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By Sat Purkh Kaur Khalsa
I just returned from visiting my family in Texas for two weeks. Talk of weddings (my niece’s) and love (my own) animated the trip and everyone seemed so pleased that “everything was working out.” As a single woman in my 40s, my family had long given up on the idea of my ever finding someone. As a single woman in her 20s, my niece had just made it under the “old-maid” wire, by becoming engaged at age 25. It’s a harsh reality in the South, but these are the rules.
Looking from the outside in, marriage has always seemed a bit scary to me—part security, part love, with a pretty big dose of misery as far as I could tell—not the quixotic mix of romance and passion one imagined as a child. Still I have grown; I’m a mature woman who now understands what love really is—or I like to think so. Love is not about getting what I want; but instead, giving what I have. Love is a terrifying generosity; one from which you never recover. New love is fresh and bright and shiny—like a new penny. But it doesn’t buy you much. Old love is worn, broken in, smooth—like a well-used glove. It can take anything.
Love is duty and duty is beauty. These are the words my family lives by—not even knowing who may have said them. It is an ethic driven deep into their bones by the West Texas winds. It’s a way of life known to very few these days—54 years and counting. My mom has served as the 24-hour caregiver to my father for more years than I can count. It’s a life of service and devotion I cannot imagine; yet as I contemplate the idea of merging my life with another’s, I ask myself: Do I have what it takes? Could I live for my duty and experience its beauty? Is this particular brand of love a lost art? Am I fundamentally too selfish?
I don’t suppose I’ll know unless I try. And what does trying look like? Each day, rising up to meet the dawn, setting aside what you believe you want and doing what you can to serve what lies in front of you. It rarely looks like what we imagined. But if we allow it to, it can open us up to a world of unimagined possibilities. The grinding monotony of changing catheters and washing sheets turns on a dime when an old man, forever changed by age and disease, cracks a joke at the dinner table, or turns and remembers his love of old and says, I am so grateful, bringing tears to my mom’s eyes. Or the quiet regularity of a singular life interrupted by passion, a love unsought yet delivered by the Guru’s Grace.
So here is my wish for you in 2012: May love show you a passion unquenchable, may love give you a grace unearned, may love teach you a dedication unswerving, and may love deliver you to a devotion unerring. May love break you open—wide as the Texas sky—and may you never be put back together again. For it is only by becoming nothing that we become everything; and it is only by loving that we can truly know love—both old and new.
Sat Purkh Kaur Khalsa is the author of Everyday Grace: The Art of Being a Woman and the artist of four sacred music albums: Nectar of the Name, Beautiful Day, Queen Be and Love & Other Miracles. She has a forthcoming album, One, which will be available in spring 2014 and her story of recovery will be available in the forthcoming title, Stepping Into Meditation: Kundalini Yoga and the Art of Recovering Your Life.