“It is only necessary to know that love is a direction and not a state of the soul. If one is unaware of this, one falls to despair at the first onslaught of affliction.” -Simone Weil
Something snapped in me tonight. I didn’t see it coming, although the fog of exhaustion and the kink in my low back should have warned me. I should have gotten take-out and left the laundry in the washing machine, and lay down; but instead, I moved through the daily list of chores, attending to the pets, the kids, and the house before myself. Then like a tornado spinning up from nowhere, I was screaming and all of the grievances that I usually keep neatly filed for discussion at some later date flew out of my mouth with a force and fury that shocked even me. So much for a nice family dinner The tenuous peaceable bridge to my teenage son, who often simultaneously wants everything from me and nothing to do with me, is hanging by a thread again.
Perhaps I can blame this breakdown on my simultaneous raging and disappearing hormones. According to multiple accounts, I am not alone with unprecedented exhaustion, flaring tempers and an inability to focus. But even if there is a sound biological reason and legitimate bad chemistry for my mini breakdowns, the fissures in my relationships that go with them are mine to mend. Claiming brokenness does not get you off the hook because somewhere we are all broken.
Knowing that love is a direction and not a state of the soul is the only ground I have to stand on, especially when I am overcome with a biology that is reinventing itself. My feelings of being done are as real as my commitments to love my family and they wrestle in me, continuously seeking balance or at least solace. I don’t really want to give up on the promises that I made earlier when I was flush with regular hormones and seemingly endless energy, I want to learn how to keep the promises without losing myself.
A dear friend once told me that “your boundaries are how you love yourself.” This is uncharted territory for me and millions of women who grew up learning who we are by who we love and how well we are loved. My new biochemical mix forces me to find what is mine alone and honor it. For many people, this time ushers in the end of many old relationships and promises.
I don’t want to believe that relationships have an expiration date, although I have heard the concept more than once of late. Culturally, I am in a minority here and not infrequently have to defend my position that we don’t know what a relationship has to teach us if we don’t stick around through the painful, conflicted and difficult stretches. One friend recently told me that six weeks is long enough to know if someone is capable of loving. Our ensuing argument was a testimony to the different kinds of pain that we each choose for ourselves. I am not convinced one is better than another in the painful parts, but I keep choosing how to learn to stay.
Each time the connection that grows in my relationships only deepens. I need to have someone on my side in life even if I can’t feel it each and every day. Coming back to relationships, even when you don’t want to, is the art of sustainable love which requires great humility and courage. T.S. Eliot once said “For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.” We cannot guarantee our results in life; we can only step forward with love as our direction and hope it is enough to get through the afflictions that come from being human together.