This one starts about 18 years ago; maybe more. I was grousing about some boyfriend that I was mad at to my best friend and how much "I hate him. I just hate him."
My friend's partner, who was older than either of us, sat me down and had a bit of a talk with me that day. And, this is what he taught me.
Love is a strong emotion. Hate is a strong emotion. The opposite of feeling a strong emotion about someone is not to feel another strong emotion about them. The opposite of feeling a strong emotion about someone is to feel nothing about them at all.
For a long time, the logic of that was lost on me. Oh, I'd remind myself of it and my friend never hesitated to remind me of it, but actually living this advice took time.
It took years of feeling hurt by the people I loved, to which I would respond with anger and hurt feelings, for me to understand that the opposite of loving them and continuing to feel hurt was just not to give a damn about what they thought, said, or did. I was stuck in a pattern with people who were so oblivious to my feelings or presence that I don't think they even realized how hurt I was. At least until I would have enough and I would explode. Then, somehow, I'd find myself in the wrong for blowing up and they'd be in power again. Love, hate, love.
And, I learned that the only way to break that cycle was to practice indifference. Indifference is the true opposite of love (and subsequently of hate). And, it took practice. Sometimes all I could manage to do was appear to be indifferent. And, I'd practice appearing indifferent until I actually could start to feel indifferent.
Eventually, I had to practice indifference toward the very best friend whose partner gave me this sage advice. As he grew older, his issues with drugs became increasingly problematic and then started to affect my life, even though we were, by that time, hundreds of miles apart. I continued to feel hurt and used when he would drift into Austin until I couldn't deal with it any longer. Maybe that doesn't make sense to everyone, but if you've ever loved an addict, then you know exactly what I mean. I ended that friendship in an effort to protect myself and my newly developing relationship with Rob. And, it took me a long time to get over it. My friend called and left messages and he wrote long and hateful letters and I practiced indifference by not responding. Because, had I responded, I would have been right back in the cycle that I was trying to pull myself free of. I practiced indifference until I felt indifferent. And, potentially saved my own life and certainly saved a relationship that has grown to mean everything to me.
My little girl has not learned the lesson of indifference. And, it is not a lesson I can teach her, nor is she old enough or ready to hear the speech about how Hate is not the opposite of Love. I'm sure there will be a time when she is ready to hear, but it isn't now. Oh, we've certainly said it enough times, but she can't hear it yet.
I know that she watches me as I practice distance in some of my own relationships and I hope that she is learning a good lesson. Children learn more from what we do than what we say...okay, I made a generalization. My child learns more from what I do that what I say. My child is learning that there are different ways to deal with people than just continuing to be hurt. There are other ways to deal with people than with anger. Even old people like me can change from being perpetually on the edge of a meltdown. It's more effective to talk to someone than to shout at them, no matter how angry they've made me. And, she's also learning that sometimes I slip up in my practice and forget what I'm trying to do and revert to my old ways. But, it's not the end of the world. It is possible to apologize and to admit that I have been wrong without putting myself back in the position of feeling hurt. And, she is learning how adult partners deal with the stresses of being in a long term relationship. We don't retreat to argue and we don't retreat to make up. Our little girl has many lessons to learn and we are being the best teachers we know how. And, one of those lessons is that no one is infallible. Everyone makes mistakes. And, almost all mistakes have a way out, if you're only open and follow your heart to find it.
Sometimes that way out is to practice indifference. Sometimes it is to practice love. And, once in a while, you have to live with a little hate.
That's why I'm featuring this very cute little UFO quilt today. It's not my UFO. It is my daughter's. This little quilt might not actually be a UFO. It might actually be finished, safety pins, no binding, and all. This quilt was a gift for her mother and is suspended in time at the point where she realized her mother wasn't writing back or sending cards or presents anymore, even on birthdays and cmas.
I hope one day I can help my little girl practice indifference.
Whew! That was a heavy one.
Hope you are all doing well on this Way Back Wednesday. Take care. Especially of your heart. Lane