There are some people who are just so good at what they do, and share their vision, in sight and experience so compellingly that I can’t help but follow them even if I’m not really part of their target audience. Erika Napoletano is one of those folks. Danielle LaPorte is another. Entrepreneur, life coach, humanitarian, creativity guide – you really should do yourself a favour and check out her website some time.
A couple of weeks ago, she dropped a “truth bomb” right in my lap:
“What do you hope is true?”
I immediately rejected the obvious: I hope it is true the Avalanche won’t completely blow chunks this season (no chance that is true). I hope it is true that the Broncos are Super-Bowl-bound. I hope it is true that some of the best days of my life haven’t happened yet.
Eventually, though, I landed on this:
I hope it is true that I am brave enough to love and to love well.
Don’t get me wrong. I have friends and family that I love dearly. Just the fact they are in my life brings me a giddy rush of joy, peace, excitement, warmth and a thousand other things I cannot articulate well. I have leaned on them far more heavily than I ever imagined I would have to and if I could move heaven itself for any one of them, I would find a way to do it.
But do I love them well? Do I even know what that looks like?
I grew up in the Air Force as an only child. Every 2 to 3 years, my Dad would be reassigned and trust me, I know I was one of the fortunate ones. I had lived in 3 countries and 5 States by the time I was 8 and by the time I graduated from high school, I had made a return visit to one of those countries and 2 of those States. A new posting. New school. New friends. Promises to stay in touch with old friends, even though we knew it wasn’t likely to happen. Pack up. Move. Start over.
The truth is that I had learned to hold on to my friendships very loosely; I expected to lose my friends. Even now, with my nomadic lifestyle far behind me, I STILL tend to hold my friendships in open palms.
My friends are tenacious, though, and I am learning and I have learned. I have learned that friendship doesn’t come with an expiration date, although it can and does morph over time. I am learning that just because life changes, it doesn’t automatically follow that the new reality isn’t big enough to embrace the old. I have learned that time and distance don’t have to lead to a loss of connection. I am learning the very real value of community and how that sense of belonging can ground me in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I was growing up.
I hope it is true that I love them well or, at the very least, that I love them better today than I did yesterday.
I have never had a significant relationship with a man that lasted more than 2 years. Friends, I say. We’re just friends. Never mind that I’m seized with a painful kind of disappointment when I expect to see him and don’t. Or that my heart laughs when he teases me about the way I drive. Ignore that my soul feels safe when I’m around him. Forget that we can talk all night about our hopes and dreams for the future.
We are friends.
Because I am too scared to imagine what it could be like if we were something more. Because the idea of showing him that much of myself is enough to make me run in any other direction but towards him. Because I have learned to accept the shadows. Because I am not brave enough to admit that I love him at all. I want to be that brave.
I hope it is true that I am willing to let my heart be tested.
I absolutely and hopelessly adore my best friend’s kids. They are funny, bold, intelligent, loving young people who know what they want, and who love fiercely. They are flat-out amazing. And I know how often and how intensely Kathy has cried for them and over them.
I have been witness to the heartbreak of a wonderful couple watching their children turn away from the values they were raised with and make poor decision after poor decision, setting out on a life course that will put them at odds. Estrangement is inevitable and likely permanent. How is it that their hearts do not shatter under that much pain?
Others have sacrificed tears, time, and financial security in their quest to become parents. Fertility treatments. Sex on a schedule. Waiting. Glimmers of hope that faded too quickly, leaving raw and jagged wounds behind. Then to be told that they are too old at 30-something to bring love to a child who is dying for want of it.
First time parents, wide-eyed and breathless with wonder and anticipation of the new life they are bringing into the world. Trepidation, excitement, joy, all taking turns in their hearts and in their minds, and sometimes colliding with each other.
And me. Childless. Wondering how on earth it is possible to love someone you have never met so completely, so fiercely, so gently? How is it possible to sacrifice so much, endure so much without going totally mad? And yet, with all of that, I am still not certain whether I am more relieved by my childless state or if it is grief for what I will never know that squeezes my heart.
And all my hopes, in the end, can be refined into this:
I hope it is true that I am strong enough to be vulnerable.
What about you? What do you hope is true?