Longing is often seen as something to be avoided. This feeling is so uncomfortable that folks will do anything to avoid the achy, hot, unresolvable mess that is longing. To long for something is to be so vulnerable. It is to open to what we most long for, while knowing that if we felt the depth of our longing it would overwhelm us. So we tame and placate our longing. We say I long for a good job, a safe and exciting partner, a “smaller body,” a true friend. We hope that the fulfillment of these not-too-big longings will satisfy us.
And if we get these things then we discover we need something else, something slightly different. Maybe our partner is not exciting enough, or too exciting. Or the job pays the bills but not extra for a down payment on a house. Or the smaller body does nothing to satisfy the internal critic that will always find something wrong. So we’re off on the next leg of the journey to satisfy the next set of longings.
Hopefully we get thrown a curveball, and we find ourselves in a situation where we feel safe enough to actually name and feel our deepest longing. Maybe it’s a partnership, therapeutic relationship, experience, or even connection with a non-human companion. And the deep longing for union and total safety, the one that was with us since birth, is given permission to emerge. To open to this will throw us into existential fear and profound grief. We will fight against it to find safe ground again, we will try to get the attachment figure to respond in exactly the right way, or sanitize our needs and longings so they aren’t too much or too messy for the other or ourselves. And then even when our requests for closeness and connection are met exactly, it’s still not quite right.
But this achy, vulnerable, reaching place is just right. It’s just right in that we are faced with the truth of our predicament that this longing may never be resolved and that may not be the point of it any way. This life may not conform to our ideas of completion and resolution, but that all our relationships may hold some elements of profound union and profound separation. And to stay with and acknowledge the truth of this will open us up in deep ways. A primordial uncertainty arises which when turned towards tenderizes our heart, and allows us to be touched by life.
We are exposed, our longing is exposed, there is no façade to hide behind, and for a split second we feel there is openness and safety at the depth of our longing. From this place a beginning can be made to befriend all that is unresolved within us, not to complete something necessarily, but to enter into a lifelong journey with others and ourselves.