When I rephrase the paradox that is posed in the child’s question, “If God can do anything, can He make a rock so heavy He can’t lift it?” I can almost get a handle on this business of experiencing myself as a multidimensional paradox. To say that I am like a snowflake in a blizzard of drifting snow describes my sense of uniqueness and connectedness, of existing as one being who is in essence the same as the One Being (it also suggests the quality of my tumultuously peaceful existence) but it doesn’t express the paradox of what I’ve been feeling as a microcosm of the universe. So I’ve been asking myself some paradoxical questions concerning my divine and human nature. “Can I unconditionally love myself, even when I’m being unloving? Can I embrace everything by letting everything go?” And I’m finding that I have some answers for myself. Unconditional love, like a vast blanket of snow, includes the snowflake moments of being not only unloving, but also wretched and despondent and bored out of my gourd. Embracing everything means I can even embrace not embracing everything, and letting go of everything means I can even let go of letting go. I can stop being afraid of my fear. I can stop judging myself for being judging. I can be at peace with not being at peace. I can intend and create my future by surrendering to whatever it will be. I can be in the dark and in the light at the same time. I can be the least significant blip in the universe, and the most miraculously magnificent expression of existence.
This integration of paradoxical opposites has been congealing itself out of the cauldron of a recent event in my life that was at once the most devastating and the most envastating, if I can use that word to describe a state of absolute oneness with another human being and with eternity.
The meeting of our souls was the answer to two lifelong prayers, an interlocking of two paths so interwoven throughout the course of our lives that our mutual review of our journeys brought us to regard one another as the two complementary halves of one soul experience. We recognized one another, we saw eternity through one another’s eyes, we were enveloped in the magic of mysteries revealed, we were life and death, male and female, divine and human, wisdom and naivete, strength and vulnerability, merged into one fullness that was totally exclusive and totally inclusive in the profound depths and soaring heights of our love.
Circumstances, or destiny, or the brilliant foresight of our own souls, forced our relationship to end. The pain of not being able to be together felt to me like death by torture. I had been an emotional and spiritual Siamese twin who shared a heart, and I was being surgically separated, which left me with half a heart, bleeding uncontrollably, and no one to heal it but me. I tried everything to stop the flow. I believed there was a good reason for all of this, and I would go on loving him and what we had exchanged forever. I believed there was no good reason for anything, and we weren’t what we had appeared to be to one another after all. I believed each of us had gained so much that we were now capable of being whole unto ourselves. I believed each of us had lost so much that we would forever gasp for breath in the emptiness of regret. I tried becoming disenchanted by considering the aspects of our personalities and lifestyles that would have generated unresolvable conflict. I tried forcing the picture into one that would simply have to accommodate our need for one another, no matter how that would affect other lives. I tried shutting him out of my thoughts, but the connection between us was so palpable that I could feel his emotions even in the middle of my own momentary calm. I tried sending love toward him, and would fall flat on my face leaning too far into the wake of the current.
Guided by pain, I found I had no recourse but to be as small and incapable of coping as I sometimes felt, at the same time that I had to be big enough, loving and grateful enough, to honor this experience as a gift that would enrich me for the rest of my life. Pain became the indicator of when I was losing my balance, and the waves of indecisive helplessness and focused determination were coming along with such unnerving frequency that I was in danger of going under if I didn’t learn how to keep my balance.
I surprised myself by discovering what I’m sure many people who have healed from separation have discovered. Every single emotion was a valid and necessary and eventually welcome part of the process. Was I feeling cynical? Well, then, I was feeling cynical, you better believe I was feeling cynical, I was walking off into the lurid sunset to the tune of Swan Lake and yelling to the director of this pathetic movie to get this dead swan off me! Was I feeling crazy and abandoned? I was stranded in a desert with nothing but a figment of my imagination to keep me company, a talking fig who moaned that it was tired of being the only talking fig around, tired of having nothing but an invisible prototype of a fig to talk to, where was the land of talking figs where every fig had a companion? Was I feeling like a foolish dreamer, dreaming that someday everything would change and my true love would return to me? Uh, oh, pain, let that dream go. But it hurts to let it go! So let it go and don’t let it go. What? Really? Maybe that dream will happen, or maybe something even better will happen. Maybe this had to happen before something else could happen. Maybe there really is a greater wisdom and an intelligent timing to all of this. Does it hurt to continue to love him? It does, and it hurts not to. So love him and don’t love him. Really? How? Love him so much that you trust his soul to know what it’s doing, that you respect his life choices, that you want the best for him. And don’t love him so much that you need him, don’t need what becomes a source of pain, who needs it?
Every emotion, every dichotomous set of emotions, revealed more facets of a being even more complex than I’d suspected. I was still, in the eternity I’d shared with him, the goddess to his god, and I was, at the same time, having a human experience that was exclusively my own. I was learning to love my smaller, fractured identity from a cohesive unity of Being that experiences all of Itself as true and real and elusive and illusionary and ever-changing. Loss and gain became integral parts of the same life-expression, neither being experienced without the other. Wholeness became an on-going evolution, not a static condition or point of arrival. The light of unconditional love became the pervasive background to every shade of the spectrum of existence.
What the separation from what felt like the other half of my own soul had forced me to do was to re-examine how I defined myself. I had to acknowledge whatever qualities in me had contributed to our parting, and to determine what qualities I missed in him that I hadn’t yet fully developed in myself. I had been spontaneous, but to the point of being emotionally leaky around the edges, while he had been steady, solid, reliable. I was excited about new possibilities, but to the point of an overeager desire to have them unfold starting now; he was focused on living in the moment. I was aware of the soul’s inherent beauty, but to the point of expecting the flower to bloom before the bud had emerged; he was skilled at accommodating the limitations of time and space and personal identities. I was insistent on having my own needs met as well as honoring those of others, and he knew that honoring others’ needs was what he most needed for his own peace of mind.
That I was forced to redefine myself, to mellow some excessive qualities and to enhance some underdeveloped ones, turned out to be timely beyond coincidence, but then, from the overview of an intelligence greater than that of my gradually expanding personal awareness, nothing is merely coincidental, it all falls into place as masterfully as an orchestrated symphony when each of us masters our own music. Within three months of having been given the gifts elicited from loss and gain, my twenty-nine-year-old son was plunged into the most traumatic experience of his young life, and I was called upon to exercise those gifts.
A gradually building tension between Eric and his girlfriend exploded into a battle over their almost-two-year-old son, a literal one beginning with Nicole trying to tear their little boy from his father’s arms and Eric shoving her away. She lost her balance and fell. She left with little Ever, and, motivated not by any justifiable fear of Eric’s generally patient nature, but by a history of traumatic abuse, she took out a restraining order against him. By the time I found out, Eric had not seen his son in two months. He had lost so much weight and so much of the light in his eyes that I hardly recognized him when I arrived from the other side of the country. He had engaged a lawyer; from the depths of his stunned pain and fearful concern for his son’s well-being, he wanted to sue for full custody. My presence enabled him finally to see his little boy for a few hours each weekend, because Nicole, never so empowered as she now felt with her own attorney backing her up, was willing to allow supervised visits, but six weeks of my exchanging information between the two of them did not derail an impending court hearing. Under the cynical eye of the judge, every one of us was made to feel helplessly incompetent, including Nicole, who was nevertheless granted a continuation of the restraining order, because, in fact, Eric had physically shoved Nicole. He was devastated. He would have almost no involvement in his son’s development during one of the most crucial years of childhood.
My own emotions, as the horrible details of Nicole’s upbringing and my son’s two years of trying to deal privately with her unhealthy mental state were disclosed, tumbled through white-water turmoil. I empathized deeply with Nicole’s misdirected revenge against the sexually abusive men her mother had brought home — but this was my gentle-natured son she was screwing with, and at the expense of her own child’s happiness. I shared my son’s terrible fear that his life and happiness, and that of his son, were in mortal danger, and aligned myself with his desire to protect Ever from her emotional instability by continuing to battle for full custody –but Nicole was finally starting a healing process that would be totally undermined if she weren’t given a chance to become a better mother than hers had been. I returned home, continuing to email and phone both of them as their only means of communication, and I weighed the gifts I had so recently been given. I had to believe that each soul, including little Ever’s, was operating from an awareness that intended growth toward wholeness. I knew that a loving recognition of the soul’s greater intelligence was an imperative ingredient toward eventual harmony. I had learned that each of us is responsible for transforming loss into gain. I steadied my emotions. I held a view of the best possible outcomes, but stayed in the moment. I trusted the ultimate beauty of each soul, but settled myself into the limitations of time and space and personal identities. Honoring the needs of each person involved became what I most needed to do for my own peace of mind. Infusing the entire situation with unconditional love became my mantra.
I returned to spend another month with them, listening to each side of the story with compassion, emphasizing the importance of Ever having the daily love of both parents to depend on, and finally suggesting that each examine and take responsibility for their own part in the conflict, which the attorneys were painfully slow in progressing toward any kind of resolution.
On Father’s Day, six months after the initial altercation, Nicole decided to withdraw the restraining order. She sent Eric a paper heart torn in two and asked him to mend it. Eric could finally give her the child support money, which had been filtered through the system inadequately, directly. I was, somewhat miraculously, in a position to help them both financially. Nicole went off welfare and asked Eric to take care of Ever while she found a job and moved into a decent apartment. Eric’s inner light returned as he joyfully fathered his son, but Ever cried each time he had to leave his father, even though he loved his mother so much that he would put his arms around her and say, “Mine!”
Today, they share each of Ever’s new words and skills with joyful excitement. They love one another in a different way. They have no expectations that need to be met by the other. They appreciate their very different contributions to their two-and-a-half-year-old’s evident happiness. That sweet little boy — by the breadth of his engaging smile it’s clear that he knows he is the key reason for all the parts adding up to a greater whole — receives the same daily dose of unconditional love that he so easily gives.
Unconditional love, in its purest form of wholeness, is love with no differentiation. I’m in love with everything these days, with the bright pink wispy clouds of this bright blue wispy morning as much as with the wild dark storm of last night, with some lone bird calling from deep in the woods as much as with the fox whose desire to eat it will end its life or strengthen it, because, like Ever, like Eric and Nicole, I’m part of everything, and everything is part of me.
Being in love with another person without unconditional love was an exercise in exhaustion. I was happy when I felt seen, miserable when I didn’t, blissful when I thought the relationship would last forever, tormented when I thought it wouldn’t — until my limited love exhausted both me and itself, and I thought I had to cure myself of what felt like a disappointing addiction, or cure the other person of being only human, after all. Being in love with the ineffable essence of everything, I don’t know or care if I’m seen or not, and there’s no end to what I can take in as evidence of more to love forever. Love with no subject and no object! Having fallen in love with Love means I can’t lose my balance, because there’s nowhere else to fall. It means that if I am in love with another person, I’m really in love with an inexhaustible Beingness of which this person is merely one beautiful and messy and divine and human expression, one engaging band in the spectrum of an all-pervasive light.
So I stand here in the light, even while I’m in the dark, welcoming the colors of my life as constantly surprising – uplifting, wrenching, challenging, warming, revealing, and always surprising. Do I wish that I could be with the man who once felt like the other half of my soul? Sometimes I do, and so I let myself be with him, I spend time with him in these greater dimensions that we shared with one another, thanking him for playing such a crucial role in my much-needed transformation, because I’ve let go even of letting go. Am I glad I’m on my own, with what else is mine to love, other people, work, adventure, nature, the planet, life, this Universe that I am? I am, because even in my aloneness, I am always in relationship. Would I like to be with someone I can hold in my arms? Sometimes I would, and so I keep myself open to that possibility, even while I don’t mind if it never happens. It has become a strange and beautiful truth that I can love everything that will unfold, even not loving what I’m experiencing, because I have been granted the paradox of myself, and the giver of the gift is always with me, for the giver of the gift is the very smallest part of me, and the vastest. If I can give myself such a gift, I can do anything. If I can do anything, can I create a living experience so big that I can never live it all?