The Opposite of Love

“The opposite of love is fear.” -Said in different ways by many people, but I usually think of The Course in Miracles or Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love.

Your thoughts?

After all, the Lumineers say “the opposite of love’s indifference” and plenty of others will say it’s hate.

What if we add the caveat that the only way to move towards love is to befriend your fear?

Fear certainly isn’t bad. It’s our key primal survival mechanism. But in our modern world, fear has gone a little haywire. We fear what needs to not to be feared.

Fear in today’s world, you see, protects one from the risk of love, the risk of getting hurt, of having your heart broken. If it’s not the opposite of love, we can at least say it’s the biggest block to love.

Really, it’s all based on a myth. Love never goes away. It may change forms, but it can never disappear. Love surrounds as just as much as the air surrounds us. We’ve just been trained not to see it or deny its existence. Instead of being all encompassing and always existing energy that is all around us, we’ve been told love is limited and that love can hurt us. This is a lie.

While yes, a break-up, divorce, or death can be a source of great emotions such as sadness, fear, and anger, it’s not love that is hurting us. It’s the lie that it’s gone. Love is the cushion we fall back on. It’s in the arms of friends and family waiting to comfort us, our dogs waiting to lick the tears away, the Voice within us telling us it will be okay. It’s still in the relationship that was, it’s still in that other person, even if the relationship ceases to exist how it once was.

This doesn’t mean we still don’t get to have our uncomfortable emotions. We just need to take the time to feel them, as scary as they can be, and let them pass, so we can move towards a path of freedom, a path full of the love that awaits us.

Side note: You’re living a human existence in a world filled with fear. If you don’t understand this right away, that’s okay! You just have to believe it’s true. Personally, it’s been months and months of dedicated inner work to get me to this point, and I’m still not fully there. I just trust my Higher Self that the message is pure.

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“Love in your mind produces love in your life. This is the meaning of Heaven. Fear in your mind produces fear in your life. This is the meaning of hell” 
― Marianne Williamson, Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles.

“A Course in Miracles says that only love is real: “The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.” When we think with love, we are literally co-creating with God. And when we’re not thinking with love, since only love is real, then we’re actually not thinking at all. We’re hallucinating. And that’s what this world is: a mass hallucination, where fear seems more real than love. Fear is an illusion. Our craziness, paranoia, anxiety and trauma are literally all imagined. That is not to say they don’t exist for us as human beings. They do. But our fear is not our ultimate reality, and it does not replace the truth of who we really are. Our love, which is our real self, doesn’t die, but merely goes underground.” 
― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

Grasping at the Clouds

Why do we always want to tell others how they hurt us?
Most of us knowing we would never get an apology, or even recognition that we have wounds. My own experience is rarely an acknowledgement of my feelings. Usually, it’s a complete lack of a response and I feel abandoned all over again.

Maybe it’s a wish things could somehow, miraculously, fantastically, work out. Maybe the hard parts could be undone, erased. Less from a feeling of sadness or anger. More from love- back to the denial of a love lost.

Even when we know its fantasy, even when we know we want to be loved differently. By someone who hears our needs and does more then speaks words, but takes appropriate action.

What to do when left with our own hurt?

Acceptance… yes, of the situation. But more so, of the fact we are still grieving.

From there, the only other answer I have found is to sit or walk with the hurt, even as it lingers. To keep showing up for myself and my pain that few others in my life ever could. To stop grasping at the clouds. To witness myself “I see your pain, and I am with you.”

And then I hug Pacer extra tight.

Lunar Eclipse

On the last lunar eclipse,
I thanked the skies for finding you.
Tonight, I offered a simple prayer of gratitude
for the growth I endured.
Then I thanked the skies for finding me.

*While we just has a lunar eclipse a few weeks ago, I’m referring to last year’s November lunar eclipse…but that didn’t sound very poetic.

“I will not abandon you.”: Coming back to Myself in the San Juan Mountains

(Note: This is an edited version of my journaling. The other pages were messier and free-flowing, allowing me to move through my anger and fear. While I’m happy to share many of my thoughts, some things are personal and sacred. I also apologize for the going back and forth with tenses. This is a mix of journal entries and reflections.)

Day 1

The San Juan mountains greeted us with clouds, drizzle, and 50 degrees. A comfort. Mother Nature reflecting the emotions living inside my body. A storm of beauty, gratitude, and grief.

“I will not abandon you.” She whispered.

Day 2

The next day, I cried. Balled might be a better word. As in balled my eyes out as I stumbled down an alpine trail.

You see, I don’t just cry. I ugly cry. I could never be an actress daintily crying in a movie, even though tears come easily for me. They always manage to make crying look like such a pretty act. I cry more like the comedian impersonating the actress crying in the movie, wailing, hiccuping, and sniffling.

“I hate having such a big heart.”, I nearly texted a friend before choosing not to.

This happened several times throughout the day. Each time I thought the pain might break me. “How can my 5’4″ frame bear so much hurt? I’m going to be ripped apart.”, I thought. But after a few minutes, I’d feel the space in my chest expand, the pain would settle, and a smudge of clarity would take its place.

**********

After the evenings misadventure that included a failed attempt at backpacking (which turned out to be good luck), a cloud enshrouded us. It felt good to be consumed. The hug I had been wanting. Later it started raining. It was nice knowing that Mother Nature was crying with me. That I wasn’t alone, not with Her and Pacer by my side.

“I will not abandon you.”, we whispered together.

She reminded me not to self abandon. I keep saying this “I will not abandon you” to myself as my body tried to go numb. I so desperately want to, but I was determined to feel. To not abandon myself, my body, or my Inner Child who always felt like her emotions were too big and needed to be hidden. I had learned through my older sister’s passing that I can survive this pain, this “breaking open.”

And as the darkness enveloped, I could rest.

Day 3 (Colorado Trail)

On the 3rd day, I was mostly tearless as long as I was moving. (I had intentionally planned the day to be moving for half, then napping, journaling/writing, and reading in the second half.) Sad, but more hopeful moving through the sacred mountains. There was clarity in the remote space. Thankfully, Mother Nature decided to wait to cry until we were back at camp. There, we cried together. And that crying opened up space within me to write.

I have so many regrets, but I know I was doing the best I could with how my nervous system was reacting. I have to forgive myself. And if this leads to his healing and happiness, I can find joy in my suffering.

And then I got my perfect moment. Pacer and I were napping (well, I was resting while Pacer was on and off snoring) in the car, mostly dry inside, as the rain fell around us and pitter-pattered on the car. Pacer grabbed my hand with her paw.
(I always new if I were going to get married, it would be in the San Juans. -Note: Humor coming back).

Maybe what he had given me was a gift.

I noticed that even though it was still raining, the sky wasn’t that dark.

“…nothing beautiful in the end comes without a measure of some pain, some frustration, som suffering. This the nature of things. This is how our Universe has been made up.” -Archbishop Desmond Tutu (The Book of Joy)

Day 4 (Colorado Trail)

I woke up in the middle of the night trying to get comfortable, frustrated and sad my time in the abyss was being cut short. The stars were out.

Today’s intention: find joy.

(Later) Still no sun, although I see it trying behind the clouds. A little more gratitude. Enough light and joy to feel Amanda again.

It’s funny how both grief and love can feel so all-consuming. Well, maybe love isn’t the right word. Fear-based love. I never understood the “fear God” concept in Catholic school, so its interesting to me to see I’ve still clung to the ideology in adulthood. Can I let it go for good?

Love, while everywhere, is spacious, not confining. Its Mother Nature saying to us humans “Even though you hurt me, I will still give you wildflowers, just as Father Sky presents you with the Perseids meteor shower each August.”

No tears. There hasn’t been thunder in a few days. Still clouds. Yet a clearing. No sun, but stars.

(In my isolation with Pacer, I was also blessed to meet with a friend this day, a kindred spirit. The perfect break in my retreat inside myself.)

Day 5 (Handies Peak)

Sunshine.

The first time we’ve seen it since arriving in the San Juans. A butterfly from my sister. Still clouds, but so much more sun. A friend commented on a picture of me and Pacer on Handies Peak, saying that we/I looked so happy. (Pacer is almost always happy). I reflected: I was. The type of joy that only comes from suffering. After forgiveness, with gratitude and acceptance. Unfiltered light.

While I was never in a labeled relationship, the inherent love was always there, right from the start. It just had no space to grow. Not because we didn’t hold unconditional love for each other, but because we held conditional love for ourselves.

“I will not abandon you.”, I whispered to myself.

****

The most courageous human act is to choose to love again after your heart as been broken.

To live, to truly live, is to have your heart broken. At least once, but often many times. After, it is a natural survival response to guard it. After all, it is the holiest thing we possess. But once we are aware of this mechanism, we have a choice: to put walls up around our hearts, to defend and protect, or to let our hearts be broken open and allow for even more love to be let in.

****

Final reflections:

  • Part of me feels like I have simply repeated another “non” relationship from several years ago. Another part of me realize that I have pulled back yet another layer and met with a deeper truth.
  • A few days, mostly alone in nature can help me feel, explore, and grow more than a few months’ time at home. Somehow, in the arms of Mother Earth, healing is accelerated. I feel closer to Me again. (For me, the San Juan mountains* appear to be my go-to: https://adogandhergirl.com/2019/09/10/heartache-and-healing-in-the-san-juans/) *These mountains played an important role when Pacer and I backpacked the Colorado Trail in 2015 as well.
  • A lot of the pain had to do with the “second arrow“, that voice that asked “why doesn’t he want me?”, that believed I wasn’t enough. Ultimately, stepping into that pain and following the thread of that false belief is what lead to my healing.
  • I have rarely ever felt this close to myself.

Normalizing Rain

Rain.
One of Mother Nature’s greatest gifts. Earth’s life flowing. The source of our food and spring flowers. A gift we often complain about. We stay inside and close the shades.

Tears.
One of greatest gifts. A release of emotions, born to flow. Forthcoming gratitude and growth. This rain to is often shunned. We turn away and choke back the rising energy in our throats. Shunned.

For as long as humans suppress their tears I fear that Mother Earth will suppress her rain, leaving all of us to burn.

Where I live in Northern Colorado, our relationship to rain is changing. With wildfires now a yearly occurrence that has no seasonal bounds, many of us now praise the late spring snow and perform rain dances weekly in each of the other seasons.

All of us have stopped in pure awe of a miraculous mid-summer rainbow, born only after a late afternoon thunderstorm. “Let if fucking rain” we all scream, curse, and pray simultaneously.

I wonder too…what would happen if we started to praise our own tears? Thank them for their magical healing powers. Let them just flow…I wonder what type of rainbows humans could create.

Driving to the canyons of southern Utah a few weeks ago, I came into awareness of how many times I had felt my throat tighten over the past few months. The energy it took to dam those tears up. The damage it cost me to dam them. Now when I start to feel my throat tighten and the energy start to rise, I consciously remind myself to surrender to my emotions and let the tears happen. There’s nothing to be ashamed about by my big emotions. When I limit my emotions, I limit myself. And I want to. be. free. expansive. serene.

A list of my rain in the past week…

-Leaving my dog when I left for a trip.
-Searching my sister’s Spotify for a workout playlist and finding one for my (grad school) graduation in 2019.
-Missing my older sister, and knowing my Mom was without a daughter on Mother’s Day.
-Accepting (grieving) my Achilles injury may never go away AND all the times I ran through the pain.
-Learning about a friend who lost her dog.
– Watching a close high school friend get married, then watching her dance with her unabashedly joyous dad, the dad who at one time expressed displeasure when she came out as gay.
-Realizing my shame and fear could be the end a relationship that never had the chance to flourish.
-Saying goodbye to my parents before I returned home to Colorado.
-Giving space for my voice during my therapy session.

My tears are what happen between the joy and pain of life. Between Sky and Earth. They let me know I’m alive.

I want to fucking live. So I let it rain.

Big World

Little ity, bity me. Big, big world. 

Somehow comforting.

My introversion: In cities, at parties, I feel lost.

My extroversion: In Nature, surrounded by mountains, I feel part of it all. 

My work: To find harmony in each part. 

My gift: To find beauty in each piece. 

My struggle: To find harmony in my own parts and the beauty within me.

My help: Wind, the Great Connector.

My truth: Love is at my core. 

Our truth: Love is at our core.

Scarcity is a Myth

There is enough food for every mouth.
Enough wealth for every wallet.
Enough room for every woman at the top.
Enough love for every child. Adult. Dog. And living creatures on this Earth.
And you, my darling, have always been enough.

Scarcity is the child of fear and misguided power.
It holds us back. Sets up traps. A perceived lack.

Hope is infinite.
Kindness is infinite.
Beauty is infinite.
Love is infinite.

Running Towards Adventure

He asked, “Do you want to run away with me?”

I said, “No.”

I have no need to escape.
I’ve faced my demons
and made friends.
I’ve walked directly into my darkness,
run into the moonless nights.
And found the sunrise.
I’ve dived into my past, spent time with the ghosts,
came back on with love
I’ve cried a million tears,
only to unearth a treasure of joy.

My shadows walk with me,
spirits of the Underworld,
right besides my angles,
loved ones passed.

So no, I can’t run away.
But I will run with you.
Along shores.
Up mountains.
Through forests.
Over hills.
Even on city streets.
Whatever calls to us,
asking to be explored.

The darkness, I know,
it will come again.
We can face it together.
Carrying our own light.

I asked, “Will you run towards this wild adventure with me?”

(And that’s how I ended up with Pacer! lol)

Imagination

And what you don’t understand is…

I only believe you’re real when you’re sitting next to me.
When you’re not here, I feel certain my brain made you up.
So even when,
You send me texts of security,
a voice inside me is screaming,
“Don’t be foolish, this is all just make-believe.”

Making Friends with Grief

2020 has been a hard year for everyone.  With COVID, the world and our sense of normalcy were shaken.  Some of us lost loved ones to the virus.  All of us had our lives changed.  If we were lucky enough to keep our jobs, we still couldn’t go out as we normally did.  Weddings were delayed, holidays missed, goodbyes went unsaid, and hugs became a novelty.

We grieved what was lost.  Sometimes things we did not appreciate before.  Other areas of life continued on, both the pain and the joy.

***

While this blog shares my personal relationship with grief this year, I write this with the thought that others grieving may find something in my words.  Hope, discovery, a sense of connection…I’m not sure, but if you’re reading this, I thank you for sharing in part of my story

As a human being walking this earth, I’ve had some experience with grief at various degrees.  Additionally, as a mental health therapist, I have had a little training in helping others experiencing grief.  I learned the well-known 5 Stages of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) by the brilliant Elizabeth Kubler Ross and then watched the videos of Martin Prechtel’s speech, Grief and Praise.  If you haven’t yet seen those videos, I highly suggest you do.  In short, Prechtel’s belief is that on the other side of grief is gratitude. It is only if we’ve experienced love or joy that we experience the deep sadness of having lost someone or something.  Or, better said in the words of David Kessler (Kubler’s protege) “You don’t have to experience grief, but you can only avoid it by avoiding love. Love and grief are inextricably intertwined.”  In hindsight, we count our blessings and find gratitude for our sorrow.

On a rational level, Martin’s speech was easy for me to accept and understand.  Of course, the challenge is always putting theory into practice.  In 2020, there was no escaping hardship and loss, with my only choice being going through.  But could I find light in the dark, the rainbow after the storm, and thanks through my tears?

During spring and early summer, I shared many of the same fears and sorrows as most of my friends and acquaintances.  Financially, I was worried. I had two part-time, self-employed jobs, both threatened by instability.  At Easter time, I was sad that I couldn’t go see my family in Ohio, where both my mom and older sister, Amanda, were battling cancer.  In June, I felt the absence of my dad’s yearly trip to Colorado to visit me, my twin sister, and his grand-dog. Then in August, while camping in the mountains, I got the call that the doctors could do no more for my older sister.  

Personal Grief

Just a few days after getting “the call”, me, my twin sister (Sandi) and my dog (Pacer) were packed up and headed to Ohio.  We had 3 precious and sacred weeks with Amanda before she passed on September 3rd.

I remember waking up the morning after Amanda passed.  I had gone to sleep in the same bed as Sandi and my dog, like we had with Amanda when we were little, waiting for Santa or the Easter Bunny to come.  We opened our eyes at nearly the same time, and in seconds our tears were spilling onto the pillows.  Sandi opened the bedroom door so Pacer could sit with my dad at the kitchen table downstairs.  Then she laid back down and held my hand, neither of us ready to get up and face the reality of what we had lost.  

And while I shared this grief with family, it was sharp, acute, a knife slicing through my heart.  An intimate relationship had been severed. My older sister, in physical form, was no longer on the earth to walk through life’s challenges with me.  

Weeks and months later, the grief still comes in waves.  Within a moment, it feels like my breath has been taken away.  Being a therapist, I know my only option is to feel it or let it build and consume me later.  Sometimes that’s all it is, a moment of intense pain before it passes. At other times, the tide moves back slower.  I need time to let the tears fall in order to let the pain pass.

Collective Grief

In fall, I return back home in Colorado to smoke.  First from one fire, then suddenly, from several.  Neighbors down the canyon are losing their homes.  In town, we all had our bags packed.  Then it was our turn to go, as the East Troublesome Fire roars over the Continental Divide and burns through Rocky Mountain National Park.  

In the mornings, I would hop online, checking to see if the fire consumed homes and businesses of friends in my community.  I breathed sighs of relief for my neighbors and said prayers for those in nearby towns who had not been so lucky.

Again, I’m filled with sadness, though this time it is a collective grief. It’s not as sharp, but I feel its heaviness.  I share the fear and pain of my neighbors, my fellow mountain-dwellers. While I am feeling more than just my own emotions, there is some comfort knowing that I’m sharing these feelings with hundreds of others.

More Grief

I broke up with a boyfriend in June.  Without getting into the details, I’ll simply say it was rather abrupt and many strings were left loose.  By the middle of fall, I was in a more reflective state, ready to have the conversation that should have been had months earlier.  We sat down on my favorite rock outside my house, Pacer often poking with her snout to get between us.  Each of us spoke our truths, both acknowledging the how and whys our lives didn’t, and couldn’t, fit together as we continued our journeys.  Knowing the brevity of life, I decided to tell him a harder truth.  That I had loved him.  Him, ever cautious, maybe too cautious, with words told me he thought he did and still loved me too.  These are the words that ripped all my wounds back open, though I didn’t understand it at first.

I knew he meant what he said, as at the core of his being, he is love.  But I knew he didn’t love me how I wanted to be loved: fiercely, wildly, unapologetically.  I cried for what seemed like the better half of the next 24 hours.  I wanted to text Amanda, and I knew I couldn’t, so I cried more.  Slowly, as I let the waves pass, I started to see a little clearer.  I realized wounds not only from the year were re-opened, but childhood wounds, wounds from my parent’s divorce and never feeling like I was enough.  I heard the questions from voices that I thought had quenched* and healed from: “Am I loveable?”  “Am I worthy of love?”

*As a therapist, both from my own experience and those of my clients, I know these voices and stories that we thought were done with still like to pop their head up from time to time, often from new angles, just to make sure we really understood the lesson.

That evening, as I was headed back up the canyon with Pacer, the pain started to recede slightly.  Almost with my normal reserve, I was able to sing-a-long with Miley Cyrus:

“She got her hair pulled back ’cause the sweat’s drippin’ off of her face (her face)

Said it ain’t so bad if I wanna make a couple mistakes

You should know right now that I never stay put in one place

Forever and ever, no more (no more)

The midnight sky is the road I’m takin’

Head high up in the clouds

Oh

I was born to run, I don’t belong to anyone, oh no

I don’t need to be loved by you (by you)”

Pacer was resting in the back seat.  I had just seen my twin and her boyfriend.  I had talked to my dad and texted my mom.  A friend had bought me flowers.  I had all the love I needed, and I reminded myself of all things I loved about me too, coming up with another: a strong will, that will never let me settle for anything but what is right and true. Going through the pain allowed me to open back up to the love and beauty I already had in my life.

Still a little puffy-eyed.

Making Friends

Yet the heart itself cannot actually break, for its very nature is soft and open. What breaks open when we see things as they are is the protective shell of ego-identity we have built around ourselves in order to avoid feeling pain. When the heart breaks out of this shell, we feel quite raw and vulnerable. Yet this is also the beginning of feeling real compassion for ourselves and others.” -John Welwood

I’ve only lived in Estes Park for a little over two years, but even in my list of complaints, I’ve come to love the community and all the people in it. I’ve witnessed so many acts of kindness, sometimes being on the receiving end, and a neighborly love that I’ve never experienced in other places.  As for the Rocky Mountain National Park, the more I explored its mountains and lakes, the more RMNP became part of me, leaving imprints on my soul.  I nearly cried when I watched the aerial shot of the burned area, my heart weeping for the trees and the animals who called the spaces home.  

Eventually, I rode my bike down to Glen Haven, taking a closer look at the charred, black trees from the Cameron Peak Fire (the largest wildfire in the state’s history, although the East Troublesome fire wasn’t far behind when it exploded in size overnight).  “I’ve hiked that ridge.” I thought to myself.  “I know those trees.  I know what they feel like.  Now, I feel like them too.  Black and charred.” But if I know anything about Mother Nature, with time, space, and the right resources, She will heal.  And I will too.  Neither of us will be the same.  Nor would I want to be. But grow, we shall.

I miss my older sister every day.  At night, I’ll often watch a slideshow of her pictures.  I cry and smile at the same time.  So many wonderful memories!  I hear “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and “Hey, Soul Sister”, two of her favorite songs, on the radio, and I know she is watching over me.  My life would be so different if I hadn’t had her in my life.  Would I have had the courage to fly? 

My heart is open. Vulnerable.   

“I will be brave,” I think to myself. 

I write Amanda another letter.

Amanda, 

I can’t promise you much, except that I will live until I die.  

Despite the threat of wildfires and floods, I will continue to live in the mountains, 

because this is where my soul soars.  I will do my best to be a steward of the land, even if my actions seem insignificant.  I will continue to put my heart on the line, in all relationships, because life without love is not alive. So I’ll keep my armor off.  To give, to receive.  And just like I was your little ray of sunshine, I’ll do my best to be that for all other beings, even when darkness threatens to consume me.  I will scream in anger and dance in joy.  I will laugh until I cry.  I will run through pain until I reach the stars.  Amanda, for you, I will live.  

It’s almost winter now.  My grief isn’t exactly one of those friends I want to excitedly embrace once we get a COVID vaccine, but I do open up to it.  Nor do I wish pain on anyone, I just hope others allow themselves to lean into their grief when it comes.  For it will come, to any living being walking this earth who is brave enough to love.  I am also not an expert on grief.  I still haven’t found meaning in my sister’s death.  Is that even possible when someone dies so young?  What I do know is that I have some power to create meaning for myself, a choice on how I will let it define me.  And still, though I can’t explain it in words, I know that somehow, I am a better person for having faced the storm. That I am both softer and stronger.  I realize that I cannot understand the vibrancy of life unless I accept all of my emotions.  

Sandi, Pacer, and I running in October, feeling all of the pain and all of the love.

In the morning, I watch the sun’s pink light creep up the mountains. 

“Life is beautiful…even when it’s not.” -Amanda Rose Nypaver (1984-2020)

Ray A. Nypaver