I had no concept of boundaries and healthy relationships; I would just jump into the first relationship that would present itself and fold myself into a pretzel to make myself lovable. All of that is important to my story, and maybe yours. However, what is most important is that I have finally applied my therapy and Buddhist teachings to my life.

 

By Indira Grace

Emily Dickinson once wrote, “The heart wants what it wants-or else it does not care” in a letter to her friend Mary Bowles in the spring of 1862.

Mary’s husband had gone away for a while and her friend, Emily, took some time to offer her comfort.

I understand Mary’s situation. I met a man who does not live near me. When we met, I was nowhere near able to get involved with someone. I was trying to exit a bad marriage, re-build my life, and heal my wounds. It was a bad time to start anything.

He, too, was in a tough situation. Due to his circumstances, he figured he would be alone forever. He imagined that he was going to be that guy who traveled from place to place, doing odd jobs, appearing, and disappearing into the night, no deep connection to another human being. Over time, we developed a strong friendship. Somehow, through my ugly crying and menopausal messiness and his weird way of leaving a conversation without saying goodbye, we supported each other through healing some of our deepest wounds.

Neither of us could imagine living life without the other, yet neither of us were ready to make any more of a commitment than friendship. We were afraid of moving too quickly, and ultimately hurting the other person.

It took more than a year before we decided to date.

We knew that we loved each other because we had been expressing our love early on. However, neither of us really considered it a romantic gesture; it was how we supported each other. We normalized saying “I love you” as friends. We knew that we wanted to be in each other’s lives for as long as we could, but the capacity had the potential for change.

None of this has been written to say, “Look at me! See what I did! You can do it too!” That is not my style.

This is being written as a letter to past me and future me, to show that I can do things in a healthy, way, especially relationships. I can go on and on about the trauma I sustained as a child and how it led me to behave from a place of fight, flight or freeze. Or how I have trauma bonded with whomever gives me the time of day, as each of them were reflections of my abusers.

I had no concept of boundaries and healthy relationships; I would just jump into the first relationship that would present itself and fold myself into a pretzel to make myself lovable. All of that is important to my story, and maybe yours. However, what is most important is that I have finally applied my therapy and Buddhist teachings to my life.

When I want to beat myself up for perceived mistakes, I can say, “Ah, but look here, Grasshopper. Here is where you applied your teachings to the matters of your heart.” Then breathe a sigh of relief that I finally put into practice something that Buddhism taught me.

I know a lot of people who jump into relationships. They listen to their hormones, their wounds, their attractions, their fears and they dive in, headfirst. In a few months something happens that makes them wonder how they even got involved with this person. They either do what I always did, which was bend further to fit the expectations of the other person, or what I have seen many others do, walk away.

When we apply Buddhist principles to matters of the heart, we practice empathy and compassion within ourselves first.

We go into ourselves, we become aware of our own actions. We see what we are doing and why we are doing it. We then detach from our own suffering and feelings. When we do that, we can see where we are behaving from, thus truly being able to determine if we are acting out of fear and habit, or out of love and respect.

When we detach from our own suffering, we can see where the other is acting from, as well.

The practice of a Bodhisattva (“Bodhi”-understandings possessed by a Buddha about the nature of things and “sattva”-the tendencies, qualities, and attributes of goodness, balance, and truth) is to first express goodness, balance and truth towards ourselves, and then to extend them to others.

When we disregard or dismiss ourselves in relationships, we are on wobbly footing. Buddhist teachings are clear that we always start with and within ourselves before moving our awareness outwards to another.

The reason all of this is important to my growth in relationships—and possibly yours—is that my relationship is nowhere near perfect, according to societal standards, and yet, I am still choosing it. My beloved is incarcerated and will be for a few more years. We both had to do a lot of soul searching to decide to be in this relationship.

I had to make up my mind that people’s judgments of me and my life choices were none of my business. He had to decide that he could do a full relationship from where he is. We get a couple of phone calls a day, and letters as often as we have time.

With the pandemic, we are unable to visit. He works full-time, as do I. It can be hard. But I know myself. I know that I can do hard things. And he knows himself and he knows that this is what he wants.

More importantly, the heart knows what it wants, and, through a lot of soul searching, healing, and awareness, we know that ours want each other.

 

Photo: Pixabay

Editor: Dana Gornall

 

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Indira Grace