Have you ever had the thought it’d be better to just quit and walk away?
Of course you have.
It’s a common human thought. People have this about friendships, family, primary love relationships, and their jobs, career, money, ideas, travel plans, business, classes, activities we’re involved in.
Something appears to not be working, you try different approaches, but the way of it simply doesn’t appear to change for the better (certainly not on the timing you want).
It should be different!
Or, perhaps you learn something brand new and completely unexpected and this information becomes a deal-breaker, as they say.
It should be different!
Or, what if you begin to question something you thought was helpful, but now you’re not so sure….like the treatment plan for your physical injury, or the vitamins you’ve been taking, or the cell phone service you’re signed up for.
It should be different!
What if….it’s The Work itself you begin to question?
You might start to think you’re not so clear where it’s going if you keep questioning everything (and this is alarming), you’re not sure you agree with “loving what is” all the time, or you hear about someone else using The Work who’s acting delusional, or passive, or confusing.
It should be different!
The thing is, there’s no problem at all with deciding to take a different path, turn left, or turn right, or stop and camp out in one place for awhile, or take an airplane to another continent altogether. Ever.
How could that be a problem? Change appears to be the way of life.
But we can question that something should be different, and discover many fascinating things about this idea, and even find how it should be just as it is (and it never means we should accept something we don’t accept).
The most interesting thing for me, hearing all these ideas lately of how things, situations, relationships, places, weather or money should be different….was when I heard The Work itself should be different.
From time to time, people bump up against The Work in this way: it’s fostering passivity.
The Work is saying I should “love” all the terrible things in the world, like war, cancer, death, disease, climate change, politicians, law suits, violence, childhood abuse.
But that’s B.S! I don’t, I won’t, I can’t love those things!
Some time ago, someone wrote on facebook a statement with this sentiment (I am only remembering, not quoting): ‘You mean you’re going to tell a child they should love what is when they are trafficked for sexual favors? Or abused? Really?’
The assumption is that The Work is telling us what to do. That it’s telling us we *should* do something called LOVE.
We think we know what love looks like.
Here’s what I used to think LOVE looks like:
It looks like staying quiet, saying something’s OK, feeling light, saying whatever’s been said is no problem for us, agreeing with someone, listening closely, sharing, saying “yes”, having everyone be happy (or close), saying I am fine with what they did, connecting, reaching out, hugging, praising, voting for, touching, adopting the same approach, complying, changing my mind, inviting someone in, spending more time with someone, getting together, being sexual, getting closer through more communication, not opposing, not disagreeing, condoning behavior or words or actions, being funny, smiling.
But is that really what love is?
Are you sure?
I thought I knew what *love* looked like when I came to The Work (or it came to me).
I thought it looked like ease, support, safety, and joy.
Well, it does.
But I thought so very much that it shouldn’t look like the opposite: hardship, abandonment, danger, cancer, violence.
Those things and experiences were definitely NOT love.
Love couldn’t possibly feel frightening.
Somehow, I kept doing The Work even when I was totally confused. I kept finding nuggets of gold when I questioned my thoughts. I kept realizing over and over, I might not have the whole story here–in my personal stories of pain and suffering.
One day about two years into doing The Work I was at an event with Byron Katie, and I wrote a worksheet on the same man in my life that I had written probably 20 times or more.
He’s a horrible person. I want him to change. He should be different. He shouldn’t be a sex addict. He shouldn’t abuse his employees. I need his support. I need his love. He is an ass, a jerk, and mentally ill. I hate him. I don’t ever want to be treated with such verbal violence again. I don’t ever want to take someone to the mental emergency room again.
I felt so much pain writing the very same worksheet practically over and over again. I would get new evidence. I’d see once again how twisted he was. He would frighten me. I’d feel so disappointed.
I raised my hand to talk with Katie about this repetitive dilemma, feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere with The Work, like it was asking me to accept my experiences with this man.
After some discussion, Katie asked me; “How do you know you’re supposed to be angry? YOU ARE!!!”
I thought The Work had a goal. To feel happy and free. To NOT be angry or afraid. To question a thought and arrive at lightness and sunny days. To LOVE what is.
I was wrong.
My definition of loving what is was to pound myself with ideas about changing my thinking about this man (and about life) so completely, that I would want to marry the guy. I’d want to merge forever, and have zero problems for the rest of my life (and probably beyond). To be totally happy with whatever he said, did, felt, acted like in every moment.
I had the very same ideas about LIFE. That’s what love would look like. Me being totally compliant with what happened at all times, in all ways, for all times forever and ever.
Wow, what a crazed idea I had for myself about what love looked like. It had looked like NOT listening to what was true for me. It looked like forcing myself to do The Work endlessly on this relationship and wishing it would change. It looked like being constantly disappointed and trying to make it, or me, change. It looked like not giving myself any other options than what I secretly wanted love to look like.
What love really looked like was breaking up with that man and never talking with him again, as it’s turned out.
I didn’t plan it.
It just went that way.
I didn’t really want to live with him, or spend more time with the actual man–I was only dreaming of a pretend different man I preferred, but who didn’t even exist.
It caused all of us to suffer immensely.
I am so grateful for that man. I think of him and I really do smile. I chuckle. He was brilliantly smart, funny as heck, and so much fun to talk with. I had a ball doing things with him.
What I learned from the experience of doing The Work on that incredibly life-changing relationship (that I’m honestly so grateful for) was it showed me what loving what is really looks like in that situation: quitting and walking away.
I know now what saying “no” looks like without resentment, hatred, suffering or severe disappointment.
Saying “no” looked like crystal clear clarity. It involved no more words, and no more being in each others’ company.
Loving, it appears, includes death and endings and events being over.
My experience of The Work is all it is, is four questions.
It’s not really The Work if you’re trying to get somewhere peaceful if you aren’t peaceful, or you think “love” is saying “yes” or being nice, or wanting to spend time together, or if you’re chiding or berating yourself for being wrong or stupid, or if you’d rather be dead than experience what you’ve experienced, or if you think you’re supposed to feel happiness with what happened to you.
Love, it seems, is sometimes very, very hard.
Byron Katie says “let love kill you”.
It’s not exactly a friendly word in our regular fairy tale world of sweetness and light and incredibly happy endings (or the dream of them).
Love can be the death of your dreams. Love can be the alternative you never wanted to happen. Love can be the closed door, where you have to stop trying to get inside, and you go a different, unexpected way. Love can feel like your future is over, and your heart is broken, and the way is dark and uncomfortable.
Love is noticing, it never is over. You’re alive. You made it. You survived. You’re here.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ~ Tao Te Ching
Mostly, what I see when I do The Work, even in the midst of the terrible things that happen in the world….is that love is slowing down and noticing what I do NOT know is true.
It’s a big giant question mark.
It’s noticing everyone, even the abusers, have been doing the best they can, and I have no idea what incredible things are possible from here on out.
“The best thing about the past? It’s over.” ~ Byron Katie
I am breathing quietly, here, now.
I am alive. I can believe that’s a bad thing, or a good thing.
Love is having that choice.