Exactly 10 years ago today, I discovered the meaning of an entire universe conspiring to bring two people together.
It’s a long story but in short, I was travelling, I followed an illy coffee sign into a bar, I ordered a coffee and then took a liking to a retro Campari ashtray on my table. I pretended to smoke a cigarette as I tried to steal the ashtray and then erupted into a coughing fit causing the button on my jeans to pop off and roll all the way down the stairs. I tried to retrieve the button and then bumped into the man who I now share my life with. There’s no doubt in my mind that people and situations come into our life exactly when they are meant to. Just imagine if one small event did not take place then the moment we met would never have occurred. For example; if I hadn’t been introduced to illy coffee and Campari by my Italian friend Rosa, if my friend Wendy had not booked the bus trip from Venice to Switzerland for me (with a stopover in Innsbruck that I had no idea about- I really should have read the itinerary she sent me) if the guy all the way across the other side of the world in Preston, Melbourne Australia, actually repaired the button on my jeans properly as he was supposed to.
Obviously I’m telling the story from a very non-romantic point of view. Use the same facts and add a dreamy tone, you have yourself a fairy tale love story. I didn’t choose to write about it in that way because to me, that is not LOVE, it’s just a story dressed up in fancy words. Words that feed our human habit of wanting and longing for something. Instead of ‘forever wanting’ what if we simply aimed to find peace with where we are, with what we have and allow life to unfold more naturally, as it did that night for me and for him. Neither of us should have been at that bar on that particular night but for reasons unknown and situations unplanned, we were.
I purposely did not write about finding the greatest LOVE of all time in one of the most romantic ‘looking’ places on earth because that would be misleading. I didn’t find LOVE that night. I found him. Two average people who simply met and chose to share with one another some of the LOVE that already existed within them. I wasn’t saved from an imagined misery of being without a partner brought upon by popular culture perspective. I certainly wasn’t rescued by a man, finally finding the LOVE of my life. The LOVE of my life is life itself because without a life what’s there to LOVE anyway? A relationship does not fulfil our need for LOVE because LOVE does not need, it simply exists.
Our understanding of LOVE depends on the lens with which we choose to see through. I can’t help but think that during this physical human experience, our own inner lens have been blurred by images of what we think LOVE and other things in life should look like. We dress up the idea of some grand, life-changing moment and wait for an exclusive event to arrive, which never does and then with disappointment and often bitterness in our hearts, we surrender to the misery of daily life. There’s nothing wrong with wanting things and of course keeping our eye on our goals and the bigger picture, but we must keep in mind that life is mostly a series of small events and gratitude for all of it, not some of it, is key to long lasting happiness and LOVE.
Teaching our children an animated and glorified version of LOVE is dangerous and only leads to disappointment and confusion later in life. We need to show them LOVE instead of presenting them with a brochure about LOVE. After all, LOVE certainly doesn’t look anything like the brochure. In fact, life doesn’t look anything like the brochure. I once had the pleasure of being present in a school office when a student came along demanding to see the principal. His problem, in his words, “this school is shit, it’s nothing like the brochure”. He went on to point to a poster on the wall of some happy children and stated, “who even looks like that anyway!” Bless him, that dear boy, for his bravery and honesty at a time where he was clearly feeling the frustration of not being able to measure up to the happy children in the brochure. Contrary to popular belief or should I say popular judgement, the boy was not horrible and disrespectful. He was unhappy and longing to find LOVE and comfort in his experience of school life. Yes, a conversation about how to express ourselves in a more gentle and appropriate way was indeed necessary with that particular student, followed by an apology to anyone he may have offended through his choice of somewhat harsh vocabulary and a promise to choose better words and better ways in the future. However and more to the point, to have approached the situation with anything other than LOVE would only have escalated it. Luckily, the principal was open to the student’s feedback and most importantly, the situation was met with LOVE and therefore it was quickly resolved.
To say I learned something that day is an understatement. I used that experience to transform my own habit of high expectations followed by disappointment and claimed, “this brochure is shit, it’s nothing like the real thing”. Thus, the real thing isn’t so bad after all. It’s just that when you compare it to the brochure, well . . . I think you get the point here.
When it comes to LOVE, adults tend to dream a little and view LOVE through an invisible, inner telescope at a safe distance from it instead of actually feeling it the way that children naturally and intuitively experience LOVE . We talk about LOVE instead of opening ourselves up to experience it. We search for LOVE in all the wrong places and then we are met with unnecessary levels of an absence of LOVE. This is generally the reason why so many people are unhappy. We think that love is about finding the right partner, having the perfect life, the latest fashion, car, house etc. but LOVE is so much more than that.
What scares us most about love is that we are actually aware of the fact that the only real choice we have other than fully embracing the complexity of LOVE is to live a life in opposition of LOVE. The opposite of LOVE is fear and fear brings with it enormous regret. Regret for the LOVE that we couldn’t feel, regret for the things we never said, (or the things we did say) regret for the things we didn’t do (as well as some of the things we did do) and ultimately, regret for the life we didn’t live.
I would argue that the whole tone of the past decade to just ‘be positive’ all the time is actually exhausting and somewhat delusional. Again, another brochure that does not live up to it’s promise in real life. Please don’t judge me when I say this but when I hear warm and fuzzy stories about LOVE it makes me cringe. When I hear up beat positive mantras I run in the opposite direction. However, show me LOVE when the shit hits the fan and I’m all yours ready to learn! The turning point in helping our children become resilient adults will not happen by showing them that life is perfect. Rather than trying to be perfect we should be aiming for real and authentic. Raising children who have a deep understanding of themselves, their strengths as well as their vulnerabilities so that they can be better prepared for life’s ups and downs. In addition to this, giving them tools such as mindfulness in order to take action and get through life’s challenges in a healthy, nurturing and loving way.
We should stop the constant judgement of our current generation of children and young adults and we really need to stop the nostalgic ‘good ol days’ and ‘back in my day’ mantra. To say that the current generation of teenagers are weak compared to generations before them is totally ignorant and irresponsible. I challenge any adult out there to turn back the clock and return as a teenager in this current world we live in. I don’t think we would last a day in their shoes, constantly being compared to images of perfection. Having our most vulnerable and confusing young, adult lives played out under the watchful and often harshly judging eye of social media is not something I would willingly sign up for.
In order to really understand what is going on in our child or teenager’s life, we should just listen to their favourite songs instead of following them around on social media. I guarantee that the words of those songs resonate with some, if not all of their own inner dialogue. Artists are the real therapists of the world as they willingly throw their pain and stories into the wind so that we may hear, feel and understand our own vulnerabilities.
In his book, Conversations with God, An Uncommon Dialogue, 1995, Neale Donald Walsch points out something very simple yet powerful regarding how we approach every situation in our lives. He presents this question. “In every situation ask yourself; what would love do now?” I’ve worked with this concept for many years and I have to warn you that this is where I really learned about the less romantic side of of LOVE. It makes you do some difficult things and you need to embrace the unknown, the unpredictable, the mystery of letting life unfold without being in full control. When we choose LOVE, it can take us to some pretty scary places, but I can confirm through my own experience that the concept of taking action from a place of LOVE instead of a place of FEAR is the only way to get through this life alive!
For now, my current understanding of LOVE is that LOVE is either present or it’s not present. It is either everywhere or nowhere. It is either forever or for a certain time. Wherever, whenever and however depends on whoever. Whoever chooses to feel LOVE will. Whoever chooses not to feel LOVE will not. And so, LOVE depends on me and only me. It’s that simple. As adults, we just need to choose LOVE and our children will practically raise themselves because LOVE makes better choices than FEAR ever will.
I once overheard a group of children asking each other questions about their favourite things. The children asked the most common ‘favourite thing’ question; what is your favourite colour? The playful giggling and chatting that had accompanied the previous questions was silenced abruptly as one of the boys in the group proudly announced his favourite colour.”Pink!” he exclaimed. The silence was then met with loud laughter and the boy looked at one child, then another, searching for clues that could help him work out what had gone wrong. Up until that moment they were freely expressing their favourite things, they were connecting, they were all but one and then in just one random and unexpected moment he was on the outer. “Pink is for girls” shouted out one of the other children. No doubt this story has happened many times before and in many places but it wasn’t the story itself that captured my attention, it was the way the boy handled it. After thinking for a moment he cheerfully yet with a hint of a newly developed self-doubt proclaimed; “but pink is the colour of LOVE”. Oh how I savoured that moment, I breathed it in as though it was the last bit of fresh air I may have access to for the rest of my days on earth. He knew it, he felt it, he lived it and he owned it. He saw pink and connected the feeling of LOVE with it. Sadly, he learned that day that the world he lived in had claimed the colour pink as a colour for girls. His favourite colour of all the colours visible in his physical world was taken away from him in just one moment. The hidden messages that the colour pink is a colour for girls would slowly reveal themselves to him throughout his life and he would learn that only girls LOVE, boys need to be tough, boys need to be strong and LOVE is a weakness. In one context the world would be telling him that it is safe to be himself and in another context he would learn that he is only free to be himself when it fits in with popular culture.
Imagine if children could learn to choose colours based on how the colour made them feel instead of what the colour represents in this physical, consumer-driven world. They would have access to yet another tool to manage themselves and their emotional wellbeing throughout their whole lives. Wouldn’t that be wonderful.
Our biggest problem with LOVE in our consumer-driven world is that we have fallen in love with things. It’s hard to know if we really LOVE things or whether we just feel like we need them, either way we have fallen in LOVE with wanting and having. LOVE doesn’t live in wanting and it certainly doesn’t exist is needing. LOVE is present in ‘being’ because it is energy, a feeling, emotion that we can only feel as it moves through us, through all living things.
If we keep searching for LOVE in things, instead of allowing ourselves to feel it within us, we will never be able to create anything truly satisfying in our lives.
We’ve been playing a little game with my family at the beach every day. It’s called the generation game. We noticed that the older a person was, the less ‘things’ they carried with them to the beach. It has been a real eye opener to see how ‘things’ have been accumulated at such a rapid pace. Through our daily observations we discovered a massive difference between the 60+ generation and the 40’s. It seems that in just one generation, the whole consumer addictive cycle reached full bloom. As for the 30’s group, they totally win the prize for most beach accessories, loaded with carts full of toys, inflatable giant floating unicorns, snorkels, flippers, tents, sun lounges, umbrellas, the list goes on. Yet, only one or two generations before them, other ‘humans’ sit humbly under a tree, with a towel, newspaper and sun hat. Totally owning the moment without having to attend to all their accessories and in sync with the simplicity of the sea before them.
Another thing we learn about LOVE from our current world is that real LOVE is rare, so it is hard to find. If we do find it we must hold on tight and never share it. As though LOVE is a singular expression from one person to one other person only. I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when I saw a young couple walking through the old medieval town where I live. It is a very charming and romantic place, easy to experience feeling nostalgic and dreamy. The man (really a boy no more than 20 years old) stopped to take a photo. As he positioned the camera (really a phone – I refuse to tell a story where a phone takes a picture because the meaning of a phone is to make calls and the meaning of a camera is to take pictures and I just cannot get past that, semantically that is) Anyway, back to the man (boy) positioning the camera (phone) as he did this, his girlfriend aligned herself in front of the building, flicking her hair back, creating the correct angle for her face, shoulders, hips and feet and then smiling in preparation for the soon to be taken picture. However, there was a sudden an unexpected twist, the man (boy) turned to another building and took a picture of it without even realising that his girlfriend had been posing in preparation for that moment when her beloved would capture his LOVE for her in a photograph that would last forever. There was a feeling of slight awkwardness once she realised that the LOVE and admiration was not being directed towards her. Similar to when you try to shake someone’s hand but they don’t know you’re trying to shake their hand so your hand is just there all alone as you attempt to figure out a creative way to move your hand back towards the rest of yourself. The girlfriend was awkwardly attempting to position her body back as though she had just been walking casually the whole time. The boyfriend unaware of what had just happened.
Just a few minutes later the young couple were long gone and the beauty of the building photographed by the man (boy) stood tall, it’s historic charm on full display. I stared at the building for a brief moment and couldn’t help but wonder if the young girl would spend the rest of their romantic summer holiday doubting the depth of his love and comparing herself to a heritage listed building. I wanted to run down the street and tell her it’s not you it’s the building! LOVE is everywhere and LOVE is so abundant for those who choose and those who can feel it that your boyfriend can LOVE the beautiful building without using up any of the LOVE he has for you. The fact that he noticed a beautiful building and stopped to capture it is evidence of the LOVE that resides within him. That is wonderful, it will enable him to LOVE you more because the more LOVE he has within him the more LOVE he will have for you. It is only when the LOVE within is overwhelmed by other emotions such as fear, anger, jealousy, frustration, disappointment, bitterness, grief and despair that we forget how to LOVE. It’s not that love is rare and hard to find. It’s just that the other feelings get louder and stronger.
Dear Adult, JTLYK about LOVE,
This will be brief.
I really hope you get it.
I have nothing to say about LOVE because children don’t talk about LOVE.
We just show it.
The problem is adults often cannot see LOVE because it may not look the way adults think LOVE should look.
That’s all I can tell you about LOVE.
You really need to work the rest out for yourself.
I will give you a hint though.
Don’t share your soul with the likes of Lord Voldermort.