I’m currently writing a fiction series of stories that celebrate the diversity of life choices and the grace and mercy, both given and received, that is needed to survive this life in peace. One of the books I hope to call ‘Living in the Crushing Wake’ and it has inspired me to blog now about my ideas behind the book.
Relationships are hard. I consider myself pretty fortunate because I have a few excellent relationships, many good relationships, a wide circle of pleasing friendships and only a few in the ‘not so good’ category. For some the order is reversed.
When we begin a relationship, whether it be a casual friendship, a close ‘inner circle’ friendship, a romantic liaison, a partnership, a marriage or one of the many other relationship possibilities, we often go into it hoping for the best – that it will live up to our desired expectations and that it will be fulfilling, rewarding and sustaining. Sometimes we go in a bit blind, or naïve. Sometimes we go in for all the wrong reasons, and sometimes for all the right reasons but inevitably some of these relationships go wrong, some horribly wrong, and we are left living in the crushing wake of grief, anxiety and uncertainty. Often our self-esteem is smashed to smithereens and we wonder why we got into it in the first place and if indeed we would ever want to embark on another such relationship.
I have lost friends over the years. I know I have hurt others and I certainly have been hurt by other people’s actions. I have been through a broken marriage myself, one which I chose to leave, and have watched all too many friends go through their own relationship crashes, and there are certainly questions in my mind as to why it all has to be so hard?
Often ‘outer circle’ relationships are an expression of kindness toward our fellow man – an outworking of how we would like to be treated in return - a mutual give and take of convenience and helpfulness.
In the case of deeper friendships, we hope to have companionship when and where we want it, someone to talk to and participate in activities with - easing our loneliness and providing us with an inlet and outlet for some of our need fulfilment.
When engaging in more intimate relationships like marriage, partners and the like, we often hope it will cure our loneliness, ‘complete’ us, enrich us and provide us with all the missing parts to fill our empty spaces.
We desire mutual trust, sympathy, empathy, respect. We hope for engagement and appreciation for who we are. We want to be able to be ourselves and we want to know them as themselves.
Or do we?
Why do marriages end, partnerships fall apart, friendships disappoint? Why when a relationship is over do we often feel so completely crushed, devastated that our expectations have been dashed, filling us with grief and often resentment?
Loneliness and emptiness are a common curse of the human condition. We seem to have more of these things plaguing humanity than anything else. Even those of us in excellent relationships still succumb to loneliness and emptiness at times. It’s like there are spaces inside us that cannot be filled by anyone. It’s like we never have ‘enough’ – there’s always something missing.
Most of us go into relationships hoping that these empty spaces will be filled. In fact we almost expect it, and when it doesn’t happen we are crushed. When it doesn’t happen time and time again, we find ourselves living in the crushing wake of despair.
So I ask myself again - why?
I think it’s because underneath everyone has the need to feel safe and feel loved, and so often we are looking to the outside to find these vital elements of life. We look to things and other people to fill the space of need – a need so deep that we cannot live in peace without it. Certainly we can find some elements of feeling safe and loved from our relationships, but more often than not, we will never feel all of it because deep down we find loving ourselves very hard, and when we don’t love ourselves we are not safe.
And if I am not safe with myself, who can I be safe with?
And if I don’t feel loved or safe, why am I here? What is my purpose in life?
Most of us enter into relationships with these questions unanswered and we splash around hoping that someone else will provide the answers for us before we drown. In fact many of us EXPECT that the other person will fill the gap left by the uncertainty of not loving ourselves and not feeling safe – but more often than not we don’t realise what we’re actually doing.
The reality is however, that the other person in all likelihood is struggling with the same deep need, and when we interact with each other, we push and shove trying to get what we need – that is to fill that space created by the lack of love for ourselves.
This then creates all these unrealistic expectations of what the other person should be providing for us. And they have unrealistic expectations of their own and unfortunately we are each projecting this deep need onto the other person. Push and shove – emptiness – push and shove – loneliness – push and shove until many a relationship cracks and we are left feeling less loved and less safe – and we live in the crushing wake of brokenness.
So what’s the good news?
For me the answer to filling those empty spaces has come through the realisation that loving myself is the first step. And being able to love myself is about perspective. Finding my spiritual connectedness has been vital, experiencing the greater love of the divine, even though my understanding is still very small and limited, I find a sense of myself as I discover my place in the greater universe. I realise that I can change my perspectives and I seek out others who share my desire for connectedness and understanding. I reinforce my own belief that I am here for a purpose, that I am a gift to the world and that my relationships are a gift to be given and received.
I realise that the other people I find myself in relationship with, are at various stages of their loving of themselves and I try to exercise grace and mercy and understanding when they start to push and shove. I try not to push and shove back – I try to accept and extend kindness.
Even then, sometimes others don’t want to be extended these blessings. They are quite invested in their miserableness and aren’t ready to understand the deeper truths of needing to love themselves.
So the push and shove goes on, but I find I can step to the side of that pushing and shoving and not allow myself to get bowled over. I can examine myself and the gift of each relationship I encounter, whether it works out well or not, and I can keep the perspective of knowing that I am loved by a greater heart and I live in hope that I can share some of that love with others, and nurture more fulfilling, rewarding, encouraging, sustaining and enjoyable relationships and hopefully along the way, encourage others to do the same.
Merelyn’s writing is supported in part by the sale of her books. Autobiography - ‘The Deepest Part of Me’. ‘Inspire’ – inspirational reflections for your life’s journey. ‘Stories behind the Songs’ and her first children’s picture book ‘To The Moon and Back - Grandma’s Rocket Ship Adventure’. To find out more about her work and to support her through the purchase of her writings and music, please go to www.carterandcarter.com.au