Friday, May 4, 2018

love, love me do

Abandon hope, ye who enter here
~Dante, Inferno

The other day an old friend broke down while talking about his alcoholic parents. They'd been dead for several years but the grieving, he said, was bad today.

He had loved them faithfully despite their wretched characters and abusive behaviours, over many years, in fact his whole life.  He never stopped loving them or hoping they would get sober.  He felt compassion for the good people he knew they had been behind the disease consuming them, and he forgave them.

But today he grieved.  Deep, gut-wrenching grief.  He had waited his whole life for his love to be reciprocated.  It never was.  His parents couldn't.  They were under the influence of a substance they loved more than him.

As the loved ones of addicts, we can be patient and wait in love but, if we attach to recovery, or expect our love to be returned one day, we may end up living a life of hope that ends in bitter disappointment.  Better not to hope and just accept things as they are, with a guarded heart, investing more only when our loved ones are available to love us back.

Here is a famous passage from T.S. Eliot's East Coker that says it well:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Eliot's poem points to the light in the darkness of a waiting heart.  Eric Berne would second that, for he claims that, in unrequited love, the person who loves is the lucky one, even if she gets nothing in return.  I'm not sure how lucky she is but, yes, there is certainly a light shining in every loving heart, and warmth and promise in that.  Not so the unloving heart that expires without reciprocating!  Tragic as my friend's loss may be, that his parents' love was unavailable because of their addiction is, by far, worse.

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