The opposite of Love

So, it's Way Back Wednesday at my blog and if you've followed for a while, these can be really hard posts where I talk about something that happened in the past and quite often changed my life. Or, it could be about stubbing my toe last week...you never can tell.

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


Hazel said...

What a wonderful and wise post .I have to admit I need to practice indifference instead of anger .Thanks Lane this post really touched me .

regan said...

Thank you for sharing this, Lane. You said it so well. Now I have the words to say when someone asks why I don't communicate with my family. My explanations never seemed to make sense, but this says it all. That was a wise man you knew back then; hope he is still in your life. We need to keep the good ones around!

Shevvy said...

Oh so true.

I learned early on in life that there are some people who should love you and don't and if they see that they can hurt you they will continue to do so again and again.

Rather than letting them keep that power I determined never to let them see how much they hurt me. Over the years, that did become indifference rather than pretending and if they have left my life, I know I'm better for it.

It's so sad your daughter has to learn those lessons so young as well, but with great role models and love and support she will get through it.

Keep doing what your doing.

Leah said...

This is really interesting Lane because it perfectly coincides with something my massage therapist said to me this week.

I've been feeling really angry and was off loading a bit. Later I apologized for grousing and she said "That's what I'm here for. Let it all go, I don't have to own it."

Own it. I think that's what happens when we get wrapped up in this love/hate/love/hate cycle. We own the pain and it hurts.

Thank you for helping me firm up that idea a bit better! Practice indifference, let go of the need to own everyone's issues and pain, and get out of the cycle of being hurt all the time.

Thanks Lane!


Becky said...

Great post. Bless Sydney's heart. That has to be so emotionally scarring.....even if it is being dealt with well. Give her a hug from me....if she will let you!

AMW said...

I've heard the same thing on and off for about 20 years, only put slightly differently. "The opposite of love is not hate. It's Apathy." Seems the same to me, but didn't click until about 5 years ago when I had to put it into a very personal and practical use. Great post.

Anonymous said...

What a thought provoking blog today. I'm so glad that you put into words on how I feel about some people and situations in my life. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

Good for you to learn that hate and love are emotions and the opposite of emotion is non-emotion. It can be difficult to learn that lesson, but you having learned it can teach it to your teen and believe me she is watching every move you make. My children do watch what I DO! and it is crucial to apologize when we adults are wrong/make a mistake(s)...that is important as well. YOU, are a very wise parent! Kudos to you. Remember, we aren't PERFECT; we are all - UNDER CONSTRUCTION! I love reading your blog...bless you and your family!

really big hugz

Pauline said...

We all need to have coping strategies to protect our egos and feelings. Mine is "I don't give a rats ass" and "as long as they are talking about me they're leaving everybody else alone. Then I go about my business and leave others to theirs. It' works for me. Even when I do care, and depending on just who is tossing the barb or gossiping, no one will ever know! When I'm wrong and know it, I'm quick to make amends. I do love peace and harmony, but not at the expense of my freedom. Some people just need a good letting alone to stew in their own juices. You all are teaching Sydney a great lesson in relationships. Anyone who controls you or tries to control you is playing god (little g). And since there is only one true God, the rest are false gods. And, I'm sure you know what warnings we've had about false gods and those who follow them.
Great post!

Bunny said...

Just found your blog. Great post, lots to think about. I know that there always comes a time when enough is enough like we hit bottom. And then we pull ourselves up and out of that hole. Keep up your great attitude and just show love to your little girl, making great memories is the best medicine, for our children.

Vesuviusmama said...

That WAS a heavy one! I agree about indifference being the opposite, and have found that I am quite good at practicing it. Which is easier to do when you have a poor memory for details, as I do. Hurtful moments get blurry around the edges and then I just have a vague sense of "OK, I don't have to/shouldn't deal with that person anymore" and it just happens. Helps keep me on a pretty even keel, and quite happy with my life. I hope Syd is able to learn this lesson as well. I must say that the sight and story of her beautiful little UFO is heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

I learned a long time ago that when you get angry or hurt you are giving the person that made you feel those emotions control over you.

Sometimes we even do it with complete strangers--you know the guy that cuts you off or takes your parking space--they don't know or care that they made you angry. We're the ones that have to suffer the ill effects of stress and anger.

I'm sorry that Sydney has to go through this rejection by her biological mom. I hope her mom wises up someday to all she is tossing away.

I love her little quilt--reminds me of some heart paintings I've seen by John Choly in P-town.

Gail :)

Raymond K. Houston said...

Thank you for sharing a part of your life, Lane . . . this was a vary thought-provoking blog post. It touched something within me, and pointed out where I've succeeded with those who no longer have power over me.