A student on one of Linda’s and my online course groups wrote of a painful situation in a relationship:
“My attempt to communicate with my friend failed miserably – he was too tired to do something. I am so angry I won’t be the one to re-initiate contact…maybe. As far as personal relationships go, my life seems to be in ruins. Where to go when there’s no place left to go? Staying right where you are? And what to try when there’s nothing left to try? The one thing that you haven’t really tried, to just be with it and it it? That’s probably the right answer but it’s so scary and unsatifying to keep going without knowing the outcome. And persevering through that long walk in the dark without having the guarantee that things will indeed have improved by the time you get out of there. Something needs to change on the inside, but there also have to be adjustments made on the outside. And both changes probably need time. So the essence is to simply keep going. And that sucks. There’s no other way to describe it. It simply sucks.
All kinds of helpful, kind, and maybe wise things could be said in response to such an anguished sense of “life in ruins.” Here’s what I was moved to say:
“Nothing left to try, dear one, is precisely where the heart goes to make sure there’s … nothing left to try. When my mom was dying, I was the last one to accept the terminal diagnosis (she was ahead of all the rest of us), because as long as there might be a micrometer’s opening in the Kosmos to pull through a healing or even just a few more months of quality living for/with her, I had to be there still trying. Others thought I was in denial, clinging maybe. Nope. I don’t think so.
“Your whole being won’t permit ‘just being with it.’ That will wind up being self-violating. As long as there is any real option left, you will go for it. But eventually you may have to realize that there is truly ‘nothing left to try.’ Until then you won’t be able to help trying. At some point, ‘sucks’ won’t be tolerable. You’ll know when that is because like a horse that won’t cross a stream, you’ll just stop trying and won’t try again.”
She wrote to express gratitude for what I had shared, including my personal story. I thought the exchange was worth sharing with you here. At some point in such relational situations, ‘just being with it’ becomes self-violating. And our hearts just won’t go there any more. Until then, we keep looking for and hoping to find things to try … until we run out. Then, truly, we let go. We can’t help but.
That effort, that quest, and that ending are all more than merely adjustments in a specific relationship. They’re also temperings of our spirit in the mystery of living. Spirituality that doesn’t give us room and encouragement to feel the full extent of the anguish and the yearning is more like anesthesia than any kind of real nourishment to our essential spirit, our soul, our core.
Spirituality that does give such room and encouragement eventually becomes indistinguishable from a life lived in rich, authentic integrity.