"You are what you love, not what loves you. That's what I decided a long time ago." I have remembered this concluding line of a conversation between Nicolas Cage and himself (when he played the twin writer brothers in the 2002 movie "Adaptation") for over five years. I have many times thought back on it over all the stories of unrequited love that I have heard since then. Donald knew something most of us miss, sometimes for a whole life- that the love we feel for who or what ever we feel it, is our own. Loving is not something we are given permission to feel or a feeling that anyone can take away.
Photo by: Sabrina Faith
This might be one of the biggest misconceptions ever perpetrated about love. There is this pervasive embodiment of the experience as a coupled experience, it's legitimacy resting in it's reciprocation. When love is withheld, rejected or takes some other form, the one who loved first is belittled, even if only in his/her own mind. Maybe that's why I have always remembered Donald, who couldn't care less whether, Sarah, the object of his love felt that way too. He knew that the gift of the experience was his.
The stories of unrequited love and the range of tragedy and heartbreak from love unmet has filled the airways since we began to sing or tell our stories. The universality of the loss experienced by love gone wrong, or never really given a chance, or interrupted too soon by tragedy is something we all share. The pain is as deep and real as any cut with a knife. The sadness and loneliness of loving and losing the object of our love is searing like a burn and shadows us for weeks, sometimes months. This is the story that many of us never get over, sometimes keeping us away from the prospect of loving again for years.
Why we can't celebrate the love we feel without it being reciprocated has a lot to do with our latent feelings of unworthiness (Don't worry it's not you- it's the whole culture). As soon as you are not good enough, the original experience of love, which is the highest feeling we can experience degenerates in less than a minute to a feeling of shame. Or if we are angry, then it is easy to find blame, making the object of our love not worth the feeling to begin with. Either way, we lose access to the purest and most instructive feeling we can muster.
Realizing that we are what we love and not what loves you is a revolutionary approach to opening your heart and discovering a capacity to embrace the world that you might not have known you are capable of. Loving builds emotional literacy and gives you the courage to feel the loss of love with grace and forgiveness. A loving and compassionate heart begets more love. The more you practice love with out the shame or the blame, the more love comes to you. Guaranteed.