Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky. — Rainer Maria Rilke
My dear friend Royce shared Rilke’s quote on my blog the other day in his comment.
When I see ‘the other’ as whole against the sky, I do not focus on the clouds. I do not see only the darkness, or the light. I see all of them, in their entirety and love the distance between us that gives me space to see their all as beautiful, complete, wondrous and magnificent.
C.C., my beloved and I are very different people. It’s not just that he is man. I am woman. He is tall. I am short. He is older. I am younger. He grew up in his family of origin. I grew up in mine. He had 12 siblings. I had 3. I am the youngest. He is the 3rd oldest. He lived on a farm. I’ve always lived in cities. He grew up in Canada. I didn’t.
It isn’t just the surface differences however that contextualize our relationship and make up the distance between us. It is deeper. More profound.
It is in those deep and profound differences, that the power of love prospers.
It is in those deep and profound differences that angst, confusion, and all that jazz grows too!
Learning to love the distance, and the differences, is the greatest gift of relationship. Learning to see into the distances between us, and see the heart of who we are, separate and together, gives me grace and fills our relationship with awe and joy and the knowing, there is no distance between our hearts that cannot be bridged by love.
My friend Maureen, who writes and shares wonderful stories of art-making and artists over at Writing Without Paper, also shared a quote that resonated deep within my being.
“I don’t know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes – it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, ‘Well, if I’d known better I’d have done better’, that’s all. So you say to people who you think you may have injured, ‘I’m sorry’, and then you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry’. If we all hold on to the mistake, we can’t see our own glory in the mirror because we have the mistake between our faces and the mirror; we can’t see what we’re capable of being. You can ask forgiveness of others but in the end, the real forgiveness is in one’s own self.” Maya Angelou
When my daughters were small I taught them that who we are and what we do are not the same. Who we are is inviolate. We are miraculous beings. We are magnificent. Or, as I told the girls when they were young, you are fundamentally good, right to your core. Your behaviour? Well, that can be another matter.
We can change our behaviour. We can’t change the ‘who’ of who we are. We don’t need to.
When I know better, I do better, is a truism I believe in… with a caveat. When I have done something I am ashamed of, or that embarrasses me, if I don’t forgive myself for what I’ve done and commit to doing better, I will carry it with me and, as Ms Angelou states, it will be between my face and the mirror, it will haunt me. And in that place of shame, no matter how much I want to do better, or know better what to do, I will continue to repeat my mistakes because I am holding onto them and the shame of who I tell myself I am.
The same is true in relationship. When I do something that hurts my beloved, and do not acknowledge the hurt, it sits between us, disrupting our peace, our connection, our ability to see, and love, the distance between us against the whole of the sky.
Because when I do something that I know hurt him, or undermined our connection, I am always interacting with him with that something between our faces. I am always defending against my actions instead of expanding into my humanity and humility.
Now, for those who like to offer advice or want to know what is bothering me… that isn’t the point of this conversation. It is that both those quotes have got my mind thinking about relationship and wholeness and what am I doing to bring my best to the table of our relationship. Conversely, where do I come to the feast a pauper, holding onto feelings of not good enough, not worthy enough, not loveable enough to be at the table as an equal and worthy partner?
How I come to the table of our relationship is important. What I bring is equally as important. Do I bring my willingness to be vulnerable? Intimate? Open? Honest?
Or, do I bring all of me with reservations?
Do I fear the distance between us or, do I see in it the endless possibilities for us to share the path and love the all of who we are against the whole sky? Do I see our relationship as that place where no matter our differences, Love is the bridge we travel to span the distance between our hearts?
Food for thought.