I didn't realize that it would take me this long to compose my very first post of 2016. Then again, that is the joy of life -- it's filled with surprises. Happy belated 2016! For me, the past two months have been about a timely topic given the approach of Valentine's Day -- Love. The question I've come back to time and again at the close of the past year and the start of the new one is: What am I committed to? It's been quite the exercise in locating my willingness.
Last month I made a big commitment. It felt so very right, so there wasn't a whole lot of consideration involved. The commitment is in line with my top values, so it felt like I was simply following what I love. Yet love and commitment aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. This idea led to a lively discussion on the topic between me and my dear confidante. We arrived at the conclusion that you can love something yet not be committed to it. This conclusion was hotly debated and we're still rolling this idea around in our minds (and questioning it with vigor). While discussing it, we applied it to relationships. There's a lot of discussion in the media about monogamy, polyamory, marriage, and everything in between. Perhaps that's why I decided to write about it here and now. The timing feel right. After chewing on this topic for hours, we narrowed it down to this -- Love comes down to a feeling or a choice. [Now when we talk and one of us says we love something, we actually ask the other -- "Feeling or choice?" Yeah, we're a quirky little duo.]
So, in the relationship example, love as a feeling looks like this: You meet someone and feel an instant connection. Words like soulmate drift through your mind (and possibly leave your lips when telling your friends about your newfound love). You have chemistry. You feel like you've known each other for years. You fall in love. Then one day comes when you don't like the other person. Perhaps you feel hurt by the other person's words or actions or you're annoyed by the other person's quirks or you're feeling restless in the relationship or the other person has said or done something that you find abhorrent or they remind you of someone from your past and not in a good way (mommy and daddy issues, anyone?). It's like the brakes have been slammed on and the screeeeeaaaaaccccchhhh noise is reverberating through your whole body. You're not exactly feeling the love. In fact, you feel downright unhappy, dissatisfied (Paging Customer Service -- Soulmate Refund Request), and full of doubt about whether or not you should even be in a relationship with this person. It's just not working. It's too hard. The person is this, that, or the other thing. You're unhappy. The feeling has faded. The thrill is gone. The chemistry has met an untimely death. [insert ugly cry here]
And that, my friend, is love as a feeling. Feelings are fleeting things. Unless they're backed by something a little more solid, like, say, commitment, you've got the whole flittering here and there effect. [PSA: I'm not in any way saying that you if you say you're in love with someone that you should stay in a relationship that is dangerous or disrespectful or bad for you. I, myself, left a perfectly fine relationship because I understood that I was in the love as a feeling space rather than the choice space. I'm just saying let's have awareness about where we are and take responsibility for it.]
Then there's love as a choice. The above happens, but you choose to stay in the relationship. You choose to work through things. You choose to get really vulernable with the other person and express what's happening for you. You choose to share. You choose to open rather than close down. You choose to listen rather and understand rather than be deemed right. You choose to go beyond the good feelings and find love in the mess. You choose to perhaps look at yourself and take responsibility for your part in what's happening. You choose to stay on the inside when your conditioning (*cough* ego *cough*) is telling you to get the hell out and stay out.
I think this applies to relationships of all kinds as well as a host of other things. I notice it in my yoga practice. When I first started, I was high on love endorphins. I was enamored with yoga -- how my body felt on the mat, the different styles I was trying, the new yoga wardrobe, the workshops I was attending, the yoga lifestyle and the whole world of yoga. I was on Cloud 9. And then things settled down. My yoga practice wasn't so new anymore. My bookshelves were overloaded with yoga books and I'd been to a ton of workshops and classes, had a few yoga trainings under my belt, and unrolled my mat more times than I could count. It was no longer my new and shiny practice. The feelings I had when I first started practicing had gotten a bit...muted.
That's when love as a choice came in. I kept choosing to get on my mat. I chose to stay in relationship with yoga, even when I wanted to leave for a new lover (like, say, Pilates or Nia or HIIT). I chose to be with it through the days I claimed I was "too tired" or "too busy" to practice; the days I felt like I was moving through my practice like a robot on autopilot; the days that I flat out didn't want to practice; the days I thought that maybe yoga had been a wonderful phase that I was now done with. Love as a choice -- that's how I can still say that I love yoga and still practice well over 13 years later. I don't wait until the feeling moves me to practice. I choose to practice. Some days the feeling is there and others it's not.
As I navigate the new year, I keep coming back to commitments and whether or not I'm approaching things/people/life as a feeling or a choice. It's been an eye-opening experience. I've realized that I don't necessarily care about what I thought I cared about -- at least enough to fully commit and choose these things. And it's a great reminder as I head into Valentine's Day weekend (yay!) to take a good look at what I'm choosing and committed to in my relationships (not just the ones of the romantic persuasion).
Join me, won't you? What are you committed to? Where is your willingness? Are you love as a feeling or choice? Take a look at all areas of your life and try these questions on for size. You might just find some treasures in the answers.
Happy Valentine's Day!