A very long time ago I made a deal with God: I said that I would forgo love for a Writing Life. Love was the only thing I wanted nearly as much as to write, and surely, I thought, success at writing would demand a great sacrifice. (The beautiful joke is, of course, that the majority of my writing has been about not finding love.) The result of this promise was that without realizing it, I internalized the idea that love and writing could not co-exist in my life. Over and over again my pattern looked like seeking love when I didn’t have it and running away from it when I did. I’d seek intimacy, not write while in a relationship, believe it was impossible for me to write while in a relationship, fear and sabotage relationships when I was in them, and then pine and write about them when I wasn’t. Because I didn’t realize how deeply (and invisibly) I felt contracted to this promise, I never understood the panic I felt around commitment; and because I had never exorcised my desire for love (only my willingness to accept it), I just kept seeking it out and sabotaging it, seeking it out and sabotaging it.
I had forgotten about this promise, this ‘deal’ that I had made, but I uncovered it when I went digging around my patterns in order to uncover their source: why do I claim to want one thing but act in a way that is antithetical to it? I say I want a relationship, but when I envision being in one I feel trapped, penned in and uncomfortable. I didn’t know the truth so I had to tackle the problem from both sides: if I truly don’t want a relationship, why do I believe that I do? Or, if I truly want a relationship, why do I panic whenever I get close to one? What I found hidden away was that promise I made years and years ago: that deal I made with the Universe and this push-pull way of being the only way I knew how to follow through on the impossible terms I’d set.
I decided (painfully and tearfully) that I had to let both sides of this commitment go. I decided I had to loosen my grip on my dream of being a writer at the cost of love and let go of the idea that love will prevent me from being a writer. The heartbreak I felt as I prepared myself psychologically to unclench the fist holding the writing dream felt like betrayal, felt like giving up, felt like resigning myself to a life unlived. I sobbed for an entire afternoon deliberating over whether or not I was abandoning myself by doing it or by not doing it. Did I know what I was doing then, when I made the promise? Or, do I know what I am doing now by questioning its validity. I thought that by spending one day on the changing of my beliefs around art I’d be ready to move on, but I hadn’t realized I had an equally implanted and free-standing idea about love. Not only did I have to relinquish the belief that I was in control of and could force my way to success as a writer, I had to also come face to face with and deconstruct my beliefs that love would get in the way of me reaching my potential. For though they seem to be one and the same thought, they are not. They were two independent ideas, one negatively affecting me about writing and the other negatively affecting me about love.
I think part of the reason I was ready and able to see these beliefs for what they were when I had gone so long oblivious to them, was that for the first time in my life I have begun to pray for ease. I have been so wholeheartedly attached to my struggle that it never occurred to me I could have what I wanted without it. That I could have a writing life, a love life, a worthwhile life, all without struggle was not something that had ever occurred to me to expect. In order for my psyche to allow peace, I had to confront the limiting beliefs in place preventing me from achieving it. This is how affirmations work (of which I have never been a fan, but am now seeing their legitimate practicality).
It was heart wrenching realizing I had to let go of the oath I had made. Letting go, I thought, was akin to giving up my dream of writing. It took me a little bit of time before I realized that I didn’t need to give up my dream of writing, I just needed to form a new way of dreaming it. What I wanted from my dream was a sense of validation and completion, but I was using lack and suffering as a means of achieving it. I held my dreams tensely, uncompromisingly, and withholdingly. Dreams, like little kids, become too fragile for the real world when held like this. For years I struggled with feelings of loneliness and sacrifice because I believed that is how one should feel when working towards their best life. But these feelings are contrary to how I want to feel in my day-to-day life — I want to feel free and expansive regardless of where I am on my journey. I came to see that there is no way walking the wrong path will lead me to the right place. I was so afraid of not achieving and not reaching my goals that it was impossible to feel wholly present, authentic and successful as I work towards them.
If the only way I can have the life I envisioned for myself is by living half lives on the path to getting there, doesn’t that negate the pot of gold I imagined there to be at the end of the rainbow? It terrifies me to contemplate going the next 2-25 years in the same uncommitted, half out way I’ve been going. If letting go of my promise to forgo one source of happiness for another is the only way to open myself to truly living, then I have to hope that the universe doesn’t demand I sever my own limbs in order to do it.
I attempted a one-sided negotiation to force the life I wanted into being. With this promise subconsciously motivating me, I couldn’t’ see that I was forbidding myself from growing and evolving out of the person I was when I made it and into the person I could become without it. So nothing — not the writing, nor my capacity for intimacy — could evolve. I have had the attitude of a lonely, 26-year old struggling artist for many, many years now, even though I have not been any of those things for many, many years! I was keeping a promise I made when I was a completely different person with a completely different set of beliefs and values without even realizing it.
I didn’t believe I could have both, love and writing, and as a result, I’ve forever had neither. My resiliency and determination, though, have resulted in many, many times of almosts. I was afraid of asking for too much, so I sacrificed both. But what I didn’t realize was that what I am actually after is Wholeness. And Wholeness, for me, doesn’t come without both Writing and Love. I was asking for the wrong thing (writing success at all costs) so of course my tools for achieving it (control, struggle, sacrifice) were also wrong. When the only means of achieving something are not traits that I value but I convince myself that they will make the ends worth it, I’m either going to crumble because it’s unsustainable or miss my life because I’m too focused on the end result.
I was chasing something outside of me while stunting something inside of me. I made this promise without realizing I had made it or that I was holding myself to it, and it took years before I could see and attempt to remedy it. Happiness had never been my goal, writing success was because I believed it would make me happy. My misplaced belief that artistic success goes hand in hand with personal martyrdom is culturally induced and inaccurate, as is the idea that a relationship and commercial success will make me happy. I don’t want my life to be about achieving something through restriction, I want my life to be about living wholly, presently and authentically — even if that means letting myself re-write my earlier contracts.