If I had to grade myself according to polite society's standards and give myself F at something, I'd fail myself at finding a partner, at "being in a relationship." (As I type this, in a reflective state, I see the absurdity of the statement. In truth, I'm in relationship all the time. Always was, always will be.)
Polite society would tell me I've failed at every attempt at forming a life-long partnership. Some men have left me, and I'm tempted blame myself for being leaveable. Most I have left, and, apparently, I enjoy blaming myself for leaving. I realize that there was nothing "wrong" with them, that they're no more flawed than any of us are.
Still, I leave. And, if given the opportunity, I just might leave again!
Upon leaving/being left, there is an initial sense of despair. It usually comes from the agonizingly universal "WTF is wrong with me?" question. As the years idyll by (ahh, the turning of another decade--I'll soon be 30!), I can no longer cling to the "I just haven't met the right guy" delusion. Time to take stock, time to look at who I really leave when I walk out the door. Time to see who it was I left long before the guy walked out on me.
So... where to go from here? How to take stock? Or, a more immediate question: how do I comfort myself in the face of this pretty painful realization?
Darlene Cohen, a Zen teacher who passed away recently, writes of how her pain has been a source of great strength in years past. She suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, and despite this, it's said that she had a tremendous healing spirit. This passage is a little long, but bear with me--it's pretty powerful:
- "People sometimes ask me where my own healing energy comes from. How in the midst of this pain, this implacable slow crippling, can I encourage myself and other people? My answer is that my healing comes from my bitterness itself, my despair, my terror. It comes from the shadow. I dip down into that muck again and again and then am flooded with its healing energy. Despite the renewal and vitality it gives me to face my deepest fears, I don't go willingly when they call. I've been around that wheel a million times: first I feel the despair, but I deny it for a few days; then its tugs become more insistent in proportion to my resistance; finally it overwhelms me and pulls me down, kicking and screaming all the way. . . I can never just give up to it when I first feel it stir. You'd think after a million times with a happy ending, I could give up right away and just say, 'Take me, I'm yours,' but I never can. I always resist. I guess that's why it's called despair. If you went willingly, it would be called something else, like purification or renewal or something hopeful. It's staring defeat and annihilation in the face that's so terrifying; I must resist until it overwhelms me. But I've come to trust it deeply. It's enriched my life, informed my work, and taught me not to fear the dark."
I think that pattern is evident everywhere. Yogis know it. The more we resist the hot room or a dreaded posture, the greater the pain we feel down the line. But it's precisely that depth of pain that enables us to feel tremendous joy when we finally surrender. The depth of pain enables us to radiate a fuller joy that is reflected by those whom we encounter later.
I'm fortunate not to have a lot of physical pain, but with each F I earn in a relationship, I add to the mucky shadow Cohen talks about. I'm really not complaining, though. I'm actually quite happy! What a powerful reservoir to draw from in the future. Maybe one of these days, I'll stop resisting ;-)