when I married my first husband, and mostly did so because I earnestly wanted to move out of the barracks and ‘didn’t know how’ otherwise…and… it seemed expected, culturally, that I would marry. Now that, right there? That’s a shitty reason to get married, or be in a relationship of any other sort. Loneliness? I suppose loneliness is an important reason people may stay in an abusive relationship – loneliness sucks that much, sometimes – so much that self-care and good decision-making are undermined in favor of the mere idea of love.

Be love.

Be love.

Living alone? Not so scary, honestly. By far better than living with chronic mistreatment, neglect, disrespect, deceit, evasion, misdirection, or physical, emotional, or financial abuse. Do I get lonely? Sure. I’m human, and I miss touch, and the everyday intimacy and connection of living with someone I love dearly – but I’ve got to be honest, I’ve only approximated that experience in most relationships, generally very short-lived during the newest weeks of the relationship, and with only the most superficial level of connection, and very little real intimacy – because I didn’t have well-developed skills, practices, or understanding of what relationships take to build and maintain in the first place. My own ignorance and lack of personal development definitely limited my ability to forge the bonds I didn’t know I was looking for in the first place. Now I have the skills, the desire, the partnership – but we are separated, day-to-day, by 14 miles that sometimes feel infinite. Now… I am also learning that however common love can be, when we live from a loving place, a love like the one I share with my traveling partner is on another order of magnitude entirely, and it is not affected by the distance between us, even in lonely moments, when I yearn to be near him.

"You Always Have My Heart"

“You Always Have My Heart”

I sip my coffee and think about love, and loving. Is there some magic, mystical secret to this powerful love we share? I suspect not. It’s quite probably part chemistry, but I feel fairly certain that the larger portion of it is simply that we treat each other truly well. The Big 5 are pretty consistently in play (respect, consideration, reciprocity, openness, and compassion). We’re human, there are moments that challenge us now and then, but day-to-day, moment-to-moment, I can count on my traveling partner to treat me well, to support my growth, to encourage me, to listen deeply, and to be connected and really with me when we are together, and he can count on those things from me. It’s quite lovely, and it’s all in spite of being quite human (the both of us), with our own baggage, our own chaos and damage, and our own view of the world.

"Cherry Blossoms" 12" x 16" acrylic on canvas 2011

“Cherry Blossoms” 12″ x 16″ acrylic on canvas 2011

There are other reasons to build a relationship than for love, even marriage is not always built on love. Even the most practical, logistical, or political basis for a long-term relationship benefits from The Big 5, and suffers without them. I think so, anyway. I think a lot about treating people well, and what that means, and how I get there. How we treat people changes us. What we endure in our relationships, and the treatment we receive at the hands of loved ones, changes us. We become what we practice. When we treat someone poorly, however valued we may say they are to us, we change them over time; the damage piles up and changes how we are treated in return. Living alone, I have only one person to count on to treat me well day-to-day – and I’m still learning a lot about taking care of me, and treating myself truly well…but I’ve got a lot less drama while I do, and I’m not having to expend precious resources, or waste valuable time, healing fresh wounds.

"Communion" 24" x 36" acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow. 2011

“Communion” 24″ x 36″ acrylic on canvas w/ceramic and glow. 2011

I know you want to be treated well. I think everyone probably does (in the way they define that, themselves). This morning, I’m not thinking as much about how I want to be treated – I’m thinking about how I treat others. How about you? Are you treating your loved ones truly well day-to-day, or do you let your temper get the better of you and say vile things you regret later, then expect people around you to ‘stop taking things so personally’ or ‘grow a thicker skin’? Maybe you justify the terrible hurts you deliver with your words by rationalizing the truth of them, or the necessity of hearing them said, or because you are ‘right’? Do you excuse your own bad behavior by saying it’s your hormones, or you had a rough day, or you hurt or don’t feel well? Are you aware you are still causing someone you love pain, and maybe even tearing down something you built that was once beautiful? Treating someone you love poorly is like spraying political graffiti on a precious work of art, or painting over a mural, or… well… it’s actually just not okay, and is entirely unpleasant, and doesn’t show any hint of love. Just saying. Even a heartfelt apology does not make the words unsaid, or take away the experience of being hurt – and no one forgets those things, not really. In a good relationship, it’s simply that the good moments outweigh the difficult ones a lot.

"Contemplation" 11" x 14" acrylic on canvas 2012

“Contemplation” 11″ x 14″ acrylic on canvas 2012

I am humbled by the wonder in the realization that I am good at love. (I wasn’t always, I’ve worked to get to this place.) This is a powerful place to be in life. Practice matters, even on this, and it isn’t the bit about being loved that needs the practice, generally. Loving isn’t just a word – it’s a verb, and one that requires quite a lot of things, like kindness, and deep listening, and attentiveness, and authenticity, and vulnerability, and compassion, and patience, and surrender, and tenderness, and being comfortably wrong as easily as being right, and laughing, and touching, and sharing experiences, and eye contact. I enjoy how many verbs there are from which to choose to show love. Practicing them is both entirely necessary, and highly rewarding… I mean… If you want to love, and be loved in return. Some people only want to be loved (or maybe just worshiped, adored, or served); it’s much less work, but eventually love dies when it isn’t nurtured.

p.s. I love you.

p.s. I love you.

Today is a good day to love well, and to deliver on the promises made by love. Today is a good day to treat every heart well, not just my own. Today is a good day to make eye contact, to be kind, and to really listen when someone is talking. Today is a good day to practicing loving. The world could use a little more love, and we become what we practice.