My favorite philosopher artist Brian Andreas dropped into my inbox this week with a poster that made my heart smile. It also felt like the perfect follow-up to last week’s article about how to be present with whatever is happening without becoming overwhelmed by it. What I love about Brian’s work is that it is whimsical yet direct, simple yet profound, and straight to the point.

everything you do
is a chance
to give

any time
you’d like.

It’s so simple. Yet it can be so easy to forget when we get wrapped up in all the “stuff” of life. Seeing Brian’s poem and drawing, I was reminded once again how easy it is to get caught in struggle. Everything changes when you simply focus on giving love.

I know this is true because there is one part of my life where giving love has, in fact, long been my intentional practice. For years, my mantra in the hours before walking into the workshop room or just before walking out onto the stage for a keynote presentation has been, “Just love them.”

At that point, I’m as prepared as I’m going to be. The presentation will be what it will be. However, I’ve been speaking and teaching long enough now to know that what people remember is the experience they have with you. They don’t remember what you did or what you said nearly as much as they remember how you showed up and what they felt when they were with you.

And so in that moment, what better mantra than, “Just love them.” It’s simple and profound at the same time. What better gift can I or anyone else give than love?

Years ago, my dear friend Able was facing immense daily challenges as the sole caregiver for her aging, seriously ill parents. While she had a quite close and tender relationship with her father, she had always described her relationship with her mother as “prickly.” The prickliness seemed to be exacerbated while she was caring for both of them at the same time. Then shortly after her father died, her mother’s condition deteriorated quickly to the point where she had to depend on Able for even her most basic needs. The caregiving became even more difficult.

Able recognized that if she was ever going heal the relationship with her mother, this was the time. She also hoped that if the relationship improved, then perhaps the caregiving would also be less of a struggle. However, she knew from past experience that talking about it with her mother would probably only lead to more frustration.

And so she chose another approach. Able recognized that if the relationship was going to change, she was going to have to change how she was showing up with her mother. She made the conscious choice to, in her words, “Be the love that I am.” These words became her constant mantra, from before she got out of bed in the early morning until she dropped off to sleep late at night.

Be the love that I am. Powerful words and a powerful choice. In some ways, it would have been easier to disengage emotionally and just push through until the situation was finally over. Yet Able wasn’t looking for the easy path – she was looking for the healing path.

Able had always been the person you wanted with you in a crisis. She always seemed to know exactly what to do. She took charge and did what needed to be done, no matter what it was. Nothing seemed too daunting for her.

Yet now, as her mother’s sole caregiver, she’d had to take charge for months and make increasingly difficult choices and decisions every day. She wondered if it would ever end. At the same time, she was so clear that this situation offered an opportunity to open her heart and to stretch and grow in new ways.

So Able stuck with her mantra: Be the love that I am. Before long, something started to shift. Each time we spoke, she talked about a new kind of gentleness, grace, and ease that was somehow taking over. Something was shifting within her as well as within her mother. For the first time, they were finding peace together – an enormous gift for both of them. Able and her mother were becoming tender with each other. The caregiving was softening – no more struggle. They found a sweetness together that Able had never imagined possible.

Life can be difficult and challenging; it can also be amazing and extraordinary. Sometimes it’s both at the same time.

Whatever is happening, in Brian Andreas’ words: Absolutely everything you do is a chance to give love. Start any time you’d like.

In Able’s words, Be the love that you are.

That’s it. Simple. Not always easy – especially at the beginning. Yet it can make all the difference.

~ ~ ~

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