Yes, this is indeed what it takes. It’s the saddest thing Einstein ever said because it necessitates distance. Yes, you might argue that expecting something from others is selfish and you can only be self-less by not thinking of one’s needs at all and that it’s possible to love without expecting a thing.
I’m reminded of a movie I saw (or a book I read somewhere–I can’t remember, though I’ve never forgotten the sentiment) where this character kept loving someone even though he was treated badly by them. “Can’t you see this person doesn’t love you, even disrespects you?” the other character says to him in an attempt to shake some reality into him. “That’s her problem,” he replies. “What does that have to do with me?”
I bring all this up because I have never accomplished it. I was reading a dedication to a book last night and reading it felt like a stab to the heart: “For Dad. Who has faith in me even when I have none in myself.” I always wanted to hear that from my father and I never have. And if he did say it, he wouldn’t mean it in a way that could be meaningful to me; he doesn’t respect who I am, isn’t interested in my hopes and dreams. Isn’t even interested in getting to know me.
Einstein would say I’m making myself unhappy because I “want” something from someone.
Despite that disappointment, and despite the fact it took all I had emotionally, I love my father despite all his flaws (which become more apparent daily–he’s 87 now and has Parkinson’s and heart disease and COPD). My love for him really doesn’t have anything to do with my expectations of him–the only real time I ever experienced this, painful though it is. I withhold part of myself from everyone else. Not purposely, but because doing this once took all I had.
I’d still have to wonder if someone could really love someone that much and be detached enough to not ever be hurt by that person. I suspect Einstein threw himself into his work and never allowed himself to care enough about someone else to get hurt by them.
But as I write this, I realize my daughter is 34 years old today! (I think, where does the time go?) I have come closer to unconditional love perhaps loving my children. Yet I cannot say I expect “nothing” from them. I expect less because I don’t expect them in any way to be responsible for my happiness (not in any over-reaching way). And it’s my role to be there for them, try to make them happy–yet someday that may change as I see my role changing with my ill father–something he resents mightily. Having children affords you the chance, regardless of expectations, to truly put other people ahead of yourself. I feel sorry for people who don’t get to experience it.
My brother and father disappointed me most because when you are young, you love more purely, childishly. Idealistically. You are more vulnerable. Obviously, as you age, you begin holding things back.
And that is sad, too.
I have met people who didn’t seem to hold back and never seem to feel sorry for themselves (people I envied), yet I question how close they allow themselves to get–even when they appear selfless.
But I know one thing: loving my father even when he doesn’t deserve it has made me a better person. And allowing myself to be hurt by him is a good experience even if it means I’m not “happy” all the time. I don’t really believe in “happiness” the way Einstein seems to throw it out there, anyway. A certain measure of contentment is possible once you are able to at least partially do as Einstein suggests: don’t tie that contentment to anyone else. Hmmm….
Diet: Whitefish picata picture. This is one I took a long time ago and my latest attempt was prettier, more nicely fried, and tastier. Next time I’ll be sure to snap a picture! I’m about to go carnivore strictly for a couple months here–right after Labor Day. Got to have a couple more tomatoes. Will do so until Thanksgiving, then mostly keto until first of year, then back to carnivore until mid-Feb.