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Blue Heart“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

– Thomas Merton

Yes, yes, yes! Love. Totally agree. Though I wish instead of “twist” he had said “bend.” And that first sentence is kind of long, no? Maybe he should have added something about how we first need to accept and love ourselves.

See? It’s really easy to concur and incredibly hard to do. To let a beloved, friend, lover, parent, sibling, etc. simply BE.

And yet, it’s what we usually crave most. To be loved exactly as we are. (See Exhibit A: Bridget Jones’s Diary, “He said he likes me exactly as I am.” Her friends marvel: “Exactly as you are?” Her, awed. “Exactly as I am.” Exhibit B: A Broadway show called, “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.“)

As the second part of that quote–that if we haven’t accepted someone we’re not truly loving, just experiencing our projected glory–that’s the hardest to take. For me, for example, there was once someone I almost loved after dating a really brief moment. And I got hooked, a little kooky in my head, just staying sad, sad, sad long after it ended. But I’m pretty sure a big piece of that sadness is because being with him revived a part of me I thought might be gone, baby, gone. She was alive and vivacious and loving and hot–all things I am in my best moments. With him, those moments were magnified because I felt truly seen. And it quenched a deep, potent longing to feel my essence known.

Problem being: I fell in love with her. Me. The awesome, non-cranky, non-moody, organized, fully on top of it Me. And him, he was awesome, lovely, cool–what I knew of him. I didn’t know him well enough to love him, certainly not to spend a year obsessing and sad about him. 

I’m not alone in loving someone for how he makes me feel, what he brings out and makes visible. It’s certainly not all bad. It’s lovely when we can do that for each other. But it’s a sticky wicket because when the steady supply of acknowledgement and positive mirroring runs out or pauses–and it will–then the love seems to go away.

Anyway, my point? I really like that quote. It reminds me to own my power, love myself, so I’m strong enough to truly see and love someone else exactly as he is. And that’s a helpful skill for every relationship–friend, family, beloved–in our lives. 

Can you relate?

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