Love. Such a small word with so much attached to it.
Sometimes we do things to "test" love. As in thinking that if a person doesn't react or do something the way we want, it is interpreted as "they don't love me".
Maybe the lack of action, or different action than expected is seen as an act of indifference or defiance. And it is probably just not being able to take action. The lack of reaction or attention might just be a result of not knowing what to do. Being afraid of reacting "wrong".
A simplified way for me to explain this is: thinking about when one of my children has hurt themselves. They are crying. I am very matter of fact. "what happened?" "Let me kiss it and make it better". In that moment, that hurt, scared child sees Mommy as so very strong and brave. In very young children, mom and dad take on super hero qualities. Patch it up, go to the ER, call the doctor.
Parents go to the child's school to advocate for their child. Most of the time successfully. Sometimes not. When the parent is not able to "fix" a situation, that child might empathise with their parents saying/ thinking "they tried". Or they can see that parents as a failure. Failing them. Faulting their parents with all of their failings and shortcomings. I know I have done that myself.
The truth is, when that child, or sibling, or dear friend is suffering for any reason, I find myself remaining calm and sensible. I cannot allow myself to be weak and let go. If I do, I feel, it will make the situation harder and more unmanageable. I rarely break down and cry. Or I do so in private.
That probably sounds like I am cold and unfeeling. No, what it means is that I am protecting myself. It is not a deliberate or even a conscious thing at all. It's me. The core of me. It allows me to gather facts and process whatever is going on. My DNA.
My mother had a friend long ago who became a widow when her child was very young, around 18 months old. Any time her child cried, that mom went into an almost hysterical frenzy. In fact, one time, when her son was around 3, he was tossing a beach ball around with another adult. Somehow the three year old got a bloody nose. I thought the mom was going to call the police and the fire department. She yelled at the adult "are you trying to kill my baby?" I don't know ultimately what kind of man that little boy grew into. Most likely just fine. But that poor mom. And child. He made his mom go crazy. She went crazy under duress. I don't think she could help it. Just like I cannot help seeming detached I guess. But, in fact, he didn't do anything. She reacted.
I know that my children love me. I also know that as adults, they need to figure out what boundaries they need to set to be adults. And I should be aware of this. I really do not want to alienate any of my children. But, I also don't really feel that I need to be their "friend". I have to treat them as peers- equals as adults and people. And I have to remember that my words and actions mean a lot to them.
My wishes, thoughts, wishes for their happiness, are great, deep, to my core feelings. Like when the little one falls and I tell them to brush it off, or I offer sympathy.
I feel so much pride and joy when any of my kids does something they feel good about. Whether it is creating a song, playing an instrument, writing a good story, or even noticing the glory in a hawk casting it's shadow. They have my DNA in them. They are me. No, not really. Not even an extension of me. But I feel that they are. Every scraped knee or broken bone I was so calm about- if I could have taken the pain for them I would have.
But here's the thing. Annoying as it is, pain really is a piece of life. Pain can knock you down or can be a building block. And sometimes the down is so low that it is hard to imagine it ever being better. But then the sun shines, or a stranger smiles. You open the door for someone less able bodied. And you feel that there is good too.
In 1998,when I went over the handlebars of a bick, it happened so fast I didn't even comprehend it. There was no reflexive guarding myself with outstretched hands. I flew. I crashed. My face hit the pavement. My hands were bloody, my nose was bloody and I was stunned and trying to understand what had happened. Then I felt it. The terrible pain in my scraped up knees. Oh it hurt so much. But I was happy. Pain meant that I was not dead. Pain meant that I had not severed my spine and I become a paraplegic. Ultimately I came to realize what had happened. I took off my rings before my broken hand started to swell. I asked for a granola bar as I was about to go into shock. I lived.
And so, I know a bit about pain. I am an alive person. I feel sadness. And physical pain. I feel psychic pain when I see suffering in the world.
And I hold onto the pain that I cannot solve when the people in my life who I love the most are in pain. I wish I could take it away.
I guess when they say "love hurts", this is what it means.