I had the privilege of meeting a woman today who was a deeply skillful listener. I almost wanted to ask her if she was a mother because there was a quality about her which was deeply attuned -the way a mother would get down at her child’s level to understand what was really happening when wise enough to know it was far from what was being presented on the surface.
Our dialogue was easy, because I always appreciate dropping in. But I also felt emotion because she was tending to me deeply.
I have been doing the same tending for a while in my own life and as I sit now, hours later, realizing all that my day included (one person being abrupt and hanging up the phone on me with no desire for a sweet or kind farewell, a great deal of attentive and consistent output with another individual, some of which included intense circumstances which led to all kinds of places of concern and worry and even needless suffering), this simple and kind presence which I experienced today is suddenly coming at me in waves of emotion because as much as I go about my life alone and muscle through, it is indeed, something which first dismantles me but actually, settles my nervous system.
I know how to nurture myself when I am in it alone. But nurturing myself through receiving nurturance can bring me to a place of deep grief. Yes, grief.
I crave, want and dare I admit it, need the nurturance. But I have become so entrained with, so accustomed to the grief that it has become my default mode. And changing your default mode is an act of will. It can be uncomfortable even if the experience feels wonderful.
My closest friends for many years in my early twenties were hard-edged, tough, controlling, willful and uncompromising people. They were not nurturers. For a long time that was very safe for me. As I began to grow, I began to love nurturers, many of them. But the problem I created was that they seemed to be the busiest people in the world. So they were nurturers but they were unavailable nurturers. The unavailability was something that repeatedly caused me to feel a lot of loss and I recognized that I was recapitulating a pattern of trying to heal a deep wound, but also re-wounding it by the chasing of those who were never around. Ultimately, I began to surrender to deeply intimate connections and then experience profound loss because loss was something which I was struggling with so profoundly in my life. But there were still about three nurturers whom I had cultivated relationships with and maintained relationships with for years, and then decades, proving to myself something big. But one thing which was true and constant (and something I recognized about myself) was the pain I would feel around my worries about each of them (some warranted, some unnecessary).
These relationships have been deep practices for me. I have learned how to hold a steady seat. Be steady support. Be deeply vulnerable. And always always hold the highest regard for understanding that I have it in me to love even when I have lost so much love.
Tomorrow I will sit with a family which is filled with so much love. One of the things I taught myself along the way is that even as I may have lived without relationships, even as I may have endured a lot of loss, I have the capacity to sit in their presence and heal. Their love doesn’t just belong to them. By witnessing it, I have seen that it becomes a part of me. By stepping in and listening, I open myself to a larger heart which keeps growing and growing and doesn’t go to grief as its default but now goes to love as its default. I bear witness and I participate. I don’t feel separate. The love shared between them becomes a part of my own heart because it is so big. And because I love my nurturer, my own nurturer expands exponentially and I grow by being included at their table.
Admittedly, there was a time or two when I fell short. But I was learning how to sit at that table and receive something which was very unfamiliar to me, or at the very least, hidden from my existence for a long time.
This family has burgeoned in me deep seeds of growth and love and I am inspired to sit with them, even to hug and kiss the ones who are a little less affectionate and call them forth. Teach them what they have taught me.
I am so grateful that my default mode did not become my fate, but as an act of will I knew had it within me to change.
I am so grateful that every day, when we are awake and receptive, we can receive gifts from people which remind us of what we need, who we are, and where we want to continue to go.
I surrender to receiving all of the love which will continue to nurture my heart. And I will continue to point my arrow in the direction of nurturing the hearts of those who live deeply inside my own.
To nurturing. And the cultivation of nurturance in each of our lives.