December 3, 2017 at 8:19 AM Leave a comment

The beginning, today, of Advent and the excitement of anticipating the holidays made me wonder what each of us is really waiting for. Have you thought about that question and found a personal answer?

People struggling with anxiety are waiting for the anxiety to diminish. People struggling with depression are waiting for the depression to lift. People suffering from the effects of trauma are waiting for the flashbacks and the nightmares and the negative thoughts and the fears to subside.

We’re also waiting, different ones of us, for the bills to get caught up and the shopping to be finished and the party to be attended and the presents to be wrapped. We’re waiting for the next meal, a good night’s sleep, and…… a break.

We’ll get all those wishes. The anxiety, depression and PTSD wax and wane. We’ll get the bills paid, and then they’ll pile up again. Christmas, or whatever holiday we celebrate, will come and go. We’ll be hungry and then satisfied and get hungry again.

After thirty-some years as a therapist, I would tell you with certainty that there are a few things people are waiting for day in and day out which are not so easily found or created or resolved. One of these “things” is love. More people are waiting for love than anything else in the world. More people are hungering for love, starving for love, and dying for lack of love. You probably remember the research: married men live longer than single men. Teachers can easily identify the children who come from loving homes — they’re happier, healthier and better behaved.

As a marriage and family therapist the first thing I do in an intake session is a genogram of the client’s family of origin. My first questions are, “What’s your mother’s first name?” and “Tell me about your mother.” No exaggeration, at least half the time that person I never met before looks at me as if I’ve gotten into his/her head and heart, gives me a rueful smile, and says, “Well, that’s probably the problem.” They’re amazed I figured it out in the first minutes of the first session. I didn’t, of course. Odds are, though, if you are seeking therapy you are NOT feeling loved. If you are NOT feeling loved, odds are something went amiss with the first love lesson we all need: the benevolent gaze of our mother. If she is a fairly healthy, happy person who got a good benevolent gaze herself, she will take one look at us and fall hopelessly in love with the blank slate we are, shriveled and unhappy about being dislodged from our warm womb cocoon, uncombed or hairless, naked, whining or crying, and that besotted woman will start cooing and telling us we are the most beautiful thing she has ever seen in her whole life. Her hands will softly stroke our heads or cheeks. The rest of the world will vanish for her, and she’ll only have eyes for us.

That’s what is supposed to happen.

It’s supposed to continue with kindness, discipline, protection, five years of in-home daily teaching, healthful meals, warm, safe beds, laughter, exercise and endless, fairly unconditional love. A man is necessary for the moment of origination of each of us, that aforementioned man who, again, if things go well, gets and stays married to the mother of his children and, consequently, lives longer than his single friend. This man is a very necessary participant in the raising of the child. It is he who must prepare the child for real life. Therapists use birds to explain the male/female roles. The female is to build the nest and keep the baby safely in the nest. The male is to ready the baby for reality, including flying solo, because it is the male’s job to kick the baby out of the nest. MANY men and women do not understand that these roles are mutually important and mutually exclusive — hard to keep the baby in the nest and kick it out at the same time. If each allows the other, with support and a bit of a good cop/bad cop role play, to do his/her role and sticks to her/his role — all goes smoothly.

Human love, from the very beginning, is complicated and complex. Add the element of choice, when we choose which bird we’ll build a nest with, and you’ve got something resembling Russian roulette. Throw in personalities, poverty, addictions, genetic legacies — like suicides and selfishness — and it is no wonder we are yearning for a simple benevolent glance from someone who sees us at our worst and thinks the best of us. Add on to this impossible scenario people who want to make money. How, they might ask, are we going to get people to spend their money? How about if we tell them they will be more likely to be LOVED if they have sweet breath, straight hair, slim figures, head-turning wardrobes, fast cars and beautiful homes. People will pay anything for the promised possibility of love.

So, what are we waiting for? We’re waiting to buy something which cannot be sold. I remember a couple I worked with who came in with hate and scorn dripping from their lips. They despised each other. (They say most couples seek marital therapy 2 to 5 years too late. Surely these two were too late.) I asked them the question most likely to soften hard hearts: what attracted you to him/her in the first place. The wife looked at me while she waved her arm in her husband’s direction: “He looks like Adonis!” The Greek god snarled, “She’s drop dead beautiful.” They bought the bill of goods. They wanted their money back. All the beauty in the world didn’t give either of them a lick of kindness or wisdom.

You know why so many people are yearning for love? As a society and culture we’ve forgotten what love is. I saw two examples recently, both from the same man. I was riding with him in a car and we stopped at a light where a panhandler stood with his cardboard sign. “Money,” my friend said, and I dug in my purse and pulled out a couple dollars. My friend rolled down his window and said, “Hey, brother. How you doing today?” He handed him the money. “I hope you have a good rest of the day. Love you, brother,” and we pulled away. We were on our way to a nursing home to visit a bedridden woman he had befriended. He walked right up to the bed and gave her a hug. There he stood in a puddle of pee that had leaked off her rubber mattress and onto the floor. Unfazed, he open a sandwich he had brought her and tore it into bites, feeding her a bite at a time, talking to her as she ate. She scratched her head almost continually. He asked her if her head itched. She told him it had been too long since she had gotten her hair washed. He went into the bathroom, washed the sandwich off his hands, and proceeded to spend about ten minutes rubbing and scratching her head for her.

Love isn’t easy. Love isn’t pretty. Love isn’t sanitized. You know it when you receive it because it is a connection that goes beyond superficial charms straight to the depths of our beings. You know it when you receive it because you feel seen and heard and accepted. You know when you give it because you feel better than you actually are, more real, more kind, more thoughtful, more generous.

Love has no religion and no nationality. Love speaks no one language or has no single skin tone. Love is not kept for those with bank accounts or denied to those whose minds are fragmented or whose bodies are differently formed. Love isn’t a noun. Love is a verb. Love isn’t love until its put into action. So, WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR? As Gandhi said: BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD.

May love flow to and from each of us. May we be that for which we wait. My love to you, Susan





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