What if I told you that every single relationship that exists in your sphere - from your cheating ex-boyfriend, to the girl that bullied you in the 3rd grade, to your deadbeat disappeared father, to the boss that backstabbed you and stole your idea, to the flight attendant at the Houston airport that kicked you off the airplane and called you racist because you took a picture of her when she was refusing to upgrade you back to first class after you had been laid-over in Honduras for 48 hours, to the co-worker that seems endlessly and confusingly competitive, to the sibling that seems to know exactly how to make you a raving psychotic anger monger - were there by design? Part of the universal plan to give you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it? There to show you the parts of you that you have forgotten to see, or have refused to see? There to build you into the most beautiful, kind, forgiving, loving version of yourself, one encounter at a time?
From the cruel to the annoying to the painful, to the boring to the dramatic, to the kind and overwhelmingly supportive. The ones that melt your heart, the ones that break your heart, the ones that close your heart, the ones that repair your heart. The people who forget your birthday and the ones who spend months planning it. The ones who you would do anything for, and the ones you would do anything to not have met.
All of them.
An assignment. A test. An opportunity for growth. A test of your capacity to love.
For the past two years, I've consistently returned to one source of teachings again and again - A Course In Miracles. If you are not familiar with it the Course is a "self-study spiritual thought system" and it teaches that the way to universal love and peace is by undoing guilt through forgiving others. It's focus is on the healing of relationships and making them holy (or whole). It is not a religious text - it's similar to buddhism and it reconciles/aligns with the Bhagavad Gita and other sacred texts - though it does use common Christian terms. It has been interpreted in multiple Oprah-approved publications, most notably Gabby Bernstein's May Cause Miracles and Marianne Williamson's A Return To Love.
Because these teachings have been pivotal in my own transformation, you'll hear them referenced frequently throughout my writing.
Anyway, before I found A Course In Miracles and my path back from hell, one thing is for certain: I looked at each human being as separate and different, there to make my life harder, and I found most relationships to be difficult. Even the best ones at times seemed to try me. I often found myself in contempt of perfect strangers, at the mercy of other people's opinions and actions and reactions and judgments. In fact…you could just say I often found myself at the mercy of other's behavior - no matter what it was.
My belief at the time was that I was a victim. That there was something wrong with me for attracting such problematic relationships, some inherent flaw. My belief was also that there was something wrong with everyone else. They were fucked up. They didn't see and couldn't see what I saw, which was they were wrong, and I was right.
As I studied the Course principles more and more, and began to understand that we have a choice in perceiving all matters with love or fear - it began to become more and more clear to me that the world or God or the Universe or whatever didn't hate me and wasn't bent on sending me assholes. The Universe was bent on sending me angels of all shapes, sizes, and dispositions. It was bent on my growth, not my destruction.
Tommy Rosen said "The Universe isn't concerned with your personal comfort, but it is interested in your personal development." And I believe that with all my heart. As I began to practice shifting my perception from one of fear and hate and insecurity to one of peace and love and forgiveness and defenselessness, and more importantly as I began to see each encounter as more of as "what do I need to learn about myself" or "how can I receive this with love and do right by all" so too did my relationships. They - in fact - healed. And they healed not because people became nicer or easier to deal with. They healed because I changed. They healed because I cared to heal them.
I now see each relationship, each encounter (no matter how brief) as a holy encounter. The more difficult they come, the more chance for growth I have. An opportunity to see myself as I am - to see clearly the things I can forgive, to see even clearer the things I still cannot forgive. A chance to observe the judgments that come up against others as judgments I hold against myself. And most importantly, the chance to choose love time and again over fear, or contempt, or anger.
As we approach Thanksgiving and the holiday season - a season typically wrought with family drama and friend drama and relationship drama and PEOPLE drama (those fucking other people) as crowds of us spill onto the highways and into the stores and Starbucks - if you can remember one thing as you go about, try and remember this: each and every single person that comes into your world - be it a TSA agent or your bitchy sister-in-law - is there for your personal development.
Each asshole a gem, lighting the path to where we are still stuck, giving us each a chance to dip into the infinite well of love that inherently resides within us.
Every relationship a perfect assignment.