“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals, it dies of illness and wounds, it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”
Relationships make up and fill our lives. We have relationships with friends. We have a relationship to our job. We have relationships with our family members. We have romantic relationships. We have a relationship with ourselves. We have a relationship with our spiritual practice. We have a relationship with our pets. Yes, oh yes, relationships play a big part in our lives. Speaking from experience, I have sacrficed some of the above for others. I have been sloppy with some and staunchy committed to others. I have been surface with some. I have gone the distance with some while I've let others go.
Recently, someone very dear to me and I have been discussing relationship and the nature of relationship. It all started with the quote above and this video about commitment [Disclaimer: this is the first time I've ever even heard of T.D. Jakes, so I have no opinion about him whatsoever. I have no idea about his body of work -- I am merely evaluating this one talk he presented. I will admit to laughing about the profuse sweating and all of the yelling but I'm not gonna judge. Passion is not a bad thing.]. As does just about everyone out there (I don't want to speak for everyone in the world, of course), my friend and I have some "failed" relationships between us. I use the quotes because I sometimes think we let ourselves off the proverbial hook by blaming others (whether it's other people, places, circumstances, or things) on our relationships not working out. It's like a get out of jail free card. [Disclaimer number 2: There's never a never and never an always, so I'm not saying this applies to every person/relationship. Stow the hating, please.]
I think Jakes and Nin have it right -- relationships don't just wither on the vine. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone throw up their hands and say in their best bewildered tone, "I just don't know what happened to the relationship. I guess it wasn't meant to be." REALLY, asks the yogi with her eyebrow cocked skeptically. Is that really true? Poof -- your partner, who you kept prioritizing below your job, left you? Shocking (yes, the eyebrow is still cocked.). Your dog, who you chain up in the backyard and never take walks with has shown aggression towards you? Shocking (eyebrow just notched up a bit higher). Your yoga practice, which gets relegated behind TV, extra time in the morning to get your fancy coffee brew, laundry, work, and anything else that needs to get done in a day, falls away to the point that your mat is covered with a fine layer of dust? Shocking (I'm not even going to mention the eyebrow, for you already get the idea). Your body, which you fill with junk food, starve, or overstuff is breaking down? Shocking.
I could go on and on here. I know, I know, you read the above and your first instinct is to say, "Yes, but..." I Your situation is different, right? There are extenuating circumstances, right? You have reasons for all of those things (believe me, I know -- I've got the reasons myself).
Here's disclaimer number 3, dear blog readers, I am not writing this as the persecutor, for I have done/still do the same myself (if you missed it, I said that my friend and I both have a number of "failed" relationships between us). The truth is, I have an Inner Whiner who whines loudly and often. Sometimes she'd rather complain about rather than feed her relationships. Like Anais Nin says, whatever I'm whining about isn't just something that happens outside of my control like the weather -- it's because I'm not replenishing the relationship that I have with it. Hard to hear, yes, but true (of course my Inner Whiner has a laundry list of excuses as to why this is.).
During our discussion about relationship, my friend and I brought up two words: commitment and devotion. The Jakes video I mentioned above is all about commitment. It's a good message. Of course it tweaks my Inner Whiner because one of the definitions for commitment is obligation: "Oooohhhh, it feels like a big chore, a must do, a -- GASP -- obligation (that's a veeeery dirty word to my Inner Whiner). I can feel the ball and chain weighing me down." That's where devotion comes in. The words encompassed in that definition are profound dedication, earnest attachment, worship. Hmmmm...which one sounds more appealing to you? I can say that when I read those words associated with devotion, my inner whiner quiets down. Because, after all, if I deem something or someone important enough to have a relationship with, then isn't devotion a more appropriate fit?
Of course Jakes brings this up the whole idea of being committed only when we feel love. As we all know, feelings of love wax and wane. When in the waning period, does that mean we throw the commitment away? Do we cease to be devoted because suddenly we don't feel good enough about something or someone to dedicate ourselves to it/him/her?
When I first started practicing yoga, I loved it. Each morning I would be eager to get on my mat. If I was tight on time in the morning, I would give up evening plans to practice. Somewhere along the line, I found myself not loving it as much. The honeymoon period wore off (or, as my mom likes to say, "The bloom was off the rose."). I wasn't so enthused by Downward Dog. Yoga was no longer this exotic species that entranced me. Yoga was no longer the lover that had me enthralled 24/7 with enough juice to light the power grid. Instead, it became somewhat routine. That's when I had to recommit (or redevote, if you will) myself to my yoga practice. I studied the philosophy of yoga, I asked myself whether the style I was practicing suited me, and I questioned my love for the practice. Throughout it all, I continued to practice -- even on those days I didn't want to. That was I don't know how many years ago and I still practice just about every day. Hmmmmm...I can't say that I've exhibited the same devotion/commitment to other relationships in my life.
Today is known to be a day of renewal. It's officially Spring, after all. What a wonderful time to revaluate our relationships and question our commitment/devotion to them. I've been thinking about this all week. What's truly important to me? Who is truly important to me? Which relationships do I need to let die and which do I need to replenish? What are the ramifications of replenishing the relationships that I have chosen -- less time with other things/people, letting go of certain habits, prioritizing on a higher level.
As a yoga teacher, I get this a lot: "I used to practice yoga all the time, but then X, Y, and Z happened." And that's what this post is all about -- it's not about what's happening to you, as if it's out of your control. It's about what you're choosing. It's about what you're devoting yourself to. It's about you being actively engaged as opposed to playing the bewildered, clueless victim who is settling for things happening to them rather than choosing them.
After all, isn't that what relationship is -- a choice? You can choose to be in one or out of one. You can choose to throw one away or nourish it. You can choose to be present or absent. YOU. CAN. CHOOSE.
[I'd like to dedicate this post to E, who has taught me more about relationship than I ever thought possible. E, I choose you! Thanks for waiting patiently until I figured it out.]