This week, I got some loving, well-intentioned, unsolicited advice. At the heart of a longer message was this: “Love more, j,” with the clear implication that I was, perhaps, not being open to the very love for which I’ve spent almost a year advocating.
My first reaction was to feel blindsided. My second was to become angry and defensive. My third reaction brought me here, to this post, to deal directly with something I’ve been writing all around, because I think it’s important. And confusing. And while love, in my opinion, doesn’t lend itself to unequivocal language, I’m going to try, because this matters. Because I want to get it right.
I’ve talked a lot this year about “loving more.” That frequently means working through the hard stuff, tapping into your deepest reserves to find patience, understanding and acceptance… but not always.
Choosing love doesn’t always mean staying in. Sometimes it means having the courage to walk away while there still is love.
The truth is not everyone you meet will be good for you, and some people – even good people – will be bad for you. When you find yourself tied up in knots, constantly navigating another’s emotional landmines; when someone else’s pain and rage makes you afraid to tell your truth; when you feel as though staying in a relationship risks your sanity and your sense of self, “loving more” gets very complicated, and it may not mean staying put. It may mean letting go, before the hurt or deception or crazy-making kills everything that was ever good about the relationship.
And there’s something else. I’ve said many times that the most important love of all is self-love; all other love stems from that. I believe that when the choice is between loving yourself or losing yourself as you try desperately to please someone who is bad for you, you should always choose love. Always choose yourself.
I’ve made the wrong choice before. I’ve stayed in a bad relationship so long that I began to doubt my perception of the world. I looked in the mirror and felt unsure about who was looking back at me. I laid awake at night crying, wondering where I’d misstepped, how I’d managed to get so terribly, terribly lost.
In the end, I chose love. I did it by choosing to trust the people who were closest to me, the ones who were worried about me and who had, for years, done nothing but love and support me. I chose to believe them when they said that I wasn’t crazy or terrible, and I wasn’t obligated to stay in a relationship with someone who made me feel that I was both.
I chose me, though not soon enough to prevent the damage. I was exhausted, shattered.
Reassembly is not a straightforward, linear process, and even now, I know I don’t look like I used to. I don’t think or act or love like I used to. Every day, I feel the internal shifts of evolution, and I try to have faith that I’m becoming more and more the person – the magnificent, badass love warrior – I aspire to be.
Make no mistake about it, though. I did not stay in the relationship, but I did, absolutely, choose love.
It’s not easy to know which times are which, when you should stay and when you should go. It has been confusing (and transformative) to live a life in which I remain committed to – in fact, hellbent on – fearless love. It is beautiful and astonishing in ways I never dreamed of when I started. What it isn’t, and what it never will be, is simple. But then, the best things rarely are.