01.03.2013 Relationships

The Price of Love

Relationships counsellor Dr Charmaine Saunders offers a wish for us all in 2013

This month, I want to speak about loss - a sad subject, but sadness is part of the repertoire of being human and has a rightful place amongst our emotional equipment. The thing is not to be weighed down and crushed by sadness and to rise up by means of - yes, you guessed it - positive thinking! Positive thinking has little to do with laughing and being gleeful. It is more of an attitude, something we choose, even on the darkest days and in the face of great pain.

The world is in pain right now. There has been tremendous loss and suffering everywhere recently. Most times, if we're lucky, we have a convenient loss of memory - we forget about old hurts, our mortality and the unkindness of some people in our lives. That's a good thing. We should focus on our blessings and not our lacks. Some people seem to get to 40 or even 50 without losing a really close family member or friend. I lost my first significant person at the age of 11 and, soon after, had to leave behind a dog who worshipped me to move to another country. To my dying day, I will never forget the sight of Trixie throwing herself into the air at me, straining to the extent of her leash, when I saw her for the last time. She knew it was goodbye. My heart broke that day.

Throughout my life, I have continually had to say goodbye to people who have either died or left my life in other ways, notably my two dogs and cat who passed on a few years ago but who are never forgotten. Not having had children, my animals are like my babies. Am I too sentimental? Undoubtedly. Would I like to care less about things? No.

Rod Mckeon wrote, "Now and then it's good to let a little pain come into your life; it makes you know you're alive."

I usually feel the electric touch of life's aliveness and that's a lot pleasanter than grief or sadness. But honouring one's feelings is part of psychological health. I used to be a great one for covering up my pain and coping and smiling in the face of adversity. Not anymore.

Queen Elizabeth said, "Grief is the price we pay for love." But without taking the leap into love, we are only living a half-life. Sure it's safer to put up walls and keep potential hurt out, but choosing to live fully means joy and risk, wonder and fear. In relationships, loss can come in many forms but we shouldn't let that fact spoil the journey.

"Love is all you need," said a great peace lover. We certainly could have used John Lennon's voice in these current times. But we can hold onto his message and try to live his ideals in a far from ideal world. Laugh, dance, sing silly songs, hug a lot, cry when you feel like it, live every experience, even the not-so-nice ones. We can't let life get the better of us, can we? We must always be clear who's boss!

What we fear, we will always see. If you're constantly worried about money, you will eventually have a financial crisis to deal with; if you're afraid of rejection and loneliness, you'll experience relationship breakdown and if you're afraid of tangible things such as a particular insect or object, you will see nothing else. So, the important thing is to conquer your fear before it cripples your life.

When a client says to me that they want to overcome a certain issue or problem, I always warn them that for a while, it will get worse as their negative egos struggle to keep them in a dark place. It's a test of our resolve - will we cave in or hold strong? If it's the first, we're simply not ready so don't lose heart and if it's the latter, there will be rewards in the improvements in life that will become clear. We humans tend to learn our lessons via the mallet over the head instead of gently and effortlessly.

I said to a client a few days ago about a certain situation "It is as it is" and I immediately thought to myself why am I so wise as a counsellor/teacher and so imperfect as a human being? I guess you know the answer to that one. I used to believe I could be perfect if I just worked hard enough but now I embrace my imperfection, my humanity.

I guess it all comes back to balance again. There must be enough in life to make our hearts lift and our spirits soar, whether it be a hug from a friend, a beautiful piece of music, a puppy or a child's playfulness, the sight of the ocean, trees, flowers, a lover's smile - and so many more. Prosperity comes in many forms and sometimes it's heavily disguised. When life seems at its hardest, that's when we have to look for the unexpected gift.

I guess it's one of our lessons in life: "Happiness is being dissolved into something completely great." That's what I wish for each one of you.

So, from one frail human being to another, let us try to be kinder to ourselves and each other and vow to be brave and enjoy 2013.

Dr Charmaine Saunders

Dr Charmaine Saunders was a much loved relationships counsellor and speaker who wrote for NOVA for many years. She died in July 2013.