My mom told me something the other day that sent vibrations through my body.
It was so simple but so honest.
She said, “This far in my life I have found that I do not know what love is, but I know what love is not. And I will take that with me into the next part of my life as my lesson.”
It has been floating around my mind ever since.
There is so much shame in not “knowing” what love is. It’s like now a days if you aren’t deeply in love by the age of 17 and heartbroken by 18, your life is boring and empty and you’re destined to become the Jane Austen of your generation. Except only much less successful and no one will probably remember you either. And because we have that weight on us, that ideology that love, in a romantic way, is tied with achievement and fulfillment, we constantly chase it. And in that chase, of which is only drive by fear and inadequacy, so often we end up latching on to the first (or second, or third) person that is decent enough and call it love.
I’ve learned a lot through my education about innate ideology. Being born into ideas and customs and cultures that put a set way of life into our heads, and we cannot ever escape it. It is unchangeable. It is irrevocable. It is unavoidable.
It can be fought, but it can never be unlearned.
I’ve found that when you take that in and put that into your own life, a lot of questions arise of what is truth, really? What of ours do we feel or believe, that we ACTUALLY believe?
All societies are different. But in my society we are taught that the ultimate goal in life is to succeed. And in that success is the requirement of money, envy, pride, status, and the white picket fence. The most important of these being money, because it holds the facade of being able to make all the latter happen. But not far behind monetary gain, if not arguably equal, is the need to have a companion…for some of us, multiple.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to go on some rant about how women need to rise above the status quo and we should all have a hand at dismantling monogamy; that is not what this is about. I am all for love. I believe God designed us for such. But I also believe that we were designed for so much more. Not better, just more. But in doubt of that, we rush to make our Hollywood-created idea of romance, reality. Because hey, if we cant have the money, if we cant have the status, if our neighbor doesn’t burn to be us, then at least we wont face that disappointment alone if we fall in love, right?
We are all guilty of it. How could we not be? Infatuation is a free quick fix of endorphins that rush to our brains, telling us everything is better than it actually is.
So when my mom said that the other day I started to chew on it. I started to play with the idea of not only her self-realization, but with her excitement about it.
In the early 18th and 19th centuries literature was first being created. And with that literature came philosophies and sciences from all around the world because a worldwide communication had been created. Around 1770 anthropologists came up with the concept of “the other.” The study was originally done to explain white imperialism and the creation of race. It’s a theory that states self identity comes only by recognizing what differences you have from someone else. The concept that having a “self” completely relies on there being an “other.” The only way to know what you are is to know exactly what you are not.
We are taught that to not know something is to be ignorant. A lack of knowledge about what something is, is a lack of intelligence or power on your own behalf. We are attacked for not knowing as much as our peers claim they know. We see this happening daily. Scroll through social media feeds; engage in a conversation about politics, history, the weather. Society has become a chat room of the uneducated educating. We find purpose in knowing more than the person next to us or the person across the street from us or the person in the comment above us. We are a culture built on the foundation of one-upping equating with self worth.
Which is why I believe so many people rush to be in relationships of all types that they were never called to be in. Or stay in relationships they are being called to get out of. We are so terrified to feel left out of this grand fantasy group of people who clearly know more than we do about love, since social media tells us they found it.
But I think my mom is on to something, just the way the great philosophers were.
Maybe love and identity and purpose can only be found by first finding out what all else it cannot be. Because then, when we have this master list in our sleeve of all the things we know for certain are not meant for us, then and only then, can we be the magician pulling out our scarves of experience, one, after one, after one…revealing the magic of what actually is.
We see a lack of knowledge in this world as a failure. But when you look at life in the way my mom looks at her own, suddenly every failure becomes an accomplishment. Every name, place, feeling, or situation you ruin, break, or get broken by just becomes one more bullet point on that list. One more check mark that gets you closer to who and what you were meant to have.
And I think in that dwells freedom.
Freedom to be wrong. Freedom to be lonely. Freedom to hope. Freedom to dream. Freedom to be patient, to set standards. Freedom to fail, and freedom to try again.
In that, everyone and everything becomes a lesson, becomes a teacher.
In that, is grace.