I am recovering from a broken heart. Yes even priestesses of Aphrodite get them. However, when priestesses of Aphrodite get them, they are also often accompanied by a crisis of faith. I mean, if a priestess who is devoted to Love Herself can’t be happy in love, then what is the point?
The lessons I’ve been learning have been many on this last round of love’s labour lost. On the mundane level, I’m learning that setting boundaries early about things that are deal-breakers is the path to both grace and compassion. On the spiritual level, I’m learning that, no matter how unified I feel sometimes with the Divine, I am not actually a Goddess, and that throwing love and wisdom at an untenable situation will not fix it. I just do not have those chops.
I think that those of us who devote ourselves to Love as a guiding thealogy can lose the boundaries between human and divine love. When I ask Love what to do in a situation, Her guidance is usually something on the line of “Love her” or “Love yourself” or “Tell the truth”. However, I need to tell my human truth, which is that some people are not a fit for me, and not always and only the divine truth that all beings are worthy of love. Thawing an icy situation that steals your soul’s warmth using your warm heart is only a temporary solution. I am merely mortal.
Fortunately, so is everyone else. My most important realization of this year has been something I got from Brené Brown’s book “Daring Greatly”. In it, she tells the story of her experience speaking pro bono at a conference under conditions she allowed herself to be manipulated into, which resulted in the deeply introverted Brown sharing a hotel room with a woman who horrified her with her rudeness and disrespect for rules and boundaries. Brown felt angry and resentful and judgy. She felt the woman could have done better.
Her counsellor and her husband challenged her to investigate whether believing that everyone is doing the best would be a better route. She at first thought that was ludicrous. Eventually however, she found that assuming that people are doing the best they can at all times sets us free to be both compassionate and boundaried.
This way of understanding situations is really shocking in its effectiveness. I find now that when I assume that when someone is doing something that sucks, this is still actually their best, it is so much easier to set boundaries than if I’m hoping or waiting for them to change.
I’ve been applying that to my devotion and life.
I’ve been finding that true for myself, that setting boundaries allows me to feel compassion and share compassion with others in ways that are impossible when I am failing to protect myself at the same time. It feels congruent, like I can embody the love and compassion that feels right for me at the same time as doing what is right for me.
For example, I have been given the opportunity to go on some dates recently. Both women embodied some qualities that I am trying to draw a hard line with myself on that are not a fit for me in relationships. The qualities are not in themselves bad, but make for situations that are a bad fit with me.
In both cases, empowered by the ‘Brene Brown principle’, I was able to undertand that a dealbreaker now was never going to change, as the person was doing the best she could. I was able to just plainly say that while I had enjoyed the time, I didn’t want to take things any further. With one woman, who I knew socially, I felt more explanation would be helpful, so I added that my experience was that some qualities weren’t a fit for what I needed in a relationship. It was true, it was kind and it set the boundary that I needed.
In the past I would have let the appeal of someone else’s interest in me inspire me to stretch, to see whether a thing I knew I didn’t like was really that big a dealbreaker, because I didn’t want to miss out. I would also ‘stretch’ in this way because I believe deeply that love and connection transform us. And this is true. Even those experiences that didn’t work out have transformed me, deepened me, and in many cases have earned me with profound and lasting friendships. However, I am open to being deepened by things other than heartache and taking the high road when I’m hurting.
For now, and probably for ever, I am choosing to trust that by saying no to experiences I already know will not work out for me long term, I may make room for experiences and partners that will. It’s a leap of faith.
Cover photo by Courtnie Tosana on Unsplash