Value is love, prioritized.
Some say our feelings and thoughts are akin to clouds which come and go in the backdrop of a sky which is our internal state. Don’t get too hung up on them. Feel them, and let them pass. I wonder, then, what sticks? And why? It must be that we will care enough about certain thoughts and feelings to attach narratives to them. All these internal narratives, I believe, are worth holding at an arm’s length, so as to consider them options in our minds, not definite truths.
So – what might we decide to then hold close? I’ll go on to say that the things we value must be those people, perceptions, thoughts, for which we are willing to sustain a narrative, and embody them somewhere close within ourselves.
The pains of disappointment, being let down, finding out someone does not fit into the story as you built it – all that pain, you’ve decided, is worth it to you. To value something means to allow this thing, person, idea to traverse and cross a superficial depth within yourself. If we contain magnitudes – all the Earth’s possibilities are buoys stretched across a never-ending sea – and we are the sea – and what we value, we’ve decided to pull close.
What keeps our values close? That feat is one requiring persistent pulling, accomplished through the focus and attention we give towards: (1) the present moment, and (2) renewing our reflections on these moments. What you value will not sustain itself. Value is not love like that of a parent for their child (a fact of life, without which, there is, not absence, but an undefined, indeterminate space). Value is distinct from love – I think – because it requires input.
When people say love is not enough to sustain relationships, they mean you must also value that person – aka, despite the risk of pain, abandonment, disappointment, and change, you must be willing to continually invest in and replenish the narrative you have of this person, and of how they are held close to you, and built into your life. Love is that any part of the buoy is making any contact with the sea to begin with. Love and value? An indomitable force.
This may also be to say, you cannot value what you do not love. So then, the next question is, how do you (come to) know what you love?
I do know I love people in my life. One person I love is my youngest brother, Hamza. He’s 12 now. When my mom got sick, he was 5. I’ve come to think, after much thinking, that regret and shame are far too powerful to hold over small grievances or instances in our lives. Regret and shame are far too powerful to also say: I will never hold space for them within me. Save regret and shame for those large, most personally egregious events. One such regret I hold is how I wasn’t able to be there more for my brother, how I was pulled to my bed, depressed, for two years in college, and he’d come home from school running to my room, see me on my bed, say hi, then depart to his own room when he saw I didn’t have the energy to get up. All of us in our own rooms. I don’t know how many hours, days passed like that. It is just as painful now to recall as it was to experience then. The guilt remains overwhelming.
David Whyte, in Consolations, so poignantly stated: love, the kind we long for, is actually something people will give to you as they can – and it won’t be perfect. But by some wisdom, that imperfect expression is meant to be. This design allows us to be pulled deeper within ourselves, towards them. The beauty we may experience in our relationships with others is all only what is contained within us, reflected outwards; what is outwards, reflected in.
When I share what love I have with and towards Hamza, and when it still feels imperfect, I realize I still have a long way to go in accepting that folks’ love will be imperfect at baseline. May we also come to accept that ours is too – that we will hurt people sometimes for no other reason than that we too house glaring deficiencies that are obvious to so many others but ourselves.
I don’t know how to love Hamza more. Maybe the question and task of self-care and emotional intelligence is to say: there is love – I know you are important to me.* Now, how may I demonstrate that more healthfully, clearly? In a way that may be more accessible to you?
*I remember recently coming across a video of a daughter talking to her father with dementia. He said, “It scares me when you call me dad.” He goes on to say, he doesn’t know whether he is a dad, but, saying as he points towards his daughter, “I know you are important to me. And I know I love you.” Which brings me to a quote I saw even before I came across this short clip, which helped me understand the way my mother must see us now, after her TBI: “I miss you more than I remember you.” -Ocean Vuong. David Whyte says in Consolations: “In many ways love has already named us before we can even begin to speak back to it, before we can utter the right words or understand what has happened to us or is continuing to happen to us: an invitation to the most difficult art of all, to love without naming at all.”
When I read Whyte’s thoughts, I wondered whether we lose that ability as we age. But now I’m thinking: maybe we lose touch of it, but it is always there, that pure connection we have to certain elements of the world around us.
If value can be prioritized, what of love? Maybe love is truly universal, but that truth is only explicitly identifiable by those who have taken the time to uncover and rid/relieve themselves of all the muck accumulated over many years… so that they are reconnected to something that travels faster than naming. Explicitly identifiable doesn’t mean accessible or felt. Not at all. Just to say, we collectively harbor a lot more trauma and carry the burden of a lot more pain than most of us will ever let on or will have the time or privilege of getting to explore and relieve ourselves of. Perhaps the best way to connect more deeply to our love, is to return to a state hopefully we have all felt in our childhoods: relaxation and play. I’m drawn here to a quote I only came by today, that expresses this message better than any way I can think of doing myself: “I don’t think existence wants you to be serious. I have not seen a serious tree. I have not seen a serious bird. I have not seen a serious sunrise. I have not seen a serious starry night. It seems they are all laughing in their own ways, dancing in their own ways. We may not understand it, but there is a subtle feeling that the whole existence is a celebration.” – Osho.
Here are things I value, which I feel automatically drawn to, which must mean they are also my loves:
My family members, immediate and extended
Writing and journaling
Self-education as a means of empowerment
My Muslim and mosque community in Somerset, KY
Humanity the way Thomas Merton saw us, “ in Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut…”**
Art, of any form, the observing and creating
** “In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers.” Thomas Merton
2 thoughts on “value is love, prioritized”
Such a beautiful reflection, Hina. Thank you for always sharing your wisdom.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Youre so sweet Layla