I was in CVS recently and felt attacked by the Valentine’s Day merchandise. Every time I turned a corner there were heart-shaped candy boxes, teddy bears, and other cute loving things to buy for your ’sweetheart.’
I thought to myself: “Here we go again, another financially backed holiday that is thrown in your face whether you like it or not.” I mean the stuff was EVERYWHERE. I took a deep breath, found the diabetes supplies I needed, and left in a huff. My next stop was the grocery store. As soon as I walked in, I was again met with life-sized teddy bears and mugs, and shirts and cards and balloons and aisles of candy, etc. At one point I almost said to hell with it and bought a life-sized teddy bear that was probably as tall as I am. Fortunately, I am not an impulsive shopper. Now don’t get me wrong, I love gifts showing romance and affection as much as anyone else, but I think we can all admit at times it’s a bit over the top.
It’s no secret that this romantic relationship thing has been a personal karma buster. Like so many women I attracted people who reflected my own fear of intimacy and lack of ability to connect and especially to commit.
I can’t blame my partners (I use that term loosely). Growing up in an extremely toxic household with a mentally ill mother and a father who was a raging codependent, there were no boundaries. I was my father’s trophy child. He taught me that due to my type 1 diabetes diagnosis I couldn’t fend for myself and that I was not loveable. His own guilt manifested in wanting to ‘support’ me, so I did not have to experience any additional challenges. There was also the very skewed idea that money and financial care equaled love.
As I roamed the CVS aisles it got me thinking about the difference between needy love and supportive love. Yes, I am a hopeless romantic. Of course, I love getting flowers or romantic notes in the mail or cute thoughtful gifts. Who doesn’t?
This time of year, it’s almost impossible not to have the idea of romantic love at least in the back of your mind. One of the many amazing things learned from my SGI Buddhist practice is a more concrete idea of a truly loving relationship.
This notion is not about ‘saving’ or cowering down to a partner out of a sense of self-righteousness or wanting to be the ‘savior.’ Truth be told, no one can save us but us. This I know for fact. No matter how much I may want a friend to take better care of themselves or value their worth in a work setting there is simply nothing I can do to change the situation for them. The trap I found myself in was surrounded by enablers much like my father. At the end of the day, this scenario was about the other person’s need to be the hero.
The message for me was that I needed fixed and taken care of. As a result, I sought this out. Only with age and time did I begin to realize the pattern of disbelief in my own life. It became painfully clear that a situation based on ‘need’ was a dark road. Personal experience exemplified it led to disappointment, resentment, and heartache. People often ask me ‘don’t you need a relationship? My answer is NO. Would I like a relationship? Yes. Let’s be clear here that after a lot of chanting and therapy and Alanon and heartbreak and life what seems most beneficial is a relationship in which both people are secure in themselves. They take full responsibility for ALL areas of their lives, not seeking ‘saving’ or ‘rescuing’ from the other. Support yes, salvation no.
As my environment has transformed, I am grateful to have many healthy relational models in my life. These are couples who are all solid and empowered in themselves as individuals. They are clear about their personal purpose or mission in life. The relationships are built on trust, respect, and a unified sense of support.
There are healthy and respected boundaries. There is clear communication. Even in moments of disagreement, there is little to no ‘blaming’ the other. As a result, these couples are grounded in a love of support and excitement, not caretaking and resentment. Having healthy models makes a world of difference for those of us who only knew past crazy.
So, as this wacky and somewhat annoying holiday rolls around again I look upon it this year with less angst and more patience, knowing that love based on respect, support, and mission is possible. It means we must be willing to do our own internal work, or as I repeatedly reference our human revolution. Two stable, confident, and self-aware individuals are the recipe for real and joyous love.
Along the way, we get to grow and transform our own lives as well. What could be better than that? Nothing.
YOU ARE WINNING!