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  • Writer's pictureJaime Pollard-Smith

Sometimes love can sound like "No"

I was at a music festival with a group of friends last week. The wife left to go use the restroom. When she didn’t return, her husband left looking for her. She returned and we told her that her husband was out looking for her, so she took off to find him. As you can imagine, he showed up without her again, and we basically tied him to his chair. 

“Somebody has to stay put or you will never find each other!” 

It was a happy reunion just minutes later. Sometimes our best intentions can cause more chaos and confusion. When he decided to sit still, she easily found us. 

Anne Lamott famously wrote, “Lighthouses don't go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” This message was further reiterated when I heard her speak a few weeks ago on tour for her latest book, Somehow: Thoughts on Love. She writes love “is not always the easiest choice, but it is always the right one, the noble path, the way home to safety, no matter how bleak the future looks.” This sounds lovely and very Beatle-ish…it’s all we need; yet, we know it’s not that simple. 

Lamott shared about loving her teenage son through his meth addiction. She recalled a time when love looked like taking care of herself. A line had to be drawn so that the addiction consuming her son did not engulf and destroy her. 

Dr. Becky Kennedy, author of Good Inside, explains that when children feel out of control, they need to see that the adults in their lives are in control of themselves. It’s a case of, “Who is driving this bus?” If they feel out of control, and the parents are out of control, then a real sense of panic ensues. So yes, love can mean keeping ourselves whole and tending to our own healing. 

Sometimes this love shows up in support groups, interventions, police stations, hospitals, therapists’ offices and court rooms. Contrary to what we want to believe, it can show up as the word “No.” It can show up in a line that is held hard and strong. That is the hard work of love. It’s not for the faint of heart. 

As I sat in a packed church hearing Lamott speak, my heart stopped with these words: 

“It hurts people when we barge into their hero’s journey.” 

This might be the suckiest angle of all. It’s one thing when love demands hard action, tough choices and showing up. It is a whole different story when love demands stillness and inaction. I am stellar at showing love; words of affirmation and quality time are my love languages. I want to show up and shout it from the mountain tops, but there are seasons that demand I watch from the shore and silently shine with all my might. 

I have seen many people hurt by bargers. Rescue teams scouring the night to pull people from treacherous waters. People who believe love means removing the pain—saving someone from themselves. When discussing an issue a friend was experiencing, my therapist once said, “How dare you take away her opportunity to figure it out on her own?” I wanted to do it for her, but she had to feel it to heal it. When we can’t bear our own heartbreak and emotions, we try to fix the pain of others so that we don't drown ourselves. We barge when we should sit.  

I wish there was better news from Anne. I wish I could report that there is a new vaccine or app that could do the hard part of love so that we could just order presents, snap pics to post and give hugs. While the prognosis might be grim, Anne also reminded us that there is hope. Love is hope. It is hard and demanding, but it is solid and up for the task. Our work is to recognize our role when love shows up in all its forms even when it demands we just stay put. 



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May 13

Sometimes Love can sound like "I can no longer stay here in your self created and sustained Hell."

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