Oh, I had so many things to tell you this week. But a sudden flu cut all my ideas down, rendered my brain feverish and made breathing seem more difficult than it was worth. The world becomes so small when you're sick. For a person like me, it's a good reminder that I'm a body and not just a mind. Because most of the time I feel fairly disassociated from this little machine I live in. And I should stretch and feel that it's all mine more often, that I'm its minder as much as it minds the part of me I value most.

I was sure I had saved up some links while I was sick, but maybe I hallucinated that.

This, I didn't hallucinate: A woman reading a self-help book on the subway, with a page open to a chapter titled "Love Unconditionally." And I immediately thought bullshit, because I think all relationships, all feelings, have their conditions. And often we should uphold more conditions than we do - not less (not physically hurting each other is the kind of condition we should all apply to love, for example).

But then I thought about the phrase "love unconditionally" more. Like we're ever really making these choices. Because either the love is greater or the conditions are and we don't really make that calculation as much as feel the result of it. The same love and the same conditions can outweigh each other at different times in different relationships. And I'm not so sure we're wielding choice or recalculating in those moments as much as responding to our own present situation, knotted up in multifarious thoughts and feelings and needs as it is.

More and more I really believe that doing our best isn't about loving unconditionally but about just saying something truthful. And letting the other person have the rare advantage of knowing what we're feeling uncloaked, even if it doesn't make sense, even if the feelings are confused, even if there are conditions. Because making things seem uncomplex, making love seem easy and unconditional is just another deception we sweet-talk ourselves into, with all the shoulding that never lasts.

So there I was on the subway, picking feverish fights in my head with some stranger's self-help book. And feeling like we're all missing a better point here. A point not about love or conditions but about something simpler. About trying to be good and kind and patient with each other and knowing that there are always conditions, that we've all got our knots and bends in our brains, and holes in our hearts.

Happy weekend, friends.

1 comment:

  1. I think, more than loving unconditionally, we want to believe that we can *be loved* unconditionally. To have someone know the darkest, unruliest bits of our selves and still look at us with eyes that tell us we're valued. And loved. I am thinking here of Brene Brown who has stated that shame is what keeps us from connecting to one another (*Her* connection to Oprah aside, of course).
    It isn't as simple as a book being able to tell us these answers, but maybe your reader is having the same debates with the book and, more importantly, with herself. Maybe she too questions how she loves, and looks to reading and to others for the right questions, rather than the right answers.
    And I, for one, am glad that you saw the overly facile chapter title and turned to your blog to talk to us about it: about complexity and love and humanity. So something good came of that simplistic idea.
    Happy Friday!


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