Drinking from the Fire Hose of Love

Wow, I was going to write a completely different article this week. Then bam! Something else hit me – karma, and comprehension. I’m still figuring this out as I write, going off on tangents, but I’ll pull all those threads together, bear with me…

You know those times when people are pissing you off, your feelings are getting hurt, you’re butting heads with the world? (Please say yes, I can’t possibly be the only one that self absorbed or stubborn!) When everything is externalized and you wonder what’s wrong with everybody else. Then slam! You realize it’s actually you. That horrible drop in the pit of your stomach when you realize: “Oh fuck, I screwed up.”

And what I’ve screwed up on is love. Not hearts and flowers romantic love – but that universal all you need is love…ba-ba-ba-na-na. One of the weird side effects of chronic illness is it tends to strip away the things you think are important, leaving only what really is important. When career, independence, financial stability, are all absent from you life, you get a really in-depth lesson on what’s left: Love, and the connections we make with people.

Now, I may be grossly out of place in the corporate world with a resume fitting 20 yr old drop-outs, but the one area I move through with confidence and expertise is the realm of Love. Perhaps too comfortably…

I didn’t come to this place easily. There was a lot of grief, a lot of letting go, and a whole lot of learning to receive. At one rather intense point of spiritual development, I felt like a garden hose hooked up to a fire hydrant – what was coming at me was more than I could take. It has taken me most of the last two years to learn to stretch and make room for all that love. But when I’m in that place, it’s beautiful. And it’s a love for everything – cranes, construction, cranky people. It’s not romantic love, but I still get those hummy in love feelings – for everything and everyone. Loving really is easy, but I sometimes forget it was hard getting here.

Unconditional love is just that, unconditional. Loving no matter what. And I think I screwed up in thinking it doesn’t ask anything. It does. It asks to be received. Unconditional love is still gonna love you, even if you reject it; but that constant calling is always there, nudging at you, asking you to say yes to it.

There is some kiss we want with our whole lives
The touch of Spirit on the body
Seawater begs the pearl to break its shell


The seawater wants to see that shell open, but isn’t going anywhere whether it opens or not. And I’ve always seen the passive loving patience of that; it is just now occurring to me, you pile enough seawater on something, there’s gonna be some pressure.

I remember being in conflict with a guy I was dating – he was mad at me for loving him. I tried explaining it was like sunshine, you didn’t have to do anything with what was hitting you; or that loving and being “in love” were different things (it was way too early for the being “in love” part, and: Hello! I’m not crazy! Hm… I need that on a T-shirt). I did have enough sense to not try and help him understand to not take is so personally by explaining I also had feelings of love for dog shit (seriously – the expression of life: the fecundity of bugs, feeding soil that would arise in plants…beautiful!) ‘cause I’m pretty sure he would have taken THAT personally. Fundamentally, I think it drove the demise of the relationship. And I was always so confounded by that, how can you say no to something that asks nothing of you?

And because if you’re slow on the uptake the world will keep giving you the same lesson in different guises, I’ve been hit rather hard with it again this fall.

One was people’s response to A World of Hurt. Now I may again piss people off when I say for me that story was a Love story. I was sure shocked when people got mad and thought the narrator hadn’t earned redemption, wasn’t deserving of that kind of experience after shooting someone. Inside my heart cried out: “But, aren’t we all deserving? No matter how much we screw up, no matter what we do. Do we not all have that potential to finally get it, to crack open and let that seawater rush in?” As I type this, I wonder how much of people’s anger about that redemption stems from their own struggle to forgive themselves, to not feel they need to pay some price for their own screw ups. – as I nurse that pit in my gut, realizing my own fuck up now.

Another “learning opportunity” was watching a new friendship fall apart, again because my deep love and affection for the man was more than he could accept – to this day I think he questions my motives and assumes they were romantic. Once again, I failed to explain the difference between loving and being “in love” (and once again managed to not say: “But I love dog poo too!”) Once again I am confounded – “Why is it so hard? Why can’t you just let somebody love you and not sweat it?”

Because it is hard, it’s stupid that it’s hard, but we do a really good job of making it so. I got to hear Patrick Finn speak, he teaches a class on Love at U of C, and he said: “one must stop trying so hard not to love.” It really is that simple. It’s ironically very hard to learn to not work so hard against it, but once you let go of making it hard, it’s easy.

So, while I’ve been busy being hurt, disappointed, upset with everyone who’s not understanding me or where I’m coming from – rejecting what seems so simple, and necessary. I’m realizing what I’m offering does ask something, it asks to be received. And that’s actually a lot to ask. As confounded as I’ve been by the rejection, it never occurred to me people might be confounded by the offer.

I’ve been mad about people being insensitive; turns out, I was blind to how insensitive I’d been. As much as I was frightened and overwhelmed by my own fire hydrant experience, I forgot getting hit with that much love can be scary, and it’s no wonder people are blocking and fleeing (pause for a moment while we all visualize: You get to drink from the Fire Hose!!!). So, I’m sorry. I’ll work on putting a valve on that thing. In the meantime, I’m not going to stop trying to see the pearl in everyone (even if YOU don’t think they’ve got one) and I’m not going to stop loving any of you. But I will work on keeping my mouth shut, and letting people take what they can and leave the rest.

There’s more on the topic of learning about love at Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off.

8 thoughts on “Drinking from the Fire Hose of Love

  1. Nodnodnod. Good luck cultivating silence while letting your heart bubble and boom. Could go either way…

    Sometimes I find it’s kindest to express conditional love/ nurturing,etc than unconditional love that I often feel. Especially as a “service provider” doing paid work, and getting to know some vulnerable, awesome, heart breaking sides to people.

    Maybe after we change the world, social workers, etc, will be less constrained – just as emergency services, etc, being less needed. I mean, maybe it’s not absolutely kindest, rather, only kindest in the unnatural and rule bound work setting.

    Enough tangent! Love you, Valerie,



  2. I can’t believe you love construction…

    But I do unconditionally love the granite countertops in our new house!

    And I love you, Valerie!


  3. Thanks for waxing eloquent on love, unconditional or otherwise. Go ahead and blast me with that firehose. Life and love is about risking the sting, and yes a little dying too. Sometimes I can revel and wallow gloriously in love’s mud and sometimes I have to brace myself for a full frontal hit in the face. Curiously it’s the times I just let love engulf me and ride the wave that the shock and pain is felt less sting.

    At this time in my life its also about not projecting myself onto the other person and assuming that they will respond the same way I would in a situation. I have had to learn to sit back, wait, and observe. This isn’t a comfortable place for me. But in my previous persona I’ve left such wreckage for myself and others when I react in a hurry or from my gut. Nope the sit/wait/watch place is not my comfort zone but I’m learning a lot.

    So thanks again Sweet Valerie for getting me to sit and reflect, once again on love.

    Here’s wishing 2011 showers you with lots of love,


    1. Some juicy stuff Donna. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about vulnerability, courage, and risk. How very neccessary they are to any kind of “real” life. You’ve touched on that a lot in your comment, I’ll be adding that to my own little “soul food” stew pot.

      “wallow gloriously in love’s mud” — very picturesque! More fecundity; the things that are messy are also very rich: full of potential and life. Hmm…

      Thanks Donna. Lots of love (muddy or otherwise) back atcha! And 2011 seems to be showering me pretty well already, so I’m taking your wishes to heart.


  4. No.

    You called unconditional love to be unconditional, then attach a condition that your love will only be offered if welcomed. Unconditional love has absolutely no restrictions, it suffers no diminishment, it cannot be withheld. Were the love truly unconditional, it would continue to be proffered unyielding now whether it be accepted or not.

    I vainly and foolishly thought I both understood and offered unconditional love when I married. In fact it was very much the opposite. Hardly a surprise, we find it perfectly acceptable to put conditions on love. Conditions on fidelity, restrictions from abuse, demands on finances, whatever. Unconditional love is seen as the ideal, but I can’t think of a single situation where I would hold someone to that standard. I can think of many couples where neither partner tested the conditions, but that hardly makes the love unconditional.

    When my children were born, I think I got close to understanding unconditional love. I can’t think of any situations where I would withdraw my love from my children barring them completely rejecting their humanity. As preposterous as the notion is, I feel that remains a condition.

    I can see drinking from a firehose working in one of two ways. One way I perceive is when your partner is capable of swallowing copious amounts of fluid in a very short period of time. As dreamy as that seems (and I have definitively established my gender at this point) it’s pretty unrealistic. Unquestionably some people have a higher tolerance to what they can accept at one time. Without question, there is a person who can accept all you can throw and then some. We distrust when we approach the limits of giving or receiving that much love at once.

    The better way is to negotiate. It requires incredible communication. It requires constant compromise. The goalposts move and boundries flex as they are pushed inward and outward and sometimes are retracted tightly. It sounds impossible, but it works in daily practice for millions. I suspect.

    I almost think unconditional love towards my children just might be an idealistic dream worth striving towards. I know that unconditional love in my romantic relationships has not only been a horrible failure, but it has become unhealthy.

    I cannot love a woman who abuses me. I cannot love a woman who loves another. The woman I feel I loved truest could not take the time or distance and dumped me for a series of poor relationships. I offered my love as intact as I could, but withdrew once she remarried. As pure as I felt my love was, it was not unconditional.

    That’s my dream/nightmare from Saturday morning. Or at least a part of it.

    “You can’t love me. You have to love yourself.”

    How can I possibly offer unconditional love when I haven’t figured out how to love myself without condition?


    1. I think you answered your own question with your question:

      “How can I possibly offer unconditional love when I haven’t figured out how to love myself without condition?”

      …once you’ve got the loving yourself down, loving others is a whole lot easier.

      And I think I could sum up the rest of what you’re questioning by saying: my love may be unconditional, but my companionship sure as shit isn’t. I’m absolutely not going to stick around something that isn’t loving for some ideal about love. That would not be a very loving thing to do to ME! …and that comes full circle to the first point.


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