by: Ash Gallagher
My heart pounded through my chest. It wasn’t heartburn, but heavy pressure pulsating and aching above my left breast right where my heart burrows beneath the layers of skin, tissue, and ribs — the place it is protected.
I couldn’t control it. My deep breaths didn’t stop it. The heaviness was painful; it was real. The beats got stronger and more rapid and my mind was restless. The aches grew and contracted for what felt like hours. And my memories traveled quickly to the one who hurt me. I was suffering the physical pain of a broken heart.
But there was more. I was finding a resounding message in the brokenness, “meet her where she is.”
Flustered and confused, I ignored it. I got up to make breakfast. That hot summer morning in the high desert, my friend and I spoke of his own struggle. It was one he felt deeply — around a brother. He said he felt ‘pity’ for him.
I asked him, how could you transform your ‘pity’ into compassion? “Perhaps you have to meet him where he is,” I said. As the words fell out of my mouth, the throbs in my chest returned, and I shook my head at myself. The message came from my own lips. Energy unpacking.
Pity comes from our frustration. Compassion, from love.
And so those thorns of love sent shockwaves through my nerve endings. While I appeared calm and collected on the outside, I agonized on the inside, experiencing an application in love for which I no longer had words. Energy shifting.
What I knew in my logical mind was becoming…understanding. And it hurt like hell. Perhaps that was it — my spirit had gone to hell in the name of love, crucified for a love so great, it was beyond myself.
Love does that. It is a gift intertwined between the Divine, the lover and the self. And sometimes grappling with how to apply it, takes practice. Love is practice. And true love is surrender. To surrender, my friends, is to cease resistance. And when we do, we serve. It renders us powerless, and yet, also deeply powerful.
To have met my lover where they were meant I had to hear them. I could not love them with what I had; I had to love from a different place, a different space, which looked more like what they needed — to be accepted, to be enough. It even meant I had say that. We do not do this for our lovers. We do not tell them they are enough, for themselves, and for us. We remind them they are not, because we do not feel enough in ourselves and our misery likes its company. But I wonder, instead, if we shift to believing we are enough, amid our cuts, scars and scabs and then turn to see them as they are too — we might realize that brokenness is only a fire that refines us into the finest of our beings, the ashes bring life to the soil, cultivating love.
When we are brought to our knees, we can see all we are, bare, and our most compassionate humble selves then turn to offer, restore, redesign and build from the ground up. Then our love stories may reach what they are meant for: epic existence with the great unknown. And through pain, emerges deep compassion, a love shaking the Earth. There, anger, frustration: subsides.
But to get to such a place, it takes willingness of transformation. And it takes time; sometimes it takes two, three or four times, and much of the time, with the same lover. It is a constant cycle of death and resurrection, of winter into spring. Energy revolutionizing.
How a person chooses to respond to unconditional love, we have no control over. We cannot. In turn must set them free to choose. Yes, such love will defy all that we’ve known, but it does for them too. You see, it is dangerous to love …and be loved. It sheds our blemishes in its presence, fiercely.
And when offering unconditional love, it must come at the risk of rejection. Loving even when they say they hate you, when they hate themselves, loving without compulsion. Loving without being attached to what they will or won’t do. Loving when they minimize your story to fantasies to justify the pain they cause and the fear they face. Loving when it’s hard. Love is vulnerable. Love says, take my heart; destroy it. And it is true; we can be crushed, our soul’s blood is on the floor.
Nevertheless, when I realize my love for my person fills me up, when I realize giving them my love edifies me, then I know this is what it means to serve and that is the outcome of true love, even on the receiving end of severance and brokenness. The wound of love begins to make sense.
It has been said, ‘greater love has no man that this than he who lay down his life.’ The question becomes, are you ready to lay down you? Your ego and your demands? When I step in to say, “I only wish to be on your side,” and willing to open a place and a space where we sit, where we fit in the crux and heart of our connection, I am offering my all. There is no room to hide any part of me.
A preacher friend of mine once told me, “Love creates the possibility of forgiveness without demanding it. In the same way forgiveness creates a space for trust to have a chance.” And so in this, there may be hope for restoration. All that is before us, shifts, and tender healing begins to wash over.