The Power of Love versus the Power . . . of Not Caring

Photo by archangel_raphael; Creative Commons License

Not caring can be a powerful thing.  I don’t necessarily mean apathy—more of a conscious sense of not caring and simply allowing rather than stepping in to participate or force a change.

The first time I got a real sense of how empowering it could be to not care(split infinitive intended) was the morning of a high profile workshop I was presenting to a few hundred people.  I’ve forgotten the details now.  I no longer remember if it was a seminar for a regional writer’s conference or a national Romantic Times Convention or Romance Writers of America or a theater full of acquisition professionals in the Department of Defense.  I don’t even remember the subject—how to submit your manuscript to Silhouette Books, how to streamline a multi-million-dollar Department of Defense acquisition, how to market your writing through shameless self-promotion, or how to structure a Wiccan prosperity ritual for the maximum bang.     And I certainly don’t remember if it was a blossoming case of the flu,  too-rich food from dinner out with a New York editor, or an upset over a broken relationship.  What I do remember is that at that particular moment in time when I took the stage, I didn’t care.

That was very different for me.  Normally—and especially when I was just starting on the occasional lecture circuit—I cared.  A lot.   Public speaking is just short of Baptism by fire for me, and my comfort level of speaking to crowds has always been about…eight people.   The first time I spoke to a group was when my fellow writer and mentor Vicki Hinze twisted my arm into being a co-presenter at a monthly meeting of the First Coast Romance Writers in Jacksonville, Florida.

When it came my time to talk, I didn’t make eye contact with any of the handful of people there and basically mumbled, “Yeah, what Vicki said.”  As I began doing more and more of the dreaded public speaking, I loved hiding behind lecterns so no one could see my knees shake or that I was holding on for dear life.   Times have changed since then and I’m now more inclined to go sit cross-legged on a table in the midst of my audience or use a replica of a Medieval sword as a pointer to keep ‘em awake.   I still really despise public speaking but in those early days, my stomach would knot with anxiety at the mere thought of opening my mouth before a crowd and having all eyes on me.

But on that day, instead of being so sick-to-my-stomach anxious that I could hardly speak, I was so sick to my stomach ill that I just didn’t care what my audience thought of me or my material.

I walked off stage to cheers.  People told me how amazingly confident I was and that I was a natural-born speaker (I’m still laughing over that one).  They told me that my love for my subject was obvious and powerful.  I didn’t dare tell them that it was the power of not caring—not the power of love—that had made my speaking engagement a success.

The power of not caring can be a very freeing thing, especially for an overly emotional Pisces chick like myself.  I live in my emotions.  It’s hard not to care, even when it’s not my place to care or not something that in any way touches my life except by observation.  It is my nature to care.

And caring often means that you lose your personal power.

That’s why, I believe, so many fuck buddy relationships fail.  The power between two people flows evenly as long as everything’s casual and no one cares whether the physical relationship becomes an emotional one.  But the moment one of the two begins to care, the balance of power changes.   They have to both stay casual or both agree to move to a different level emotionally.

A man who was once in my life—quite scientific and personable—once told me that the person in a relationship who cares the least is the one who drives the relationship.  He gave the example of the man whose wife is uninterested in intimacy so he focuses more and more attention on her and pleasing her and getting her attention, to the point of neglecting his own needs.  This man explained that relationships could be manipulated using this theory:  the rejected husband could pretend to be less interested and pull in the opposite direction, thereby appearing to be the one who doesn’t care and therefore begins to drive the relationship, and his pulling away will prompt the neglectful wife then to do the work of trying to regain his attention.  This man had scientific terminology for his theories that I’d forgotten until several years ago when, in a memorial ritual, I burned all his love letters and found his oh-so-scientific sketches and diagrams of how this theory works.  Me, I call it game-playing when it’s used to manipulate.   I do agree with the idea of the less-concerned partner having control of the relationship, mostly through withholding affection.  I saw it often enough with this man himself, and when I was to the point where I was the one who no longer cared, I certainly wasn’t pretending.  I was done and I really could not have cared any less about his feelings.

When I reached that point of not caring and recognized it, those old chains slipped off and set me free.

Most of the people around me live their lives in chains of some sort, usually based on what society or family or an anonymous “they” will think.  Of course, this is hard when you don’t want to disappoint the people you love by having a different opinion, different dream, different purpose in life—but they need to get over it!   Once you stop caring what others think, the freedom is mind-boggling.

For all the stories of the power of love that I’ve heard, let’s give some credit  to the power of not caring and the extraordinary freedom it can bring.

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