A lovely young woman was on skype with me, looking so deeply forlorn and disappointed.
The man she called her boyfriend (although she confessed she wasn’t sure he would call her girlfriend) had left that morning, headed for the airport. Again.
He traveled to her city only for business. It was unknown when he would next be in town. They’d known each other as childhood friends and maybe first crushes, but never lived in the same place after leaving their childhood homes.
She already had her fingers crossed she’d see him again.
He had left saying “if you’re going to get so clingy….like I told you before….this is over.”
How is this going to go? I wondered.
Sometimes the person looks so devastated, and they’ve been doing what they’re doing for so long, it’s a curiosity to see how their inner work will go, as they question their thinking.
This young woman had been in this long-distance volatile on-off-on-off relationship for almost 6 years.
I helped her write a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet on the very moment he left her apartment, when he told her he didn’t want “clingy” and she felt shaky, terrified, and then obsessed for days about when to text, if to snapchat, checking facebook, looking through instagram.
He should be different than he is. He should commit to me. He should stay with me. He should make me a priority. He should want to marry me. He should move in with me.
But he doesn’t.
“Is it true?” I asked her.
I must admit I had visions of how tortured she was and how much easier it would be to stop. Even wondering how someone could be so needy, or demanding, and not be able (apparently) to move to any other relationship that was up close in the same town.
I wondered at humanity in that moment, creating so much suffering by arguing with reality.
And then I remembered how her voice was mine. To stop thinking I know how she’d be better without her thought.
Didn’t I once also have this belief, that someone I thought I loved should stay, commit, be different than they were?
Yikes again. I remember. Ugh. (Picture of the guy in my head who I thought should be doing it my way, when he wasn’t).
This lovely woman answered “yes” it’s true. “YES” it’s absolutely true. True, true, true, true.
He should stay with me.
How do you react when you believe he should stay, commit, move in, want to marry…..when he doesn’t?
She began to cry.
She felt desperate, abandoned.
I remembered myself how dreadful that feeling was, and how false it turned out to be. And also how I fought it and thought I shouldn’t feel it.
So many “should nots”.
I listened to her describe her feeling of seeing the absent space where his shoes had been, his coat had hung.
“Who would you be without this thought?” I asked. “In that same moment, if you couldn’t have the thought he should stay, when you’re noticing this empty apartment and the sound of traffic outside, and the hook where his coat hung?”
I love that The Work simply offers this question. It doesn’t answer the question. It doesn’t suggest you shouldn’t be thinking the thought you’re thinking.
It’s beautiful because then, I myself don’t give any answers. My job is to facilitate, to ask, and to listen.
Who would we be without our disturbance, our insisting that it be other than it is? Who would we be without our advice for other people?
Who would we be without our stories of “me”?
It’s such an incredible question, really. No right or wrong answer. Simply a question, waiting for us to use our imagination for something more expansive than what we currently envision. Checking to see if we’ve really got all our information straight.
The young woman took a deep breath, head hung down with her eyes closed. I could see on my skype screen behind her in the background the very door I imagined her companion had left through, with the pretty hooks lined up for coats.
Without the thought, she said…..”I’d be free.”
She described easy days when she worked, studied, hung out with friends. Days when she didn’t have the thought that he should be different, even if he was far way in another country.
But the key is wondering who you’d be without the belief in that very moment of remembering the stressful situation.
How about then? Who would you be right there without your belief?
“Yes…..so free. Letting him go. Happy to have spent some time with him. Moving to what’s next.”
Turning the story around: I should be different with myself. I should commit to me. I should stay with me. I should make me a priority. I should want to marry me. I should move in with me. I shouldn’t leave myself.
I remember discovering these turnarounds myself in the midst of a heavy, powerful sense of wanting it from the other.
I was treating myself at the time like I was a loser, as if coupleness was better than singleness, as if I couldn’t manage to take care of myself, as if my own company and silence itself was haunting.
(I was single, is it true? :)
Where was it written that love must come from only one person? Or from anything pre-defined at all?
Turned around again: He should NOT be different. He should NOT commit to me. He should NOT stay with me. He should NOT make me a priority. He should NOT want to marry me. He should NOT move in with me. He should leave me.
Could these be just as true? Could there be benefits? Are you sure you’ve got the whole picture?
I know for myself, if I had gotten what I wanted, I would not have wanted it. I already had evidence. It was perfect the way it was. The distance was beyond important. It saved my life turning in a difficult direction.
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. ~ Rumi
Blessings on all those who believe someone should care more about them, come closer, commit, not leave.
May we all see that the attention and love we want is not within that other person. It is in the divine, in ourselves, in the very breath we breathe.
“If we get really honest, do we get married for love, or convenience? Life is designed for mates….is it true?” ~ Byron Katie
P.S. Last minute shuffle–one spot open again now for this weekend Sunday afternoon mini-retreat Living Turnarounds Group from 2-6 pm.