We are a society that loves to take the words of others and call them our own feelings.
I am guilty. We’re all guilty.
It’s easy. It’s a bit lazy. But honestly, sometimes we just need to feel something, and don’t have time to make a date with ourselves to have an honest conversation about what is really going on in our hearts.
So, if you’ve ever been like me, you do a Pinterest board search and repost the thing that seems to most closely resemble your current state.
Recently, I saw one of the famous Buddha quotes, (which, ironically, if you do your research, is said to never have been uttered by the Buddha at all) that goes as such:
“In the end, only three things matter: how deeply you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”
I appreciate an individual’s light and breezy outlook on life, and I am fully supportive of each individual’s approach to her beliefs, faith and life path.
It’s a lovely idea to believe that if we love deeply, live gently, and let go gracefully, we’ll then be granted access to the keys of eternal bliss and wisdom and nothing else will matter.
Personally though, I feel like it’s an excuse designed from a place of fear, and quite honestly, makes no sense at all.
I see, more and more, this generation of emotion that pushes us to be accepting, kind, more mindful and more intuitive.
In the midst of all of the “namaste” swirling around in the world, is anyone actually feeling anything anymore?
Are we subduing our primal rawness in order to not ripple the water?
Are we substituting real connection when we hide behind walls of quote boards, empty social media relationships and daily to-do lists?
Let’s take it apart.
If we are loving deeply, it is impossible that we are living gently. To love deeply, we must exist fully, and we must reach out beyond ourselves, extending our heart and soul—our utmost vulnerability to another.
We love so fiercely, so deeply, that we become more than what we were, and with it we are lifted up to such a height that should we fall, we will undoubtedly break. We will, without question, shatter.
This is not gentle. This is what it is to love, and to allow ourselves to be loved in return.
We allow in the darkness and the light. We expose ourselves in ways that we never would had we stuck to living the gentle, gracious life.
We allow ourselves to be lead when we’re caught up in that darkness, when it is terrifying. We swallow hard, and we step forward into our own life, and we feel it.
We say to someone,
“Here, with you, I can feel all that I am. Not who you make me, but who I was all along. You bring that out in me. Thank you.”
This is not a gentle thing.
This is brave and one of the most vulnerable confessions we can make as breathing, feeling and struggling humans.
That without someone, we might not be able to see ourselves quite as clearly.
That before someone, we weren’t comfortable being our true selves out in the world.
That without someone, we may slip back into the gracious idea of gentle living, where no one is ever wildly in love, there is never an exchange of breath so fierce that it moves clouds and changes the weather and our lives are void of dancing in the rain and falling asleep curled around the beautiful exhaustion that is our reason for breathing.
This is loving deeply. It is not living gently. It is living. It is being alive. It is what we all deserve.
I have let go of many things in my life. People, places, careers, all before the age of 30.
When I was 12, I let go of my parents’ marriage. I let go of the life I had known until that point, because though it was uncomfortable and strange, I felt that I was better off. That we were all better off. And, we were.
In order for my parents to live fully, they had to let each other go, because they were not made for each other, and that’s ok. Like so many things, their time came, and then it passed.
Just because their time passed, it did not discredit the time they did spend together, it merely meant that in order for them to be who they were meant to be, they had to move forward separately.
When I was 17, I let go of where I was from. I left college, every single person I knew, the only place I had ever lived and went off to chase bigger dreams and see the world.
It was not a gracious transition.
I wrestled with my choice. I missed the familiar and I longed for it when the nights were lonely and the days were long. When, two years later, I stood on the deck of a ship in the middle of the Pacific and saw the world, the actual world, laid out in front of me as nothing but water and miles and sky, I knew I had come home to myself.
It was not, I repeat, a gracious transition of letting go.
I have let go of many people, and I have done so in ways that were necessary. Ways that were gentle and ways that were harsh and dishonest and that I am not proud of.
I have been let go, and I have broken apart from the pain of being thrown in the trash by someone or something that I thought mattered to me, things I believed at the time made me whole, though they did not stir my soul or shake my existence.
They just existed, but when we’re young, sometimes we just want someone to exist next to us while we’re figuring shit out.
All of those were not gracious transitions of letting go, because no one wants to be let go. Not from a job, not from a family, not from a relationship, not from a credit card company.
Letting go feels like rejection from at least one side, and it’s hard. The part I think we all struggle with is not whether or not to be gracious, but rather, how we decide what is meant for us, and whether we should let it go at all.
If we are asked to stay, does that mean we should? Does that mean it is meant for us, if what we want keeps saying yes?
If American Express sends me a Black card offer every month for a year, does that mean I should have one in my wallet? Shallow, I know.
But you understand the metaphor.
How do we know if what we have found is not exactly what we had always been searching for, when it looks nothing like what we had planned? How do we give ourselves to something that may not give back to us?
This leap is not gentle. It is big. It is far.
The one time you land on the other side and are wrapped up and tangled into something that makes you say,
“Yes. That’s where it is.”
The time you find something you cannot through reason or logic resist. The time when finally, you can breathe.
That time, the leap and all of the practices before it become worth it.
In that time, we are fully alive, because we were not meant to walk through life alone.
In my weakness, I have often said that it is possible that maybe I was just born to be a wanderer, that I was meant to walk alone, but it was my yearning heart being defensive, speaking something so far from my truth.
I wasn’t meant to walk alone.
I was meant to love, and love so wildly, so brightly and full of color out into the world that living gently is no longer on the menu.
I was meant to run, breathe, sing and scream out over the ocean and feel the rain and sun and wind burn against my cheeks.
I was meant to be seen, to be appreciated, to be wanted and desired and to be challenged by someone.
I was meant to give my whole heart away, not just the pieces that were comfortable and safe to give.
I have endless amounts of love to share, and I was meant to share them, not to keep them to myself because I may shatter. I will shatter again at some point.
I have shattered before. It is not gentle, it is not gracious.
It is raw and it is real, and it is just as necessary as that kind of laughter you have after you roll around in a ridiculous pillow fight and can’t breathe because you are wrapped so tightly together.
Loving deeply and being alive is not about being gentle.
It is about Lucky Charms stuck in your hair in the morning, and laundry that should have been done a week ago, and “holy shit, did I pay the phone bill,” and “kiss me now before another second goes by,” and “let’s meet for lunch and make love in the back of my truck,” and “fuck, this life is hard,” and “Oh my god, this life is so beautiful,” and “why in the world did I even want a big house that takes so long to clean” and “I have the best friends in the world and if you ever left me I wouldn’t die, but I would want to.”
I would want to, but I would survive, because I told you I would never let go of your love. I told you I would stand by you. And you said you would stand by me.
Through “fuck this life is so hard I can barely breathe,” and “oh my god, this life is so beautiful I can barely breathe,” I will stand by you.
From the fiercest, strongest, most definitive place in my soul, I will not graciously let something that stirs my soul slip away, for a life lived with an unshaken soul is not a life lived at all, it is merely a life survived.
Not this girl. I will not live gently. I will be alive and strong. I will be passionate, free, wild and honest, and for that honesty, I will not be sorry.
So, the question remains, how do we love deeply, fiercely, and passionately with everything that we are–like this life is the fragile, one-moment-we’re-here-the-next-we’re-gone thing that it is–showing up and pressing hard into joy everyday, telling the ones we love,
“I am here. With you. Always, even when you don’t see me. I am here.”
I believe the answer is to forget living gently. Live fully. Live a raw, emotional, laughter and joy filled, tear stained, irrational, sometimes insane, at times boring, inspired, rock this universe life.
Are you ready?
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photos: Author’s Own, Wikimedia Creative Commons