The way I hurdled headlong into what I thought was love three years ago is so clichéd that I won’t even bother describing the intoxicating fireworks. It was a star-crossed, impossible relationship from the get-go, a doomed love affair heading for a crash and burn we both should have anticipated, but we didn’t see it coming. We both made promises we had no business making, and it felt so seductive to believe we could keep them. We were reckless and narcissistic, believing in magic and miracles, instead of facing the inevitable reality that would one day smack us in the ass.
What would happen on this planet if every single human had the capacity to reach out to someone very different and ask, “What’s it like to be you?” What if the oppressed black man who was unjustly imprisoned could reach out to the cop who wrongfully arrested him. What if both could ask, “What’s it like to be you?” and really listen. What if the woman who was harassed at work could sit down the boss that harassed her and both could ask, “What’s it like to be you?” What if both could open their hearts and hear the other? What if the blue-collar white man who voted for Trump could sit down with the bleeding-heart liberal woman from California and they could ask each other, “What’s it like to be you?” What if, instead of rushing to judgment or defensiveness or attack, they could simply be curious—and keep their mouths shut while the other speaks—and be genuinely interested in someone else’s point of view?
For some reason, I am someone who attracts people who need to tell their most painful, gut-wrenching stories, who need to have their story lovingly heard and witnessed and honored without shaming or judging or fixing. People tell me stories that break my heart, stories that move me to tears, stories that evoke compassion and fill me with outrage, the ones that elicit an impassioned upwelling in my heart to make the world a safer place for tender, sensitive, deeply-feeling souls. I hear stories that wreck me about doctors who unwittingly abuse their power and harm the very people they’re here to serve. I hear people’s #MeToo stories about bosses who harassed or raped them and then threatened to fire them if they didn’t stay silent. I hear stories about police and lawyers who not only failed to protect an innocent person who had been violated; they abused or even wrongfully killed someone in that vulnerable state. I hear stories of priests who abuse their power and molest young children in the name of God. I hear countless stories of people whose parents and siblings molested them, violating the ultimate trust any child should be able to have for safety in one’s own family. I hear stories of people who have been traumatized by gurus and spiritual teachers and self-help authors who abuse their power and commit the most atrocious crimes against Love in the name of “I’m just helping you get rid of your ego.” I hear stories of people who are getting the crap beat out of them from spouses who say, “I love you.” [Lest you ever question this, THIS is not love. Don’t ever believe an abuser who gaslights you with “I love you” right after abusing you. This kind of psychological manipulation is as abusive and confusing as the emotional or physical violence. Love does not abuse power like this.]
As New Years approaches, let's try something different. Studies show that approximately 40% of people make New Years Resolutions, but only between 8–19% of people actually follow through on fulfilling those promises two years later which means that 81–92% of people who make New Years Resolutions wind up feeling like undisciplined losers…
This morning, a friend was telling me about how someone she loves treats her. Her stories sounded painful and brutalizing, even abusive. I wondered why she tolerated such apparent disrespect. She was describing someone who obviously doesn’t appreciate the gift of this friend of mine, who is such a love bomb. When I asked her why she didn’t give herself the gift of distancing herself from this person and make space in her life for someone who treated her with more affection, appreciation, and care, she said, “But he loves me.”