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True Love

True Love

Living with Spiritual Elegance

by Caroline Phipps


When my partner Dennis Watlington suffered multiple strokes over three years ago, he was exceptionally tall, handsome and athletic. In the blink of an eye he was transformed from the epitome of masculinity and strength to being dependent on impersonal medical machines to keep him alive. I was in such shock and denial for the first few months that I couldn’t grasp what was happening.

As the months went by, however, I came to see that something extraordinary was going on. The Love we shared was undergoing a metamorphosis every bit as dramatic as the physical one. Reciprocal Romantic Love had been destroyed in the fiery furnace of physical devastation, and in a process of alchemy, refined into something quite different that initially I couldn’t define.

This led me to think a great deal about what it means to Love and be loved; this experience has been the inspiration for my exploration of Leveraging Love. I have come to understand that Love is powerful, mysterious, marvelous, at times unfathomable and often shadowy. And Love means different things to different people. We all have our own special definition.

Dennis describes his experience of Love as, “When your partner has a broken wing and you help them learn how to fly again."

To truly Love we have to put the ego-self aside and risk rejection and pain if our Love is not reciprocated or the circumstances within which we Love dramatically change, as they did for me.

I knew I had to make peace with my new life if I was to remain strong enough to sustain us on this rocky road of broken dreams. The first thing I needed was an answer to the question that assaulted me constantly: What’s the point of all this pain? This question comes up with any version of a shattered heart, no matter what the circumstance. I needed an answer or Love could easily descend into bitterness and despair.

I re-visited Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese poet, who had provided the answer to this question for me, years earlier. His wisdom has been as powerful for me today as it was then. In his poem On Love he begins with a powerful call to action with no apology for the pain love can cause:

“When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep."


Deeper into the poem he reveals that only by experiencing the highs and lows, the pleasures and the pain of Love, do we really come to understand the secrets of our true nature and what it means to be human,

“All these things shall love do unto you
That you may know the secrets of your
Heart, and in that knowledge become a
Fragment of life’s heart."


Gibran's point: there is great value in the pain. To experience the ego-cracking power of True Love allows us a glimpse of the very essence of existence and gives us an understanding of the human condition to which we would not otherwise be privy. As far as our evolution is concerned, if we can be disciplined and dedicated enough in our pursuit of consciousness to allow our broken hearts to be broken open, we are making progress. And a feeling of progress, even when made through pain, is an essential component of human wellbeing.

Dennis describes care giving as taking care of another’s special journey and this reminds me of my favorite definition of True Love. “I define Love thus: the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth." The Road Less Travelled by Dr. M. Scott Peck.

Given a choice I’m sure I wouldn’t have had the courage to take the road less traveled. But my experience with Dennis, however devastating, has given me a feeling of progress as I collect insights I hope can help others. If we can grasp the idea of a common humanity, where we are a part of the collective fabric, then this idea of a higher form of Love takes on a circular component. By extending ourselves in True Love we grow into a more divine state of being while supporting others to do the same. From the Love shared by parents and children, to friendships and romance, by breaking down our ego barriers we can become one another’s caregivers no matter what form the Love takes. The resulting synergy means that we dedicate ourselves to the evolution of all mankind and ultimately the greater good of the earth.

At the start of my Leveraging Love Series, on my monthly radioWKZE appearance with Up & Running Morning Show host, Rick Schneider, I talked about an extraordinary woman I knew called Dorothy. Dorothy lived in the same rehabilitation center as Dennis. Oblivious of time and space she spent her days dispensing blessings and Love for those around her. Elderly, wheelchair bound and otherworldly, her spirit touched everyone. When Dorothy died a month ago, it was devastating. My hope is that her spirit can live on in all of us that we may continue the mission of Leveraging Love that Dorothy navigated so elegantly, despite her frailties.

And Dorothy, for me, is the definition of Love at its truest however hard and steep the journey.

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