We quit things we love because we believe ourselves unworthy.
Have you given up things you love?
Not things you loved, past tense, then honestly stopped loving—such as keg parties or Angry Birds. I mean things—places, topics, whatever—you still love, but let go.
Maybe you told yourself you didn't love them anymore so move on, moron in that mean voice we use only on ourselves.
Maybe some aspect of it hurt you somehow, leaving you in grief or shame and shock.
Maybe you told yourself you no longer deserved that pleasure, those rewards, that reunion with your true self.
Maybe you forced yourself to quit because you weren't perfect at it, weren't even as good as Buddy X or Sibling Y. Maybe, because you weren't an expert or a master or had tons of time to spend with it, you had no right.
We quit things we love because we believe ourselves unworthy: too old, too unfit, too selfish, too absurd. Maybe we taught macaws to talk or bounced in barrels over waterfalls but stopped because because because…
A relative gave up her favorite foods after becoming disabled and requiring a wheelchair. A cripple who sits around all day, she scoffed, has lost the privilege of enjoying fatty snacks.
I gave up traveling for years because I hadn't traveled when someone was far away and needed me. I'd loved traveling all my life but told myself I'd forfeited my rights.
We quit things we love when we see them as too beautiful and ourselves as too ugly and the difference becomes unbearable. We tell ourselves that quitting is a conscious choice, but often it is not. Often it is live burial. The punishment we chronically await.
Having quit things we love, we tell the world—and ourselves—that we are no longer this or that. I said: I am no more a traveler. Soon everyone believed me. I forgot Madrid by force.
Because those of us who tend to despise ourselves are so bent on self-harm, it is savagely easy, over time, for us to start fearing our favorite things, because they are what makes us feel the realest, truest and most genuine, thus the most vulnerable to attack.
When that happens, love hurts so much that we strive to disown what we still yearn for and adore. We say stiffly that we no longer love skating or singing anyway.
We say we have outgrown these things or wasted too much time on them or that they were not really ours to start with but just affectations, or were foisted on us by people we now want to forget.
But in our secret moments, sitting firmly on the hands that used to sculpt or swim, we admit:
I miss that.
Here are three techniques to help you reconnect with things you relinquished but might still love.
- Imagine it. Taking the perspective of a neutral observer, imagine this thing you love but let go. Imagine yourself engaging with it. Imagine others engaging with it. Imagine it as a "thing," on its own. Note emotions arising, then let them drift past without seizing them. Note their impacts and interactions. If pain comes, what drives it? When joy comes, what kindles it?
- Follow the lifeline. Imagine you're awash at sea but have been thrown a rope that you can follow back to shore. As you inch your way back to safety, imagine the physical fibers comprising the rope as metaphysical fibers — memories, experiences, feelings — comprising your love for that thing, dating back to when you first started loving it.
- Talk about it. Pretend you're being interviewed. Get someone you trust (or an imaginary friend) to ask you: Why did you fall in love with this thing? What did you love about it? All you need to do is answer, going into as much detail as you can (because you want this to be a good interview) and for as long as you can.
The not-so-secret is: These techniques are all lessons in love. They are introductions to yourself as one who loves.
And to be one who loves, we need neither be perfect nor professionals nor experts nor even comparatively excellent by outside standards. We need only feel.