This blog post is the concluding segment of a recent online course: love.
This love course hasn’t exactly wrapped itself up in a nice little package with a pretty bow.
I have mentioned here and there, and in between the lines, that I get up early to work on this project. I call online course creation/blogging a project because the word ‘project’ lessens my intensity around an end result. I love to write and create from a clear and connected space, and that space is easy to access early in the morning.
I got out of that space while creating the lesson segments for this course. It became more of a ‘push’, and a ‘have to’, to finish the course. I stepped away. I would like to share a few things that I was reminded of when it comes to love.
Keeley was not the first story I told about love. I had a Grandma. In the busy in-and-out of life as a teenager/early 20’s, coming home for holiday and summer breaks, I would often tell this Grandma when she was around, ‘I love you’. She would respond, ‘no you don’t’. I’d be PISSED.
When I moved back home after my first stay in Southern California to work at the high school (reference wild from the Love short story), Grandma was living in a nearby nursing home.
On the weekend, I would try to visit. I actually liked the nursing home. I liked the people. I liked my Grandma. I thought she was funny. I also found her to be wise. I had made some peace with some of the weird (ie. crazy) things she started to say prior to the nursing home, as I could see how dementia had been gradually rearing its fragmented head leading up to events that led to the home.
When I would visit, I would often paint her nails. She fell asleep a lot while she waited for me to do my salon version. I didn’t want her to fall asleep because she would smudge her nails. One day, I had finished her nails and must have left to use the bathroom. I came back and her head was down and her hands were underneath her. I said ‘Grandma. Your nails!’ She didn’t raise her head. All she did was lift her hands. She had tucked her thumbs between her first and middle fingers so that they wouldn’t rub against each other.
When I first visited the nursing home, I observed people at different stages of aging. At the time, my Grandma wasn’t dependent on a wheelchair. Comparatively, her physical body wasn’t in too bad of shape. She had a hunched back, but she was light (less than a 100 pounds) which probably made it easier for her to move. She was stubborn too, so she’d push the walker or the wheelchair rather than be pushed in it.
I remember observing the other people and thinking to myself: I can/will not bathe or diaper my Grandma. Not happening. Ever.
Let’s just say that Grandma and I, as the years progressed, found ourselves in certain predicaments where the things I thought I could never do, were done.
At this time, I would tell my Grandma ‘I love you’. And she would respond, ‘I know you do.’
The love this course is suggesting is the energy of love. Love without observable behaviors, or conditions. The behaviors so often suggesting the ‘proof’ of our love for one another.
I know that my Grandma was not referencing my actions. She felt it. We had a different connection at that nursing home that we hadn’t had prior. Growing up, and doing the day-to-day, makes it easy to lose that ‘presence’ that this love I am suggesting requires.
Love exists. It is an energy. We attune to it. Calibrate. The uncomfortable and undesirable life events, circumstances, and situations have a way of bringing us back to it.
I mentioned Sweet.Spot.
After my Grandma died, I would tell the story of love as it happened between she and I. However, I would reference my actions. And when I told the story, the energy of the story would suggest that we ‘do’ things for those we love. We go to the nursing home, we paint nails, we clean wheelchairs, we give baths, etc.
I was missing the energy of love. I connected love to a social narrative that loudly proclaims our actions to be the ultimate test of love. Sacrifice. Putting others first no matter what the cost.
This is where vulnerability comes in. If you aren’t familiar with Brene Brown, you may like to be. She has a ‘way’ of sharing familiar, humorous stories that draw you in, and then she backs up her main teaching points with qualitative research.
Brene Brown’s entire message centers around shame and vulnerability. I think that she says vulnerability is the antidote to shame. Brene has a great story about how she exposed her own vulnerability – which was the state that allowed the opening to the popularity of her current teachings.
The short version of her story is that she had a tight, packaged presentation that was bulletproof – she had data and research to back her findings findings. When asked to do a TED talk in her Houston hometown, she thought she’d share some personal stories, as she was familiar with the audience and it would be a different way of presenting her data (she told the backstory either in the preface of her most recent Leadership book, or on her Netflix special).
The TED talk went viral. Prior to her knowing this, she wanted to forget it had ever happened – she had shared too much. Too late. She references her shame spiral, and all the demons that showed up, as she had exposed herself (essentially) to the world.
Brene’s end game wasn’t popularity, but she uses her popularity as a platform to share her teachings. Those who receive and apply her teachings, learn how to do ‘ordinary’ from an extraordinary space of wholeness. Brene uses the phrase ‘wholehearted’ living.
When I reflect on love, and those that I feel deeply connected to, it is in the space of vulnerability where love seems to naturally flow.
The gush found me through those who came into my life in vulnerable situations. Keeley, Grandma Nance, suicidal/addicted/lost teens, and myself (reference: Catherine Zeta Jones story). It was vulnerability that cleared the space that allowed me to tune to it.
Here is where the sweet spot shows up. Often when one demonstrates vulnerability, the ‘other’ (and the ‘other’ can be yourself acting toward your own self) swoops in to care for the one who is vulnerable. This is where we create these enmeshed, or in some way, dysfunctional relationships. The relationship becomes dependent on one saving the other.
Children, animals, and aging or ill humans, are probably some of the easiest defined ‘categories’ of vulnerability. Easy to love (generally speaking). But then what? Are we the hero? Or does our definition of love, and what we ‘have’ to do, create resentment?
The sweet spot is opening up to the space of love. No one is saving anyone. No one is a victim. No one is a hero. We ‘get’ to have opportunities to allow the space of love to drive our behavior (what we choose to do, or what we choose not to do). The space of love is vulnerable.
Vulnerability and love allows for the sweet spot.