“When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him. In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” ~ Albert Camus
Like many of you, I’ve only known how to live by going towards what the heart sees, and doing what the soul whispers. Happiness to me involves authenticity, love and deep connection with oneself, with others, with the sea and the rocks and the trees.
It’s not perfection, the absence of mistakes or difficulties. Instead, it’s a genuine sense of joy and peace mixed with curiosity and uncertainty that comes from nurturing quality of substance first, from constant discovery and a clear sense of growth. It’s giving and caring, striving to see with more wonder than fear, to do with more joy and playfulness than frustration, to focus on value before cost.
And, like many of you, I have on a few occasions doubted that all this is a very good idea.
Let’s face it, love and connection work very nicely until the day you take a massive hit. As much as you love yourself and do all the right things, just like a tree with deep roots, even though you’ve withstood drought and storms, you’re no match for a powerful hurricane.
Standing back up is excruciatingly difficult, and not because you’re not capable, but because your trust in your approach to life is temporarily shattered, and since you don’t know how to live any other way, you suddenly find that you don’t know how to live.
And then comes the helpful advice. Of course you need to change, stop focusing on potential and light before anything else, stop being so naive as to trust that everyone will ultimately, if given a chance, choose authenticity, love, tenderness, honesty and integrity. Don’t you know by now that if you show vulnerability and don’t wear armor you’ll be taken advantage of, and that most people can’t be bothered to work on themselves, or truly invest in connection?
Great, pile on the humiliation.
And to top it all off, more encouraging wisdom: stop idealizing and give up on the ‘illusion’ that life can ever be anything but a brutal ride interrupted by the occasional happy moment. Apparently life is not magical…it’s full of responsibilities we resent, expectations we can never meet, work we dislike, routines that cage us, and demands that drain us. So, work on becoming cautious and restrained, mature once and for all into sober practicality, and adopt a ‘realistic’ perspective if you want to survive.
In other words, become like office furniture.
Meanwhile, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, any spiritual tradition, professional or private person who values love and connection, who seeks to live with generosity and joy in the context of loving, fun and authentic relationships, in a creative space, all point to a direction opposite to that where office furniture resides.
So then, how does one still live with connection, love and vulnerability and still manage to create sufficient buffers to prevent massive damage should god forbid, another hurricane come again? Because the truth is, lightning does strike twice…even three times or more.
Regardless of the risks involved, I’m sorry, but living the life of office furniture is not an option. What is an option, and an important lesson to be learned here, is that love and connection require balance…a fair playing field. Connecting, loving and trusting do not mean accepting less than you are giving in terms of standards. Settling like this isn’t compatible with the self-love and respect required to connect, love and trust in the first place.
It’s true that not everyone gives in the same way, and we should never become entrenched in expectations, missing the forest for the trees. But we all know very well when we’re being handed the short end of the stick again and again. And there’s only so many times that can be excused on a misunderstanding or an honest mistake.
Because many of us sincerely see the best in people and trust in that best, we lose focus on the fact that everyone, regardless of personal history or temperament, is responsible for owning and fixing their issues. As such, we create an imbalance by not holding others accountable in the same ways we hold ourselves. Acceptance of differences should not be confused with ‘anything goes’.
We all have within us that “invincible summer” Camus so beautifully describes. And even though we should, ideally, all manifest that, many choose to only manifest “invincible winter”…for a while, or a lifetime. They can change it at any time, and if you’re in the “connection” camp, you’re always going to be there to offer love and support. But if someone insists on summoning only hail storms, you must step back and protect your invincible summer. It may be invincible but it’s not shatter-proof.
I leave you with another great quote from a favorite you’ve met in this blog before:
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.
Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.
Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.” ~ Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are