Mama M: Loving Ain't Easy

Friday, January 8, 2016

Dear Mama M,

My boyfriend and I started a long-distance relationship when I left for school and we currently live on opposite sides of the country. It's been really tough to maintain this relationship over the past year, and we're looking at continued separation for the rest of my time in medical school. I love him, but I don't know how long I can keep doing this. I want us to be together, but I can't uproot myself in the middle of my training to do so. Should I stay or should I go? Or how can I make long distance suck less?

- Loving from far away


Dear Far Away,

One of my personal suffering/learning portals has been through love and relationships. Some folks learn through illness or addictions or loss. My most devastating and useful learning experiences have come through endeavors with my crazy heart.

That said, I will tell you what I feel about loving from both near and afar because in many ways distance does not matter. What matters is how much presence and awareness you can tolerate while you open your heart to another person.

Couples who live close to each other have the advantage of regular touch and contact but they can just as easily choose to be caught in conflict and exist miles from each other.

Love is decision. We choose to keep our hearts open. We can do that when we are in the same house, same city, same country — or not.

As long as you see your relationship through the lens of “continued separation” then you will feel separate. Perhaps practicing continued connection would bring you some peace.

Long distance love exists with longing, which can be ghosty and dreamlike. It can be wistful and light or heavy and full of ache. It can keep our hearts open or shut them down and keep us far away from the present.

Can you fall in love with longing and maintain the demands of medical school, which requires a relentless attention to the here and now?

I think the practice of keeping your heart open is your portal, whether you and your long distance love remain “together” or not. If you are looking for an excuse to “uproot in the middle of training” then love is a good excuse. But then staying or going is not the real question, is it sweetheart?
You cannot make it suck less unless you make it suck less. I know that living in indecision sucks more than longing, and ultimately leads to greater suffering. Can you simply decide to keep your heart open and see how the universe teaches you about love, togetherness, connection, and peace?

Truly, madly, deeply,

Mama M