In the end these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you love?
How deeply did you learn to let go?
In the time I've been in recovery, I have been learning what it truly means to give love and to receive it. As a young person, I often confused lust with love, and love with ownership. It was a matter of pride to speak of “my” girlfriend. I did not understand that truly loving someone included letting them be themselves, letting them grow, and letting them go if they needed to fly away. To love was to hold and to have.
The people in the rooms of Al-Anon taught me a new kind of love. At first, I did not recognize it consciously, but I think I felt it at my first meeting. That love is expressed in listening to others, in identifying with each other's stories, in accepting each of us for the unique, wonderful, damaged person that we are. At the end of my first meeting, at which I cried in public for the first time in decades, I knew that I was no longer alone, that there was a room full of people who understood my pain, frustration, anger, and despair, and who did not judge me for who I loved and for the choices I had made and would make. That was my first experience of the special love of the program.
I now know that God loves me, as God loves all of us, unconditionally. God loves me, not in spite of my faults, but in celebration of exactly the person I am, and exults in the person I am becoming. And I am learning to love in that same way. I am learning to let go of ownership as a part of love, to let go of controlling and shaping my loved ones, and instead to love them just as they are. It is hard. It is a journey. I imagine that I will not reach its end, but it is a goal to strive for, for I am learning to love better, to love more fully, and to let go more deeply. The paradox and wonder of this path is that the more deeply I can let go, the more fully and deeply I can love.
A meditation for May 4, 2013.
In this song from Jesus Christ, Superstar, Mary Magdalene wonders how to love Jesus, who she cannot love in the same way she has loved others before.