Love is a burning thing.
I really think ol’ Johnny Cash was on to something there.
When I work with folks and we talk about love, I often mention how good love is–you know, the kind that leaves us feeling full up and just good right down to our toes, that kind of love is the kind that loves us in spite of ourselves. That is the kind of love that feels safe and secure and just plain awesome. It’s the kind of love that we know won’t go away, even if it gets a little distant or disappears for a while.
Often, particularly working with couples, it seems that one or both partners feel that it’s somehow faux pas to talk about the crummy parts of their partner. They often struggle to admit that there are things about their partner that they don’t really like or enjoy.
You know, what I’m talking about, right?
Those hard-to-love parts like the defensiveness that is so often the first reaction to a simple question? Or the tendency of your person to shoot down a fun idea because it feels risky? Or how your spouse can be a bit controlling at home when work is extra chaotic?
Those are the parts I’m talking about.
Sometimes those parts are just so hard to handle and so we might just try and ignore them, and pretend that they didn’t hurt our feelings, or drain us dry, or leave us annoyed . We try and back up from those hard-to-love parts and pretend they’re not there. We do this not only with those we love, but sometimes even with ourselves.
But friends, when we ignore them then those defensive and crusty and hard-to-love parts don’t get what they want, what they really, really want.
Which is to be seen and loved.
They stay locked up and lonely, and our crusty partner (or friend, or kid, or self) gets even crustier as they put pressure on themselves to show the “good” and hide the hard.
Being loved in spite of ourselves means that we get to all show up to the party. That our amazing and hard and creative and scared and everything-in-between parts get to be seen and known and loved. And that doesn’t always mean liked. But it means that we can come out and our person (or our people, or ourselves) can still love us, and we can still feel safe and secure and good enough in spite of the ways we are not always awesome.
(Note: good enough≠perfect)
I have two kids, and it is simply factual that my eldest is definitely a kid who is easier to love. The ability to listen, tolerate frustration, and just be awesome comes naturally to him. He is my observer, and is the more cautious one of the two.
My youngest is the opposite. She takes waaaaaay more emotional energy and more work to stay connected to. She can be hard to love. She is feisty and fiery and intense.
Yet clearly I love them both with a ferocious, protective, and intense mama-love.
I often think of what it means to love my kids in spite of themselves, particularly my youngest whose tantrum throwing and sassing skills are finely tuned, when this week I realized I was missing a huge part of that equation. As I was tucking my birthday girl in this week I was telling her how much I loved her just the way she is, and how much I love that she has big feelings.
Because I do.
Because her intensity, which is crazy ass hard, also makes her the most excitable, adventurous, energetic, intensely caring and super affectionate girl. She is my kid who dances in her underwear to Taylor Swift. She is the one who sings loudly. She is FULL of life. (In contrast, my safe and cautious eldest kid would be watching from the side.)
Though my youngest tests my patience and pushes every one of my buttons some days, those qualities that make me sigh and sometimes stomp and throw my hands up in exasperation are some of the same things that I love most about her.
I love her for who she is in all of her intensity, and in spite of who she is in all her intensity because that makes her her.
Those things that are hard-to-love about us and those in our circles? I venture to guess that there are redeeming parts of those qualities.
The crazy cleaning tendencies of one partner might also mean that life is really organized, and easier knowing everything has a place. The part that nags is also the part that remembers to bring snack and water to sports events, because it thinks of everything. The seemingly ‘boring’ quality of a partners personality also might make them an extremely safe person.
I wonder what it might look like if we were able to more honestly acknowledge the hard-to-love parts of ourselves, and let them be seen and acknowledged rather than hidden or compensated for. Can we love ourselves and others for who we are in this present moment, without needing to necessarily ‘like’ or enjoy the trickier parts?
After five years I still haven’t grown to looooove a good tantrum, but I can tolerate the tantrum, and love the intensity and fire of the girl who is having one.
My hope as a mom, as a wife, and as a friend is that those in my circles will know that they are loved for who they are in their entirety. That doesn’t always mean I’ll like or know what to do with parts that are tricky, or that I won’t be super annoyed when I have to drive to two stores to find the ‘right kind’ of yogurt drinks (hypothetically speaking, of course!), but when those hard-to-love parts do come out, my people know that I am not going anywhere.
Love really is a burning thing…it’s warms and can burn…it’s good and it’s hard. Who do you get to love for and in spite of themselves today?
**The blog is blessed today by the thoughts of one of our favourite people…therapist Sabrina Friesen