Reorder Your Loves (feat. Zo the Giant & Coco the Quick)
As I write this, my niece, Zoe, is yelling from the top of the staircase like Genghis Khan, trying to throw her hat over the rail. Her twin sister, Chloe, is sporting a pink beanie, banging the staircase and speeding around like the noise and chaos is music to her ears. Fast forward a few minutes. Chloe’s getting her diaper changed and Zo is continuing her reign at the top of the staircase. Leah, my 19-year old sister, still sounds oppressed at the bottom of the steps as she calmly repeats orders to a one-year-old. Fast forward. Zoe’s farting, Leah’s monotonously announcing it like we can’t hear the farts, and Chloe’s getting her naked self transported upstairs for a shower. What a time to be alive.
Seeing one-year-old personalities in real life, real time gives me mental goosebumps. But it can be a bittersweet experience. Zoe is built like a tank, and can be a bit of a jerk to her sister sometimes, and the two of them collectively remind me of how self-obsessed humans are from day one. But maybe their a little self-absorbed because that’s the only way we self-absorbed adults will pay them sustained attention. But what happens when little egos collide?
Note: I’m about to take the fun out of talking about babies, I apologize.
Zo isn’t really into the sharing thing. In fact, she’ll gladly rip a book or phone out of your hand if she wants what you have. And when she gets upset, which is often, everyone will hear what she has to say about the matter. Chloe, on the other hand, is more likely to stay chill when life doesn’t go her way. She’s a little more altruistic (putting things back where they belong), a little quicker to obey, and pretty patient when her younger twin hits her or hogs the book about the very hungry caterpillar (confession: I felt extra goofy typing that). Think burning cities vs. peaceful protest. That’s Zo and Coco. And this dynamic worries me.
Sometimes I fall into the trap of perceiving one as good and the other as deviant. Honestly though, either one of them can and will be the queen of mischief and madness on any given day. Zoe’s loud, purposeful crying just tends to be more memorable.
Nonetheless, I worry, because in their different personalities, I already see the war and burden that we all feel in our own "grown up" minds and hearts.
Zoe is usually willing to victimize herself for attention and Chloe is usually too willing to be an actual, mistreated victim. Zoe is too comfortable making others suffer (hyperbole), Chloe is too comfortable suffering for the sake of others. Even at the age of 1, Zoe quite possibly loves herself too much, while Chloe may possibly love herself too little.
I'm ruining the fun and sparkle about babies, but I’m a psychology major--it is what it is. That love imbalance may flip back and forth over time, but unfortunately, that tension won't end when kindergarten begins. Or in high school, or in college, or when they get married, or when they have kids of their own. As they mature, they’ll have to constantly reevaluate who or what in life they care about the most. They’ll have to decide what their tears should be most shed over--their own desires, or the needs of others.
We all have something/someone we love more than anything else, whether it be ourselves or something/someone else. Our lives are determined by how we balance (or fail to balance) those two extremes. But whatever that thing is, that is what we worship.
Whether a narcissist or a people-pleaser, whether the giver of love or the one who craves it, there is always a slight (or large) sense that something is off-kilter, unbalanced. We all fall in between the two extremes, often bouncing back and forth between both. But at any given moment, we are reordering our loves, prioritizing who or what we most care about, and being weighed down into that sunken place, because nothing and no one on earth is ever worthy of our highest worship. What is the proper balance between self-love and love for other people? 70/30? 60/40? 40/60? 50/50?
Either way you choose it, if either of those categories is your priority, you’ll fall to the extremes, and you’ll be left unsatisfied in the end. At some point, perhaps at many points, everything and everyone (including our own selves) will disappoint us, betray our expectations, and dishonor our trust. They will fail to fulfill and sustain us completely and consistently. So I’m inclined to believe that it has to be 50/50, and that whatever we love as #1 has to be worthy of that love and still, well, not human (because humans are a mess).
Ultimately, our problems come, not from loving ourselves, things, and other people, but from loving them in ways that are disproportional to the level of satisfaction they can bring us.
Loving out of order is what fuels our angst, our stress, our constant search for meaning and achievement and acceptance and validation. But what’s the right balance? We’re all equally full of cracks and stitches and darkness if you push the wrong buttons. And yet, we can’t help but put our highest faith in something, whether it be our reputation, our relationships, our work, or our possessions.
But what if there was someone who was worthy? Someone better? Someone who couldn't disappoint, someone who could simultaneously satisfy our need to to love and be loved unconditionally. That’s a God-level task. And if a God like that were real, then we could love him/her first, then us and everyone else second, but equally. If we lived in that reality, would that deep burden go away? Would we live different? Would we be different?
Much to my amusement, I am Zoe. I like to dominate, live by my own rules, and still be taken care of. Small talk bores me. My ambition excites me. Being respected, admired, feeling like an extraordinary person--these are things I crave a bit too much. The ins and outs of everyday life that make us normal (i.e., fully human)--that I don’t appreciate enough.
What sort of things do you love a bit too much or a bit too little?