I am a chronic leaver. Did you know that leaver is actually a real word? It’s defined as “someone who leaves.” Go figure!
A chronic leaver, it would follow, is a term for someone who consistently bails on a relationship when it becomes challenging, uncomfortable, or disappointing.
I’ve been a leaver for as long as I can remember.
I don’t think that I’m the only one out there who has this pattern. And who can blame us? Who really wants to stick around when things are crappy or painful or not going well?
I think, for me, this pattern started in my childhood, when I was massively disappointed by my parents emotional neglect. They were just too busy fighting their own inner demons to connect with me.
It was lonely.
Over time, I got really good at being lonely. I learned that if I just stayed lonely, then I wouldn’t be disappointed by people. Of course, it was a lose – lose scenario for me back then. No one actually wants to be lonely, but I think that it was better for me than being constantly disappointed.
Fast forward to now, and I’m the best at being lonely. Like, I could win an award.
To me, being lonely feels empty, hopeless, insanely familiar and incredibly safe. This is why I’m a chronic leaver; The moment any one of my relationships disappoints me, or begins to seem as if it could possibly disappoint me, my first instinct is to leave. Sometimes the instinct is to leave and end the relationship, and sometimes the instinct is just to leave and go somewhere else for awhile, but in any case the instinct is always to go back into that safe, familiar place of loneliness in one way or another.
Of course, I don’t actually want to go there. What I actually want, in my deepest heart, is to feel connected. To feel loved. To feel safe in a good, nourishing way (instead of feeling safe in that lonely, desolate, hopeless kind of way).
So, lately, I’ve been practicing my staying.
Let me be clear; I’m not talking about staying in relationships that are toxic, or putting up with violations of my boundaries. (That’s a different topic for another day). What I am referring to here is a practice of staying in and with relationships that are good for me, even though they are challenging.
Really, if I’m honest with myself, most of my close relationships do indeed have signifiant challenges, at least from time to time, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. We often feel, instinctively, that if something is challenging then it must be wrong, or bad, or that we should make it stop. Of course, this is a survival instinct that makes a lot of sense. Or made a lot of sense, back when we were running from tigers. Now days, maybe not so much.
Saturn is the planet in astrology that acts as a archetypal symbol for the energy that creates our challenges and struggles. Astrology nerds (not unlike myself…) abhor the dreaded “Saturn Return,” which is a time in our lives where we usually experience Saturn’s energy in some kind of significant way.
However, the point of the Saturn Return, and the point of Saturn in general, is not really about the challenges that this planet brings us, but rather the learning and growth that happen as a result of them. Have you ever met anyone who has never gone through anything challenging? (Usually these people are young). They are kind of missing something. You might describe them, through no fault of their own, as shallow. They just haven’t had a class with Saturn yet.
When Saturn offers us challenges, what’s really happening is that we are being offered opportunities to grow, deepen, mature, learn and evolve into a more refined and wise version of ourselves, if we can choose to work with those challenges consciously.
Of course, working with something consciously is not the same as getting rid of it. We might have the instinct to make whatever is challenging go away, but sometimes, if we get too wrapped up in the “I’ve got to make this go away” or “I’ve got to fix this” mentalities, we end up throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater.
I suppose that was a teeny digression.
Anyway, the point I was getting at is that in order to practice my staying, I have to be willing to be uncomfortable. I have to face the disappointment, anger and whatever else it is that I’m feeling that is making me want to run for the hills.
The other day I was fighting with my fiancé, Nick. More honestly, there is a certain dynamic in our relationship that bothers me, but there isn’t anything that Nick can do to change it. So our “fight” was really more like me being mad at him because I’m disappointed in this dynamic.
Of course, I wanted to leave SO BAD during our “fight.” I wanted to go on a walk, or go to the coffee shop, or get an air b-n-b for the weekend, and hole up inside myself and be lonely as hell and feel safe.
But buried underneath all of that was a deep, pulsing ache for connection with him. For love. For the safety that comes from knowing that, even though he isn’t perfect, and even though I’m feeling angry and let down, everything is still okay.
This kind love that I was yearning for – the love that we all yearn for, I think – is the kind of love that does not have conditions. It’s the kind of love where things can go wrong, things can be hard, things can be disappointing, I can be angry, I can be hurt, I can be whatever, and it doesn’t matter.
Yesterday morning I went for a walk in the park. It was so quiet and beautiful. Then, behind me I heard what was likely Megadeath blaring loudly through some sort of speaker.
I turned to see a man power-walking with a small amplifier strapped to his torso. Apparently, he doesn’t like headphones.
At first, I was irate. How rude!
Finally, I stopped walking and just let him pass me. Eventually, the sounds of the 80’s thrash metal faded into the distance, and it was quiet again. Deeply quiet, and peaceful, like nothing had even happened.
I realized, in that moment, that the Earth has an incredible amount of space for this man and his music and for all of us and all of our literal and metaphorical noise.
I think it’s the same with this love that I’m describing. It’s mirrored in the way that the earth loves us. We literally (and metaphorically) take and take and take from her, and dump all of our waste onto her, and yet she still gives us everything that we need. Yes, there have been and will be consequences for our carelessness, but her generosity and constancy is beyond measure. Despite everything, she still mothers us perfectly. This is the kind of love that I’m referring to. It’s always there. It’s always available. It’s an endless well.
During that fight with Nick I didn’t run off and get an air b-n-b or anything. I stayed. It was really uncomfortable for awhile. Then, like a wave that breaks and then recedes back into its source, the discomfort faded and I was just sitting there in a pool of safety and love and a deep knowing that, despite it all, everything was totally okay.
This experience of being angry and disappointed and yet still connected and loved really blew my mind. I realized that, in order to truly experience this deep well of unconditional love, it can’t always be about being comfortable.
I think I had, somewhere in my subconscious mind, gotten comfort and love confused.
Saturn, the god of time, who challenges us and teaches us, does what he does so that we can know this unconditional love that is at once within us and all around us. Saturn challenges us because when we rise to those challenges, we learn who we are and we learn what we are made of, which is love.
The truth is that we are all, always being held within an infinite matrix of love. We are made of love. This love is always available and we do not have to like our circumstances or be comfortable to be held within it.
This is why it seems so worthwhile for me to practice staying. I can stay present with myself in my moments of disappointment and hurt and in doing so, I can stay in love.
This is what I was missing as a kid. I am so grateful that I can access it now as a grown-up.
Everything that has ever been created and everything that ever will be created is ultimately, an expression of this love. It’s all the same love, expressing itself over and over again. Nothing can change that. Not even being hurt, or disappointed, or lonely. Not even being a chronic leaver.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”