...being an anam cara requires of a purposeful presence — it asks that we show up with absolute integrity of intention. That interior intentionality, O’Donohue suggests, is what sets the true anam cara apart from the acquaintance or the casual friend — a distinction all the more important today, in a culture where we throw the word “friend” around all too hastily, designating little more than perfunctory affiliation. But this faculty of showing up must be an active presence rather than a mere abstraction — the person who declares herself a friend but shirks when the other’s soul most needs seeing is not an anam cara. - Maria Popova, writing for brainpickings.org
The phrase "anam cara" became significant to me in 2008. I had "mo anam cara" engraved on the ring which I gave to J at our first handfasting. I added John O'Donohue's Anam Cara: A Book Of Celtic Wisdom to my wish list as well, but never acquired it. It may be time to do so...the phrase and what it means recently popped up again like a lit billboard - rather synchronistically in relation to some encounters I've had in the past few days.
In [that book which impacted me enormously and which I often mention] The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck speaks about genuine love in a similar fashion:
Because genuine love involves an extension of oneself, vast amounts of energy are required and, like it or not, the store of our energy is as limited as the hours of our day. We simply cannot love everyone. True, we may have a feeling of love for mankind, and this feeling may also be useful in providing us with enough energy to manifest genuine love for a few specific individuals. But genuine love for a relatively few specific individuals is all that is within our power. To attempt to exceed the limits of our energy is to offer more than we can deliver, and there is a point of no return beyond which an attempt to love all comers becomes fraudulent and harmful to the very ones we desire to assist. Consequently, if we are fortunate enough to be in a position in which many people ask for our attention, we must choose among them whom we are actually to love. This choice is not easy; it may be excruciatingly painful, as the assumption of godlike power so often is. But it must be made. Many factors needs to be considered, primarily the capacity of a prospective recipient of our love to respond to that love with spiritual growth. People differ in this capacity…It is, however, unquestionable that there are many whose spirits are so locked in behind impenetrable armor that even the greatest efforts to nurture the growth of those spirits are doomed to almost certain failure. To attempt to love someone who cannot benefit from your love with spiritual growth is to waste your energy, to cast your seed upon arid ground. Genuine love is precious, and those who are capable of genuine love know that their loving must be focused as productively as possible through self-discipline.
There was a time when I bent myself backwards trying to do nice things for others and help people as much as I could, to a fault. Most often at my own expense. I tried my hardest to see the good in everyone, but often used this as an excuse to ignore issues, to ignore important-but-uncomfortable discussions. There was a time when I wanted to be liked by everyone, when I did everything I could to avoid conflict because I was afraid of it. I compromised my integrity and ignored my values and intuition in the interest of not creating waves or upsetting others. I held my tongue when people did or said something that hurt me, or brushed it off instead of having a conversation about it: "Ahh no worries! It's nothing!" Worse, I convinced myself this was the right thing to do. This lead to being hurt again and again, and me swallowing my emotions and looking the other way. I allowed a lot of unexpressed hurt, anger, and resentment build up inside me, and it chipped away at my well being and integrity.
I still see the good in everyone and I still do my best to help others when it's appropriate and if I'm able, but there's a great importance to carefully selecting where I focus my love and attention. It's not that I don't hold love for many things & people, because I most definitely do. Being thoughtful about where and most importantly with whom I extend myself, my energy, my time, and the fullness of my love is key to my well-being and success.
I'm a human being with a lot of value and worth, and if someone I love upsets or hurts me, I owe it to myself (and them) to speak up about it. It's taking some getting used to, this being assertive of my needs, so I take a step back and roll things over in my head and heart before proceeding. As much as it's important to speak up, it's also important to pick my battles carefully.
I'm a human being, so I screw up a bunch while trying to figure things out. Instead of taking every mistake as a grave error and evidence of my worthlessness, burying my head in the sand, I recognize mistakes for what they are: they key to growth and change. I recognize that I have value and worth, and I owe it to those I love who also have value and worth to acknowledge the hurt I've caused, offer my apology, and work with them to make amends. I've realized that making peace sometimes means walking away and allowing for loss without contempt for what's no longer there.
I have limited resources. I choose to preserve them for those who are anam cairde.