Week 12 - Control
The first quarter of the year is quickly picking up speed and I'm starting to let this weekly ritual slip. So here's an attempt to put words to some feelings and thoughts on my mind, because I believe it's important and valuable to take time to reflect regularly.
This coming week will mark the 2 month anniversary of bringing Rumi, our rescue cat, home. It's only been two months, but he has taught me so much in a short span of time. Having a pet as an adult and being fully responsible for it, financially and in every practical way, is a whole different ball game from having a family pet.
The biggest lesson I'm being reminded of with this new addition to the home is something that I began learning with Alan. It's simply this: love does not control. Love accepts.
Love doesn't try to change a person or an animal's nature, or force itself upon another against that person or creature's will. A lot of what we think is love is varying forms of control, and it sneaks in in the subtlest of ways. There is nothing wrong, many of us innocently think, about wanting to squeeze and cuddle a pet. We're simply showing it affection. There's nothing wrong with trying to change a partner, we are simply wanting the best for them. There's nothing wrong with being a harsh parent or a boss from time to time - we want to motivate our children or our team members to perform.
I grew up believing many of these things were true, but I now know them to be lies. I've learned that people - and animals - flourish, thrive, and yes, even transform for the better when we respect and acknowledge their unique individuality. When we work with, not against their nature. It's sometimes accepting that your best way to solve a problem will NOT be what those you love most need. They need to find their own path and solution.
I've also learned that when you hold the advantage and the power balance is shifted in your favor, that's when you have to be more careful than ever of unconsciously controlling the ones you claim to care for. Why? Because it's a lot harder for the creature depending on you for food to bite the hand that feeds it, even if your actions are distressing them. It's a lot harder to let your parents or partner know that they are hurting you when you are financially dependent on them and obliged to live under the same roof as them. So the party with less power tolerates things. Tolerance is not happiness. Tolerance is not an unabashed, mutual love and respect. It's grudging, and that's not the kind of love I want in return from those I love.
I strongly believe that if we want a partner or a pet solely to help us feel less lonely, or if we want a baby to make our lives more meaningful, we're not ready, and we can cause serious hurt in the process. We're missing the point of love. Love is not solely about getting something out of someone or some creature.
It's equally about what we can give. How carefully we can listen. How closely we can pay attention. How patiently we can put aside our assumptions and discover another beating heart with entirely different thoughts, different desires, and different preferences, and learn to live in harmony together, appreciating the wonder and miracle that is finding our hearts have the capacity to love and want the best for someone else other than ourselves.