In the September issue of the Lion’s Roar, editor-in-chief Melvin McLeod writes:
Who am I?
We have been asking ourselves that for millennia: What is our essential nature as human beings? What is our role in the universe? How should we live? But I think it would be more helpful to come at the question indirectly, by asking a practical and perhaps even more important question:
What do I really want?
Nothing tells us more about who we are as human beings that examining our deepest longings, hopes, and needs. We are defined by what really makes us happy.
There is another important reason to ask ourselves this question. According to Buddhism, answering it unskillfully is the source of our suffering. Answering it with wisdom—knowing that we truly want and need—is the starting place of the spiritual path.
He goes on to write:
We want love,… We want to be loved, and I think, even more, we want to love.
…That is why the famous practice of loving-kindness starts with ourselves and extends outward.
He points out that a common misconception about Buddhism is that we must sacrifice ourselves, but that actually Buddhism seeks to renounce our suffering and its causes. Being open to what is does not mean ignoring my own needs. Accepting some truth does not mean liking or approving of it. For example, I do not have to commit to someone who’s unwilling to commit to me. May seem obvious, but think about it. How many of us stay in relationships with others who make it clear from the start they don’t want to get married or live with another person? How many of us think we’ll be the ones who change the other person? The truth is, I can’t change anyone but me. But that doesn’t mean staying in a relationship with someone on their terms only and ignoring my own wishes.
My sponsor says what we put out into the world is what we get back. The law of attraction. If I’m ambivalent and I don’t know what I want, I’ll attract that. My tendency has been to fall for someone who doesn’t want to commit, and then rearranging what I want in my own mind. I start thinking that their idea is a good one. Sure, I’ll live on my own forever because I don’t want to deal with his snoring, hogging-the-bed ass anyway. I like my alone time. I need hours of time early in the morning to write, and late at night to read, alone. I want time with my friends, and I want to come and go as I please. At the same time, I want a partner who is committed to me, who’s not going to give me a hard time about my time away from him, yet who wants to spend time with me, and who’s not afraid to tell me how he feels, and I want someone who’s not afraid to tell the rest of the world how he feels about me. He doesn’t need to make an announcement, because that would be weird, but he doesn’t need to keep it a secret.
So what does that mean? What does that look like?
Even after this epiphany, I still don’t know. Do I want to get married again? Do I want to live with another guy again? Would I rather have my own space, and would I be happy with that, as long as I know he’s committed to me? And what does that commitment even look like? But it doesn’t matter, because all I need to focus on is today.
In the meantime I can exercise self-love. And self-love means spending time with people who treat me the way I want to be treated, and treating others as I would want to be treated.
I can also appreciate this time for what it is, rather than long for something that it’s not. When I think about it, what really matters?
A friend of mine commented on a boyfriend I had after my divorce, a guy who I’d seen around and thought was good-looking, but who I knew nothing about–nor did I care to know much, tbh. I mean let’s be real here: I didn’t want a relationship, I was going through a divorce, I felt like I hadn’t had fun in a long time and I wanted to go out and have fun. So that’s what I did. He was interested, and I told him from the start exactly how it was gonna go down. The problem is, this guy was five years younger than me, and psychologically even younger than that, because he didn’t understand that when a person is going through a divorce, if they’re in their right mind (which actually, probably none of us are at that time), the last thing a person wants is another relationship. Though I was honest with him verbally, my actions said differently, because I spent quite a bit of my free time with him, going out to dances, camping, to the beach. Which was crazy because we didn’t have a whole lot in common. But remember that I’m codependent, and I’ve spent my life going from one relationship to the next with very short periods of singlehood in between—and sometimes no periods of singlehood, sometimes the relationships overlapped. So I tried to break it off with that guy after a few months, and guess what? He threatened suicide. He threatened to drink again (he was a sober alcoholic like me). And for some insane reason I still enjoyed, or felt like I needed, to spend time with him because at that time I hated being alone. The whole situation was unfair to him, because that poor guy was really into me. And I was just using him. And that’s not the first time I’ve done that. In fact, I’ve stayed in relationships for far longer than I intended just to have someone to be with. It’s a terrible feeling, knowing deep down you’re not in love with the person, and they’re into you. And everyone asks, What are you thinking dating that dude? Because they know you’re not really into him, and that you have nothing in common, and that you’re just not being true to yourself. And I knew it too. It’s a yucky, yucky feeling.
I’ll elaborate more in a future post, but for now I have to cut this short and get to work. My point is, be true to yourself, stay open to what is, and find gratitude in this moment.
Peace and love,
PS: I’ll leave you with Tara Brach’s latest talk, which, in part, inspired this post.