I think the hardest thing in the world is to love unconditionally. And we can’t love unconditionally unless we love ourselves in that too. Including our faults, our mistakes, our dark corners, our anger and grief, pettiness, unkindness, stupidity, jealousy, greed lust… if we only love our “good” side then we will attack others when they show the same weakness and faults that we know, deep inside, that we are capable of or have acted on. If we cannot love someone who is a sinner, we cannot love anyone, because we are all guilty. Love people anyhow and wholly and yourself too.
I went through a period after my mother died, where I felt I’d entirely failed. My marriage was disintegrating, and I was looking at myself very carefully. How had I gotten here? What mistakes had I made? I felt unlovable and stupid.
I found a letter from my mother written to herself when my father asked me to clean out her clothes. It was two or three years after she died. Here is the letter, with a few things left out for the privacy of the living:
Sept 18, Friday
I don’t want to go home. I want to stay here in Seattle. With the mountains that lift my heart. And clear air and only good memories. What is there to go home to? Struggling with X and his alcohol. I don’t want to try to do something about it. I don’t think it will work if I do. I think will only go on as it is and trying to get help will only lead to fight. I don’t think I have the strength, the courage or the wisdom to help myself or him.
What else am I going to? A house that needs a great deal of work that I only moderately like. A climate I loath. A landscape I find boring. I’m tired of living in a crowded suburb. And that house needs so much work.
People. What people do I go home to? Nearly all have problems. Y, wounded bird, so foolishly enamored of Z or thinks he is. And I have little sympathy or patience with it. And his propensity to failure which I’m tired of also.
A who I dearly love but her household is such chaos with those ill-behaved children and one crisis after another.
B who I like very much but really have so little in common with. I fear all that spiritual stuff may eventually bore me. Maybe not.
C. Another wounded bird, really. And not dependable.
D, barely around, anymore.
Mother, older and frailer. Who needs my care and patience.
E. There is one person to go home to. Thank God she’s there. Not wounded anymore. But so busy and it isn’t fair or wise to dump my troubles on her.
Who else? Why don’t I know any successful (in the best sense) sane people. People who are intellectuals, interested in ideas. F is. But not a fully successful human being and not when G is with him. Ugh. Besides he lives far away and he and X don’t like each other.
I don’t really want to have that show at H’s Church. I don’t like H very well. Oh dear.
I maybe have a job which if I get will be very hard work and if I don’t will be a great disappointment.
Winter’s coming and things cost more and we don’t have quite enough to live on. So that means digging into my inheritance.
I am sick of D.C. I am sick of being a struggling, unsuccessful artist. I am sick of worrying about X, about his moods, his acting the fool when half drunk and acting cruel and crazy when fully drunk. I’m sick of being afraid, of his depression, of his refusal to talk to me about anything of importance.
Of doing dishing. Of all the mess in our house. The mess on my desk, the mud room, the kitchen, the study, the basement. The dirty paint. The back yard. Oh God! How can I change things? Well there are a lot of bad things.
Oh, & I’m sick of being anxious, 10 lbs overweight, biting my nails, having bad teeth/gums. Life get tedjous, don’t it?
Any good stuff?
For me, this letter was the key to finding myself lovable. My mother wrote to herself because she felt that she could not share these feelings with anyone. Terrible feelings. And I thought about it for a long time: I thought: my mother was charming, loved and an entertainer. But a child knows the parents’ hidden feelings. So I knew about my mother’s darkness and the letter confirmed it. And I thought, my mother didn’t need to hide that because I knew about it and I loved her anyhow. I love her more knowing that she was human too.
And if she is lovable whole, so am I. So are you. We all are. And we all make mistakes and are guilty of anger (sometimes appropriate but sometimes not!) jealousy, greed, lust, sloth and pride. Love people anyway and wholly and yourself too.