Taming Required

The fox says, “tame me” in Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s famous children’s tale titled The Little Prince.

If you haven’t read it, you must. It’s full of those not-really-just-for-children moments when it so gracefully teaches us how to live as adults. I’ve never gotten through it without a lump in my throat, outright anguish sometimes. Tears? Why yes, of course. (Because I am that kind of reader. Not everyone is or needs to be to get the benefit. Don’t judge my soft heart.)

You’ll find the fox and his system of taming in the final third of the book, just when the Little Prince is ready to understand the utter value of his one true love, a rose he’s cared for on his little home planet. On his travels all throughout the book, he misses his rose. He worries about her. He ruffles at the thought of her vanity, her ego. He struggles to understand her.

Enter the fox. He shyly invites the Little Prince into a process of “taming.” That process and their relationship become a rich metaphor for us to understand both the great value in loving and the great risk of loss inherent in the process. It emphasizes the necessity of taming, returning at an anticipated time, getting a little closer each time, maintaining a safe experience for both, and celebrating together.

Given my sensibilities, I cry every time when the two- after sweet taming, connection, sharing, play, and joy – must “lose” one another. Yet, it’s still my favorite part. Is it any wonder I work in the specialties of Love and Loss?

You can’t have one without the other, try as we might. No matter what.

The acknowledgement that love and loss are married seems a prerequisite to ALL willingness toward taming. And what is taming, after all, if not those tender steps forward and back which we all experience in our lives and in every type of relationship? Even so, some of us want to skip the process. We want to know. We want a guarantee. We want security. We want to insulate ourselves against the inevitable. We want, essentially, to avoid the loss.

And that’s just not possible.

In fact, it’s not even good or healthy.

Know what is healthy? Realizing that life is both beautiful and short. Plus realizing that, while life is short, love is not. The Little Prince comes to realize he is carrying his love for his rose with him and that he will carry it forever even though she will not last forever. Though she is unique in all the world, she’s a rose, after all. And she’s special to him because he loves her and he has taken the time to tame her even though he did not understand what he was doing. It took his experience with that sly, lovely fox to teach him all about taming and love and loss. It’s a beautiful story.

I suppose I’ve ruined all the embedded themes, but trust me, the book is still a beautiful read.

Much like the cherry blossoms symbolize in Japanese culture, remembering the brevity of life and the inherent danger in taming can serve to enrich our experience. Of life. Of love. Of taming and connection. And being mindful of this can inspire us to love well in each moment.

It can make us brave in our quest to step out and venture into the process of taming.

And it is that process, not its result, that serves us. If we are willing to engage it.

So, for all of you scared to connect, wondering about how you’ll guard yourself against future loss, those of you who want a secure relationship, to not risk heartache, or betrayal, or hurt feelings, or risk losing an intimate relationship again… you are not alone. For those of you hoping to skip ahead, wanting to launch suddenly into an instant relationship or puzzled that the person you thought was just right for you turned out not to be the one you’re going to ride off into the sunset and old age with… hold on.

Breathe.

As long as there is life, there is time for love, for taming, for this moment, for connection, for goodness.

Don’t let fear of loss keep you from truly living and loving.

Most of us fear the loss because we don’t understand out own natural capacity to withstand it. Or, for some of us, we’ve done a very poor job of it in the past so that fear intensifies. Some of us were forced to handle loss at such an early age without much wise guidance in making sense of it that we forged unhealthy ways of processing our own pain.

I know the fear is real and the fear comes from somewhere and it has a different flavor for each one of us. That’s okay. We’ve kept it around for very good reasons.

Want help managing that or learning more about it?

We can make it work for you instead of against you. And we can explore together the ways you naturally move through loss and figure out if it’s helping or getting in your way.

Give me a call: 513-530-5888.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calling BS! on the directive: “you need to be alone!”

In therapeutic circles and with well-meaning friends, you’ll hear the advice: you just need to be alone  or you need to just take some time for yourself after heartache. You might hear the opposite as well -from your friends and your mom- you just need to get back out there and meet someone!

You’re not surprised that I’m going to say BS to both of those approaches, right?

First of all, you’re HURTING.

Getting back in the saddle is almost always the wrong approach. Remember the beginning of Romeo and Juliet? Romeo was gaga on Roseline and his buddy suggested, “you just need to meet another chica.” He did. That night. And he winds up dead by the end of that adventure.

Go there if you have a death wish, I guess. I’m not sure why anyone would pattern their love experience after Romeo and Juliet. But it’s tragic, all right. And it has some lovely, artful declarations of passion and devotion. I’ll give Shakespeare that. Good one.

For those of you looking for a saner love adventure, please keep reading in Modern American English:

When you’re HURTING, you don’t need to punish yourself.

So many people, systems, and sometimes even practitioners will suggest a time frame or course of imposed quarantine for the heartbroken or lovelorn. You’ve probably even heard experts advocate an imposed period of mourning: one year for each 4 years of the relationship. At minimum: no dating for at least a year.

Does this make you tired even listening to such advice?

So much is going on for you that rule setting, framework impositions, giving yourself a deadline or rigid structure is probably the last thing you need right now.

You might need comfort, some tenderness, and fun.

If that sounds simplistic, that’s because it is. And simple is good. You can work with simple. You can move through simple. You can let simple guide your choices.

Find comfort. Give yourself some comfort.

Is it comforting to go to the movies or eat a gourmet meal or spend time outside.? Do those things. Is it painful too? I know it can be painful to do everything when your heart is hurting. Choose the activities that ARE the most comforting. That can mean sleeping in. It can mean working out like a maniac. It can mean paying for a massage. It can mean going to the sauna or getting some heat and light therapy at a tanning booth.

And yes, I know, in moderation. I’m not advocating skin cancer activities, etc. Notice I’m NOT saying drink alcohol. That usually makes people feel much worse when they’re hurting already. It’s a depressant! I’m also not saying smoke cigarettes. THAT is not comfort; it’s a great way to AVOID feeling anything and therefore it won’t get you THROUGH your pain. This is also probably not the time to try to FORCE yourself to give up those habits (if they are regular habits) either.

You do not need to do this by yourself either. It’s okay to find someone to enjoy comforting activities with you.

Find tenderness. Spend time with people you know love you. If your other relationships have been neglected, rekindle them. Get in touch with supportive family and friends.

If your family and friends do not know how to be tender and supportive, don’t spend time with them. Avoid them. Minimize exposure while you are vulnerable.

And pay attention. Surely there are kind people in your realm. Notice small tendernesses: when clerks are friendly and sweet instead of all-business, when that infant in a stroller smiles at you, when someone at work asks how you’re doing. Notice. And count it as tenderness.

Create tenderness in your life as well: hug your dog. Force your cat to snuggle. (Yah, good luck with that.) Get outside yourself and BE TENDER to others. Smile at strangers. Ask your friends how THEY are doing.

Be tender with yourself. Be gentle. Be kind to yourself. Part of this is learning to ask helpful questions and abandon stupid ones, I explain it in context here in this podcast on midlife dating basics.

Find FUN. I love William Glasser’s outline in Reality Theory of the five basic human needs. He says and I agree we need: survival basics, love & belonging, power, freedom, and FUN!

You do not have to have fun all by yourself. In fact, though it’s possible, having fun with others is even better. Plan fun. Give yourself permission for fun. Take time for fun!

Notice when you’re enjoying something, anything. Laugh at a comedy. Watch some silly animals.  Join a mutual-interest Meetup group. (Google this if you don’t know what I’m talking about; they are everywhere!) Play. No matter if that looks like online gaming with strangers, planning a stupid board-game night with your nieces, or going on a rock-climbing date with that girl you’ve talked to ten times at the gym, do it!

The next relationship is not going to save you. Nor do you have to quarantine yourself from engaging with objects of interest and attraction for a specified period of time. But DO find and create comfort, tenderness, and fun! These are never a waste of time and before you know it, you will be in good shape to LOVE again.