This weekend, I retreated to a secluded mountain town here in Colorado. My heart and soul were in need of some mending, so I did what I do best. I got quiet and I listened. I looked for signs. I was confused and hurt and sad and I needed to get my heart and head clear again. I waited for answers.
I rented a room in a cabin with a man who was probably around 80 years old. He was sweet, wise, gentle, and kind. He was kind of like Gandhi dressed up like a grandpa living in the woods, if you can imagine. He sensed that I was hurting, and he nurtured my heart and spirit with coffee, good conversation, and silence when I needed it. We shared our stories about love and loss. Heartbreak knows no boundaries when it comes to age. We know it when we are children, and we know it when we are old.
He told me that he had spent most of his adult years alone, in the mountains, living a very simple and secluded life. I got the feeling that life as we know it was so painful for him, that his only choice for peace was to live in solitude.
He was actually in a relationship, but they still lived in separate homes in this small town, after decades together. There was connection, but there was a great distance between them. I could hear the excitement in his voice when his partner called him every morning and every night. Then the mood would shift, and his disappointment clouded his excitement every time his partner rejected his requests to come over.
For years, he’d been content with the crumbs of connection, that masqueraded as a distant relationship and several friendships, but deep inside he was starving for the buffet of true love.
He told me that as a child, he wasn’t held and nurtured, and he knew it had made him suffer his entire life. He could tolerate friendships, but true intimacy was difficult for him because he learned not to trust at a young age. The part that he didn’t mention, but was easily inferred, was that he was aching for human love and connection.
He feared loved but he also innately craved love.
And then there’s me, on the other side of the continuum. I am not afraid to love. I sometimes feel afraid in love, but I am not afraid to love. I will open my heart a thousand times over, with courage and compassion for a partner, because that is what our hearts are meant to do. We are not meant to close and live in isolation. I keep mending my fractures and get back up for more, even if I’m loving with a limp.
My heart was aching over the weekend, because I took yet another chance on love and suffered a bruise to the heart. Grandpa Ghandi's heart was aching because he closed himself off from love for most of his life.
The question is this: Is it better to take a risk on love, or is it better to play it safe by not risking love? It seems that we can get hurt any way we go about it.
Eckhart Tolle says “it’s easy to fool yourself as to your state of consciousness if you avoid other people. For presence to become deeply rooted, it must be tested in the fire of relationships.”
Essentially, we can delude ourselves into thinking that we can find peace when we don’t have to love others, and deal with the potential drama that comes with human interaction. But this is not true peace and happiness. True peace comes from taking the risk to love another, and learning to find peace and presence within that love.
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional- Haruki Murakami.
If we are going to feel pain in love, or without love, then why not take a chance and muster through love? We can live in a cave and fear love the rest of our lives. Here, we feel no love.
Or, we can take a chance on love, and get messy. Get complicated. Love isn’t always smooth and perfect. Love is a dance, full of missteps and getting off beat. And sometimes it is a passionate two-step between two souls.
It is full of ups and downs, fears, anxieties, insecurities, and raw human emotion. Its also full of joy and passion, acceptance, and healing. Love has the capacity to heal our wounds that we can’t heal alone. Next time you feel the instinct to shrink away from intimacy, consider that it’s loving embrace could be an elixir for your soul.
I think Mumford & Sons sum it up best:
But there will come a time, you'll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.