While contemplating the idea of pain influencing me to shrink away from others or to feed confusion about feeling loved, I thought of the lyrics to Bette Midler’s “The Rose”. This and innumerable other songs and poems explore the many causes lying behind pain and its influence on how we interpret love.

My own questioning began in earnest when my marriage to my high school sweet heart disintegrated. I thought love conquered all! But I was wrong! And I decided that love wasn’t what I thought it was…and, in fact, I didn’t know anything about love, let alone being created to be loved.

Tell me about love and being loved and shrinking away. 

Like the first time you touched a hot stove—you pulled away. The next time you came close to a stove you either shrank away or you reached out to see if it was hot. If it was, you pulled away, if it wasn’t you learned that stoves aren’t always hot. If you shrank away, you associated the stove with pain, hot or not. Love is simple like that. People are not.  

When love has strings attached, you experience pain. When love expects nothing in return, you experience love. This applies when giving and receiving. When you love another with an expectation of how they’ll be, or what they’ll do, or what will happen next, or that they’ll love you in return, you’re likely to experience a staggering set of emotions ranging from disappointment to resentment and anger or even hatred and cynicism. 

Sounds simple…and maybe easy if I was Peace Pilgrim, but I’m not. So now what?

How do you know when you are loving simply?
How do you know when you are being simply loved?
 

Do that.
Receive that.

Learn to recognize the strings—starting with your own.
If you are honest with yourself, you’ll know what to do next.

I wonder if the journey is really about learning how to love simply and to be simply loved.

Love you–simply.

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