And still our demons wait within…


He tried to see the good he used to see in her, but because of walls or distance, or simply because she had drawn her curtains closed, all he saw was the emptiness of air, a person-shaped void in the places she once played in his mind. How could one moment undo so much?”


Love is the mother of hate; the very things we once clutched to ourselves, when they expose us, confront us, challenge us to go where we are afraid of going… How quickly our hearts can turn against them, how quickly hands held turn cold, white & wan.

So often we turn away from those for whom we cared most, not because we really hate them, or fear them, or don’t understand them, though we will convince ourselves otherwise — but because we’re afraid of what comes up within ourselves, we’re afraid of who we are when we’re with them.

So we invent reasons to see the empty air, to feel the chill of the cold breeze… we invent reasons for pain or anger and we invent reasons to avoid those feelings, or reasons to force confrontation before we’re ready.

But have we ever really known each other? Have we ever really known more than a ghostly mirage of the ones we love? More than a shade of the true person, more than a trick of our sight and perception — more than a fabrication of who I am and what I want to see, painted over with your eyes & your hair?

Or is the price of love that ache that fills the space between you whom I hold right here – and you?

It’s hard to tell; when we fall in love, something about the person or thing we love arouses the natural and fundamental energy of life that infuses each and every one of us — love. We find connection, interdependence, and our compassion is awakened in ways most of us find so difficult to do alone.

Somewhere in the wonders of just loving we see more clearly, we see a little deeper into each other. We open ourselves to the truth of each other and share ourselves more fully.

But when fear arises, or resistance, our demons deceive us, they place our loved one’s mask on their face. We no longer see each other with the same truth and clarity we once shared; instead we see only a tiny fraction of each other, elements divided into camps: what we want, what we don’t want; overemphasized, caricaturized. We lose our ability to understand each other.

Especially when a relationship ends, we resist the heartache and the grief by allowing this process of substitution to occur; in restricting our perception of our former love, we limit the fallout, we save ourselves much of the true sorrow we’d feel at the loss of love, because we do what we must to protect ourselves.

No matter how truly near or far the distance between two hearts in love, hearts chained by love lost repel to opposite ends of the universe. In love, we often share each other’s joy and pain, we sense, empathize, understand each other in ecstatic ways; in love’s death, our sight fails us, our hearts wrap up tightly and shield themselves, where once we saw another with the same care we give ourselves, now we see an enemy.

And this enemy, so full of the potential to destroy us that its presence frightens us, disgusts us – we lash out violently, or we retreat, both in fear.

This enemy… is always with us. We turn against each other because we fear each other are the enemy. We paint the faces of those we once loved with all our heart onto the darkness within us, and then we paint the darkness on the faces of those we once loved.

Our enemy is the ghost, the shade, the failed idols we carry of each other. But since we cannot escape ourselves, we push away, push away…

And then all we have left once again are delusions of each other – unchallenged by the reality of each other, we can tell ourselves whatever lies we need to believe. Our lives return to normal, but at great sacrifice… we have exorcised love and compassion toward each other for the false hope that we’ve cast out the demon that afflicts us.

And still our demons wait within, ready to renew the cycle again.

Can we not feel each others’ pain? I am not your enemy, except that my presence brings up turbulence inside you; you are not my enemy, except that your silence disquiets me.

You abhor the turbulence; I resist the silence. Must we remain locked in a struggle that only creates more of both? Or can we, in some small way, acknowledge that we are not the stuff of enemies, before the illusions of our frightened minds makes it true, that enemies we are?

He once held her hands in his — and they were warm! With closed eyes, he remembered the good he used to see in her; it had not vanished, his own fears had concealed this truth – how, he asked, do I deal with the truth that this is still the person I loved, who loved me, and not my enemy?

“Somewhere within, he accepted her own pain and turmoil as meaningful and valid as his, knew that there were reasons of which he remained unaware. Though he struggled with the silence, his own demon, with not-knowing, not-understanding, he reminded himself to confront the truth: neither of them had lost the fundamental greatness of their being.”

And he knew that silence would still challenge him. But whether that silence lasted a few more days or for a lifetime, he decided that he would face that fear head-on, know its true nature, and remind himself of the good he once loved in her, remind himself of the hardest thing to admit – that they were still the people that once loved each other, and that they no longer did. He would forgive her, & he would forgive himself, for they both did what felt essential.

And he would do it many, many times over, for forgiveness and letting go of our illusions happens among many moments of choice, choosing to face all the facets of our experience, choosing to accept what is, and to take care of our lives, until our fears finally learn to trust us again, our pains finally heal, and we find that we are whole again.

Mila (Jacob Stetser)

Mila is a writer, photographer, poet & technologist.

He shares here his thoughts on Buddhism, living compassionately, social media, building community,
& anything else that interests him.

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