You know what bothers me? Ivy. Yes, ivy. Okay, gardeners and wildlife people, stand down – I know it can be a wonderful thing; I know it doesn’t really harm houses; I know it gives a home to a host of bugs and other critters. But, but, but…it fecking well clings. It’s so bloody needy. It wraps itself, it insinuates itself, it doesn’t let things sodding well breathe.
For a long time now I’ve been bothered about one particular piece of ivy; the bit that clambers up “my” tree in the wood just below the hilltop fort. See, there is this lovely oak – not old, not young but somewhere in the middle; straight, true, real, rooted to the earth, reaching to the sky. Beautiful. And then there’s this fecking ivy, clutching it, cleaving to it, twining itself around the tree’s trunk. So, a while back, I gave it a tentative tug. Oh my, it started to ease away. Was it really that easy? No. After a fair amount of pulling and tugging and yes, to my shame, even swinging (thank feck nobody wandered past) it remained, firmly attached at the top, solidly rooted at the bottom – with now a huge ivy rope wildly bending out in the middle. This, I thought, won’t do. I can’t become a tree vandal. If it doesn’t want to let go, who am I to insist? So I let it be. Well, okay, so I just gave a little pull every so often.
Then, the other day, I looked at it again. I held onto the rope of its middle and pulled it, gently this time, towards me. And, you know what? It fell into two in my hands. Just like that. Funny eh? All that tugging and effort, all that fighting and all that was needed was to find the soft spot and then all resistance dissolved. It reminded me of the exercises in Cutting theTies that Bind – in which you energetically free yourself from claustrophobic, possibly destructive relationships, by visualising a cord between you – and then symbolically and simply snipping it apart. I often recommend it to people and they frequently baulk. ‘But I don’t want to end the relationship,’ they say. And I say, ‘Well, maybe you won’t have to.’
Because, see, cutting the ties doesn’t necessarily mean the end of something. It simply means you’re giving up the possession, the clinging, the hanging on. Recently this question of freedom and containment keeps coming up – both in real life, online life, in the columns I have to write. Because, in relationships in particular, we can all become ivy-ish and, lately, I’ve had the same kind of issues pushed under my nose, again and again: people worrying that their partner doesn’t love them as much as they love in return; people scared of their partner’s possible infidelity; stories of partners being controlling and jealous, and so on. And I find myself thinking and sometimes saying, the same thing.
If you love someone, let them go. Set them free.
I’m talking energetically; psychically. I’m talking about freeing people to be themselves. I’m talking about withdrawing the need, the clinging, the compulsion. Recently someone said to me: ‘But, Jane, I love him so much. I just don’t think he loves me anymore. What can I do? How can I change?’
The answer is, quite simply, you can’t. You cannot force love, you cannot insist on love. You cannot change yourself to fit love. Love just is. Sometimes love lasts, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it changes. But you can’t force it. My advice to her? Stop worrying about this hypothetical person he might want you to be and be yourself. Love yourself first and foremost; be true to your Self. And then, who knows? Maybe the cracks will widen and the vessel won’t hold. And, in that case, it wasn’t meant to be and you should, as graciously as possible, let it go. Or maybe, just maybe, he will fall in love with you all over again; this ‘real’ you.
I dunno. Do you really want relationships in which you have to worry all the time? In which you cannot be yourself, your true self? Do you want to live your life pretending? Being stressed about what he or she might be doing, who they might be seeing?
It’s not just romantic relationships either. We are often tied in these claustrophobic, clinging, ivy-ish patterns with parents, with children, with friends, with work colleagues.
Cutting the ties, pulling off the ivy, can be hard, so hard. It can be scary and it evokes that primal fear of being alone. But, seriously, you know what? I’d rather be alone, totally alone, than have people be with me because they felt they had to be. I don’t want pity relationships; I don’t want relationships built on need. I want people with me who love me for what I am, warts and all. And, in return, I hope I give them the freedom to be the people they are. And then, truly, there is an end to all fear and suspicion and jealousy and sadness.