Hands Full of Love

by Rev. Sarika Dharma

from a column in the Lesbian News

When I went to college, I studied fencing as one of my required physical education classes. The instructor explained how to hold the fencing foil by comparing it to a little bird. Hold a bird too tightly, and you will strangle it. Hold it too loosely, and it will fly away.

So it is with love. When we hold the one we love too tightly, we may strangle her, taking away her freedom to be herself. Smothering her with our expectations, our projections, our perceptions. Not seeing her as the individual to whom we were first attracted.

Holding her too loosely, on the other hand, not giving her the attention and nurturing we all need, may send her on her way back into the sky to find a more caring lover. To walk the middle path is quite a challenge.

The labels we use to refer to our lovers -- girlfriend, other half, significant other, spouse -- all affect the way we interrelate. Sometimes it is as though we are trying to complete ourselves by encompassing another, pulling that other into our being.

Making two into one is certainly an aspect of coupling. Yet, at the same time, we must have the opportunity for our personal growth to continue in order for the relationship to deepen, in order for us to develop the loving that enhances our lives.

Very often, our relationships begin as physical attraction and leads into sexual passion; this period of craziness has hormones and other chemicals coursing through our bodies and we are not in total control of our faculties. This heightened sensitivity is said to last for about three months before we start coming down to earth again. Then, "being in love" is no longer enough.

Other things are happening. Psychologically, we may have developed an obsession, unable to think about much besides our new relationship. Feeling as though we hadn't been alive before, that we've waited our whole lives for this. The pop songs we hear on the radio reinforce this romantic ideal. We may also feel more complete, less lonely now that we're coupled, and even more socially acceptable, for the world does have expectations about relationships.

It is often said that lesbians drive to the second date with a U-haul; we are so anxious to find that woman who will make us complete that we have no patience to get to know each other. We are hungry, eager, intent on fixing our lives, completing ourselves, filling the empty hole inside with someone else.

But let's look back at our little bird. Clinging to her makes her restless, in need of more space, unable to relax and be happy. And we who do the clinging also become tired of holding so tensely. Our muscles cannot keep that control. Our hands begin to shake, and ultimately we must turn away to find our own breathing space. In the measureless space between longing to be one with our lover and yearning to be a fully separate person lies the ultimate truth of our lives.

Our desire to merge is not the problem. Such desires are just a part of being human. The trick to attending to our lover without possessiveness is to observe our desires without judgment. This dispassionate observation of our obsessions allows us to be at peace with ourselves, allows us to relate to our lover without expectations. When we begin to see our lover as a separate person in her own right, a unique individual whom we honor and respect, we become more conscious and appreciative of that special woman we have been so lucky to find.

As our love and acceptance for one another deepens, we become nurturers and acceptors of nurturing, teaching and learning from each other, being partners in the sharing of our lives. Our relationship develops a spiritual aspect that bonds us at a very deep level. The spiritual aspect of a loving relationship involves expanding our egos, our self-defenses, into a larger self that includes others. Spiritual awareness soothes us because it makes us conscious of the truth that we are connected. There is no need for doubt or jealousy or demands because we are no longer separate in the sense that what benefits one of us, benefits both, and what harms one of us, harms us both. We can open our hearts and let them fill with the joy and wonder of our relationship.

It works the best when we keep our hands open and filled with love.