“I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don’t be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years…”
These are some of the lines from a song currently on the radio. The theme is by no means unique to contemporary songwriting. Most films, books, and songs now seem to revolve around unrequited love, jealousy, self-perpetuating misery, or conquest. Underneath these themes lies hope.
Over the past few weeks, I have done quite a bit of reflecting on the subject of love and contemporary romance. I am an Enneagram 4: the Tragic Romantic. Tragic. Throughout my life, most – if not all – of my romances seemed to circle around the motifs of the damned: loss and high drama. I absorbed them; they absorbed me. The relationships I have experienced (and witnessed) have been deeply rooted in some level of intense need and inaccessibility. I was a seeker of the wounded. I recognized wounds. I didn’t recognize health.
“I go to your door shivering…
You ask me to come in
you don’t know it’s me
Still you don’t know”
My worth as a human became entangled in how much I could bear or how much I gave. I was not alone in this. Many of the relationships I have witnessed contained the dynamic of hope and dishonesty. Dishonesty cannot exist in a relationship without denial, and greater than denial: hope. Hope that the other will come around and be what is needed: more loving, more communicative, more sexual/sensual, more reliable, more more more. We live on this misplaced hope, thinking if we wait long enough, or do XYZ enough, then everything will work out.
Life goes by in the meantime. Rarely have I ever seen a person relying upon hope receive their desired outcome. Perhaps one of the most wasted energies, aside from guilt, is hope. Hope implies an anticipated outcome that will somehow externally align with an internal wish. Faith, on the other hand, is rather focused on the outcome that IS and WILL BE, that has no sense of expectation or outcome. Faith implies acceptance in Life on Life’s terms (or God, or Allah, or Self, or whomever one relies upon).
“Hope is a bird with wings
That sits on a branch
And sings and sings”
I think what most of us missed in these lines from perhaps one of the most tragic of romantics, Emily Dickinson, is the idea that hope has wings, yet sits on a branch. Hope is not active. Hope stays on the branch singing of its desires, but does not fly to meet them.
Now I appreciate this poem so much more.
Like many, I spent ample time throughout my life hoping. First, as a teenager dreaming of escape – I wanted more than anything to leave the confines of the rural Midwest. I had grandiose ideas about my life then, and I don’t think I ever outgrew these ideas. Settling down never appealed to me. Accepting my reality appealed even less. Hope for something new did.
When I quickly realized that hope would only take me as far as the front porch, I learned to dislike hope and its false promises. Rather, I grew to love action, decisions, bold risks. And so… this is how my life unfolded. In energy. In a tornado. I traveled. I changed jobs. I moved out of love, not once but twice… infatuation even more.
I grew hungry for movement. Movement made me feel alive.
Alive in every way, except in love.
Oh, you see, hope never left me. It remained inconspicuously there, reciting lines from all of the romantic classics I read as a child, whispering the promise of belonging in my ear, a promise for which I was living, unknowingly.
You see, belonging chained me to hope. Being loved, I became its slave as the air in my body tightened, my health declined, my natural curiosity fell from the branches of my being. I wanted, more than anything that child-starved love I was denied, and it was my bird on a branch. It caused my Self to sink into a space I am only now beginning to find.
Hope. I loved and I paid dearly. I lived in hope and denial like a starved animal waiting for the buzzards and wolves to leave.
we know: we are more
than blood – we are more
than our hunger and yet
~ Mary Oliver
Looking back, I was dying. My spirit was dimming. I lost faith in something larger than love, a love that only the sense of belonging can bring. I made the mistake of believing belonging came through the experience we have in shared communion with another. My sense of being was tied to humanity, when I was always held to something else – something vastly intimate, something so true no human needs to complicate it. I belonged to the living world, the breath of the mother, and the pulse of life. I not only have faith in this, I regard it as the greatest form of wisdom: we always belong, and love is our domain.
I have not reached this place of knowing, but I strive for it every day. When you know, viscerally, intimately, that you belong, hope wanes and faith steps in. The struggle ends. The bird flies with her song.