Juno, a comedy about a pregnant high school student who needs to grow herself up as much as the new life inside her, is full of memorable quotes* including this timeless piece of advice about finding our true love:
Look, in my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person is still going to think the sun shines out your ass. That’s the kind of person that’s worth sticking with.
Find somebody who will love you for what you are: It is written on the first chapter of virtually every self-help material for lost souls. It should be a universal fact, right?
But I am having problems with it. Yes, there are more than one.
One is that someone who “thinks the sun shines out our ass” when we are literally an ass might not exist at all. Here are possible scenarios for me in my lowest mode: I manipulate others using unspoken demands hidden under an innocent gesture of help, I do not clean the sink for 10 days and observe a sudden influx of brown rice (which actually is something else), I condemn someone of being discriminative because I secretly want to be on the discriminating side. I definitely do not love those parts of me when they show up. If a woman still approves these behaviors unconditionally, “Is there something wrong with you?” is what I expect to hear from her and what I would probably tell her.
Another issue is that the whole canon is all about getting, not giving. I believe the universe is largely reciprocal and we receive what we have already given. If we want someone to accept us unconditionally, we must have already been accepting someone unconditionally. Is that easy? We frequently confess our undying love for a person in the morning and curse the same person in the afternoon for not doing xxxx.
If we take this love-me-for-who-I-am mantra too lightly, we might end up waiting, and waiting, and waiting for Mr./Ms. Right, because we are very likely aiming for someone we don’t really want, and we are not taking any proactive steps to actually attract such people.
And to be perfectly honest, even if someone miraculously appears and loves every part of me, it is very likely that both of us would be disillusioned soon, because—we change. Who we are 10 years ago, 1 month ago, a day ago, a day from now, 1 month from now, 10 years from now, are all different from who we are right now.
I would like to propose a small twist to make the love-me-for-who-I-am canon practical, rather than ideal. Very simple: I think we can just “see” each other. Instead of trying to swing back and forth between unconditional love and being a stranger, we can just observe and acknowledge ourselves for who we are.
The habit of acknowledgement is practical in multiple ways. First it is safe, because it does not mean we need to pick a love/hate territory. Second we do not need to accept anything unconditionally except for reality. Third we can keep changing naturally. Fourth we only have to enhance, not drastically change, what we have already been doing. We acknowledge, appreciate, and accept—whoever we are at any given moment.
But the biggest of the benefits is that whether someone loves me or not, as a result of this “observation,” does not essentially matter. Maybe someone is turned off completely, is covered in uncontrollable rage, becomes indifferent. They are all fine because that happened after seeing the reality and acknowledging who we are / are not. I believe having a rich gradation of relationships with our partners, friends, neighbors, colleagues, tribes brings us far greater happiness and fulfillment than having the love of our life but not much else.
Therefore, I believe the right way is to “see” people, starting from our own self, as who they are and form a relationship with integrity, not by swinging between love/hate or indifference/intimate under the tired “love” phrase.
When a true love exists between people who really “see” each other, both sides become naked, 24/7. There won’t even be layers of cosmetics or skin to filter their sight from seeing each other’s souls. That beats having someone blindly falling in love with us but turning a deaf ear on our shortcomings (which will blow up sooner or later).
We “get” each other. Isn’t that what matters in the end?
* Regarding Juno: I enjoyed the movie thoroughly, but I think its depiction of abortion clinics is unfairly derogative. My personal favorite quote is this.
When I see them all running like that, with their things bouncing around in their shorts, I always picture them naked, even if I don’t want to. All i see is pork swords.