At this writing, the dreaded Valentine's Day is five days away. Five days left for lovers to plan the perfect romantic celebration. Five days left for the brokenhearted to steel themselves against the sight of happy couples as far as the eye can see, strolling hand in hand, dreaming of each other in thought bubbles that float above their heads in ads for necklaces and Viagra, jumping off the special hearts-and-flowers menus every restaurant on earth has created just for this day. Oblivious to the rest of us, these lovers gaze at each other with the perfect ratio of love:lust that the rest of us can only dream of.
Just in time for this day of torment, my book, The Wisdom of a Broken Heart, was published. In it, I hope (with kindness) to debunk some of the romantic myths that can lead to heartbreak in the first place. It is meant to explore the way heartbreak can actually make you more authentically loving and powerful. Really.
When it comes to debunking, I'm not saying love and romance aren't real -- they totally are. But there is no way to control them and it seems that most of the conventional wisdom is about trying to do so. But you can't game love.
Let's have a look at some of the myths that make you think it may be possible, but only set you up to fall for the bogus Cupid, hook, line, and lingerie.
To find the love of your life, begin by making a list of all the qualities you desire in a partner.
When I was falling in love with my husband, I realized that my previous boyfriend had actually met all the requirements of my wish list much better than he: no kids; practices Buddhism; respects my pathological need for solitude; loves books; doesn't live in Boston (I've just never gotten the hang of that town). In fact, my new love, ensconced in his Somerville apartment, basically met none of these requirements. Unfortunately, I loved him passionately, while one silent night at dinner with Mr. Perfect, I realized I couldn't even bear the way he breathed. Seriously.
The problem with these lists is that you reduce all of humanity to those who correspond to your little inventory and those who don't. This isn't a very nice thing to do to your fellow humans. Plus, people are much more interesting and surprising than that. Far better to approach each person, each moment, each everything with a sense of openness and curiosity. Instead of shutting out 99.9% of all people, you could switch your focus from judgment to inquiry. You will meet some amazingly cool (and funny, boring, shocking, weird, generous) people this way.
Before you love another, you must: A. love yourself, and B. heal all old wounds to avoid "attracting" dysfunctional situations.
Although on one level, this makes sense, on another, it really makes me mad. Sure, if you don't know what is so awesome about you and if you don't hold yourself in the highest regard, you wouldn't expect another to.
For example, I learned to love myself by loving someone else. When someone looks at me through the eyes of love, I do too. Seeing how much I can love, how completely I want give myself to it, how vulnerable I am willing to be, makes me find myself extremely loveable. So it can work backwards.
Plus, with different people, I'm sure you feel more lovable than with others. So there's no such thing as a moment where you go OK, one second ago I didn't love myself, but now I do. Got it! I used to not love myself, but now I do!! is only an idea which exists in a moment and changes depending on circumstance. So I wouldn't overly focus on this commandment.
And when it comes to "attracting" things by carrying forward unhealed wounds or thinking the wrong thoughts -- PLEASE do not get me started on this one. Who isn't walking around with gaping wounds of some sort? They shouldn't be made to feel bad--it's precisely around these issues that we need love the most. And who is going to try to monitor all their thoughts and make a judgment call about each one? Working thoughts to secure something for yourself is just a fancy way of describing wishful thinking. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a hoax, not to mention extremely claustrophobic. Thoughts are just thoughts. Reality is something else and detaching from thoughts, observing them rather than being swept away by them, is what allows you to see the present moment. The present moment is where reality is. True love exists here, not in your head. P.S. Trying to control the world by controlling my mind only forces me to gaze at one thing over and over and over: moi self.
I gotta say. I'm getting a little sick of her.
Everyone wants to be loved.
Well, sure you do. So do I. But it is only half the story. Everybody also wants to love. For whatever reason, 100% of the self-help books out there (really -- all; I checked) are about how to get love. Zero percent are about how to give love. That is kind of weird, no?
It can be really helpful to shift the focus from getting love to giving it. It's actually quite empowering. In fact, it's basically the only seat of power there is within love, to take the role of lover rather than beloved. So forget about sitting around and waiting for someone to love you and get out there and just start opening your heart as indiscriminately as you can without being stupid. Plus, when you give love, often someone tries to return the favor.
Love is so much more complicated (not to mention interesting, fun, and fierce) than any of these platitudes indicate. So on this Valentine's Day, do yourself a favor. Forget about getting love and realize that you already have it because you're capable of giving it. Look deeply into the eyes of one you love (lover; child; pet; self; Jesus, Buddha, photo of Bruce Springsteen [OK, that last one is just for me]) and say to them: I love you. I adore you without an agenda. You are off the hook for conforming to my many lists. Loving you heals my wounds. I have no idea if I love myself, but I know I love you. Who knew it would be you, but it is.
Then ask (or imagine it possible) for your lover to gaze back at you with the same message.
Repeat. Ad infinitum.
In the end, even as a love myth debunker, I think of myself as a romantic. I practice in the school of Ronny Cammareri (Nicholas Cage's character in Moonstruck), who said:
Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn't know this either, but love don't make things nice -- it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die. The storybooks are bullshit.
Now I want you to come upstairs with me and get in my bed.