For the most part, I don’t actually mind getting older. Sure, there are the indignities our bodies undergo as we transition into middle age—parts shrink or expand, they grow spots or protest certain activities loudly and painfully. That’s all largely “meh” in my book, as it’s just part of life’s cycle. Aging is also usually preferable to the alternative—except when it means you've reached an age where friends start dying of natural causes.
That, dear interwebs, sucks unmitigated amounts of ass.
My RenFaire community recently lost a friend. Brian and I weren't super close, but there’s a bond between performers that’s a kind of shortcut. You don’t have to battle through life’s trenches together to develop a healthy level of trust and respect; a weekend or two on stage or in the lanes will get you there.
But when someone from the community dies, there’s a double-whammy. In addition to my own sadness, I’m processing that of my Faire Family. There’s a hole in that world now, and it takes an additional toll on my psyche to feel the reverberations of waves of grief across those sympathetic fibers that connect us as Family of Choice. For me, that is far worse than my own sense of loss.
When I found out, I wrote a Facebook post exhorting everyone to never fail to let friends and loved ones know how much they are loved. I also reaffirmed my love for them.
I fear, however, that it is not enough.
We must be freer with our love, sharing it with reckless abandon. I don’t mean that we should be careless with our respective hearts; it's impossible to pour from an empty pitcher. While love is infinite (equally so our capacity for it), human hearts are as tender and fragile as they are strong.
"Don't turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That's where the light enters you."
Even so, those places where we are broken are beautiful. They let in the light, and give others a way to relate to you in substantive, meaningful ways.
One of my most beloved friends phrased her approach thusly: “I love everyone until they give me a reason not to.”
I have sought to adopt that lovely philosophy. However, it’s important to be clear about what this actually means in practice. (See earlier “fragile heart” comment.) Love needs trust and respect to flourish, but those things aren't required in order to approach people from a loving place.
I can love someone without having to tell them my most intimate secrets, or exposing my every vulnerability. They don't need to perform acts of bravery or sacrifice to be worthy. There’s a certain baseline love to which every sentient creature on the face of the planet is entitled. Subsequent experience will shape how that love expresses itself, and (hopefully) encourage the trust and respect to deepen, but we shouldn't require any credentials beyond our own mutual humanity to find another person worthy of basic levels of love and respect.
This "love everybody" approach just involves a willingness to approach people with an open heart. I say “just” but it is no small thing. It is, in fact, everything.
“If I love myself I love you. If I love you I love myself.”~ Rumi
Saying “I love you” for the first time is terrifying (and rightfully so). This makes it the most important thing in the world. The harder it is to do something, the more critical it becomes to do it. Genuine, rewarding, lasting satisfaction in life comes when our achievements are rooted in effort and struggle and sacrifice.
There are people I say “I love you” to all the time, and while that is important it is also safe. Giving of myself when I know it’s safe doesn't challenge me. It doesn't cost me anything, so it doesn't reward me much in return.
Let our losses inspire us, make us fierce and free with our love. Challenge yourself. Don’t be content to express your love to the same people – expand! Reach beyond!
"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”~ Rumi
If the words “I love you” are too scary, find other ways to say it. The language doesn't matter nearly as much as the emotion you put behind it. Tell someone they've made a difference in your life, and explain how. Make it personal. Be specific. Find someone you don’t know well enough and let them know that you think they’re really cool/smart/funny/whatever and that you’d love the opportunity to spend more time together. However you make it happen, push outside your comfort zone to tell people that they matter to you.
Then do it again.
It will get easier and easier. You will spread happiness and become happier in the doing. What’s not to love about that?