My boyfriend started a new job two weeks ago. Since we’ve been together, he’s been “retired”. He took a 3 year break from a stressful career, got divorced and re-met me (we knew each other when we were just college kids). He’s been spending his free time chilling out with his dog and with me and my children, preparing himself for this inevitable and necessary return to work. Because of his jobless status, he was quite happy to help with all sorts of domestic and child-rearing chores, and now we are adjusting to a new routine, and a new kind of life together (read: “It looks like I no longer have a house-boy.”).
One of my Lent projects is to make sure I hug each of my children every day that I’m with them. I’ve noticed recently that sometimes I forget to do this! It seems unbelievable to me that a day could go by without hugging them, but this has been a trend as they’ve grown older. Obviously the kind of physical relationship I had with them when they were smaller has changed. I don’t touch them in the same ways I did when they were little: they feed, bathe and clothe themselves, sleep in their own beds, and walk around on their own two feet. And because they are teens, they don’t always act like they WANT to be touched, but as soon as I put my arms around them it’s clear that they need this kind of love from their mommy.
My counselor once told me that love is about proximity. Specifically she said this to me when my binge-drinking (now ex-) boyfriend was out-of-state trying to get a foothold on recovery. She pointed out that this was the perfect physical arrangement for which to be able to love him at that time.
There is a certain distance, both physical and emotional, that one needs to find in order to love another person maximally. This proximity is, of course, different in each relationship, and I suppose waxes and wanes and changes over time. It seems we are always negotiating these boundaries in relationships. How close to another human being can we be and still remain loving to them in our actions and thoughts? Is it possible to maintain a loving relationship with someone if we are too close and don’t have enough space or time apart? What may work well at one time (as in the case of my relationships with boyfriend and children) will change over time, and boundaries will need to be renegotiated.
It has been said that “love is a verb”. Love is action-oriented and firmly rooted in the present moment and when I lose sight of this, I run the risk of moving apart from those I love even when we are physically present to one another. I don’t have answers, only questions, and the desire to remain fully present and loving to each of my dear ones from the ever-changing, necessary and appropriate proximity.