“Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves, without any insistence that they satisfy you”
There’s something that has been bouncing around my head over the past… oh, I don’t know… I’d like to say few weeks, but it’s probably been a few months, or possibly even decades… Anyway, it’s a concept that I’ve discussed in various forms in various entries in various ways. It is so simple, so obvious in some ways, and yet so overlooked, dismissed and denied that I think it bears a dedicated line or two. (That is, of course, just my opinion) 😉
It is simply this:
You cannot live your life for anybody but yourself.
I disagree. (But you knew I would, didn’t you?)
I would say that even such folk as Gandhi and Mother Teresa did just that.
Because what I am talking about isn’t accumulating for yourself, consuming, taking for yourself, pleasure-seeking. That isn’t remotely what I mean. In fact, that is so very far from the idea that it finds itself at its polar extreme.
No, what I mean is that you have to follow your own path, to dance to the beat of your own drum, to sing your own song – however you would like to put it. Gandhi and Mother Teresa both knew what they had to do and didn’t let anybody else’s pleas, opposition, nay-saying or negativity stop them. And of course, having chosen such extreme examples, we are all aware of the adversity and difficulties they both had to face in following those paths.
Let me be clear on this, too. I am not suggesting for a moment that each of us needs such a bold and obvious mission as these two aforementioned incredible souls. What we need to be able to understand is that our daily life is our mission. Simply conquering ourselves is our mission. From the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep we have the power to make a difference. Every moment of every day is an opportunity. Every interaction is a choice. We don’t need a spotlight on us to prove it. In fact, fame and acclaim can very often cause a serious kink in the road if those who experience it allow themselves to believe it.
Acclaim is no more to be paid attention to than criticism. Seriously – what does it matter what someone else thinks of you? Especially if, in your own heart, you know that your motivation is pure, your choices are authentic and your path is integrous? In other words: Don’t believe the hype! Nor should you let the bastards grind you down. Don’t let the positivity inflate or the negativity deflate you. Steer your own course with no heed to the opinions of others (which is not the same, of course, as not being considerate or compassionate towards others). Opinion is worth less than the paper (or in this case laptop) it’s written on.
But remember this also for your children. They, too, need to chart their own voyages. They, too need to live their lives for themselves. They can’t live them for you and be happy. They need your love and approval simply for being who they are, not for doing what they do. But they also need to grow up with the confidence to follow that path whether you like it or not. Every child has the right to make his or her own mistakes and to learn from them. You cannot protect them from life. Life happens. Life is. But you can be there with a cuddle, a sticking plaster, a shoulder, or an ear when it throws them a curveball. Children are not ours to fashion into who we want them to be. We cannot enforce our opinions onto them any more than we can know what is right for them. That is something only they can figure out for themselves. A parent is not a king, a dictator or a headmaster, but a custodian, charged with getting his or her children safely to the point where they can take their freedom and fly with it.
Let me leave you with Kahlil Gibran’s beautiful poem:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.