That’s the average time a person spends in front of an art piece while wandering through a museum.
DaVinci spent four years painting the Mona Lisa and most spend 7 seconds viewing it.
Because at 7 seconds, the painting starts doing its work.
That’s when the art begins to speak to you. Art is a portal to new thoughts and hidden realities. It can also be an argument, with ideas contrary to your beliefs. Art becomes a mirror, reflecting parts of yourself you either love, hate or didn’t even know exist.
At seven seconds art starts telling you its truth.
If you can appreciate what is being said, you’ll stay. You’ll allow its ruthless assertions to move though you. You’ll experience its beauty and its darkness, as your own. You may even find yourself riveted, frozen in awe, with tears in your eyes.
However…if the art does what it ought to do -which is challenge your most cherished beliefs and call in new parts of your identity- you may suddenly become “bored” and quietly move along to the next painting.
But is it boredom? Perhaps it’s a mask for fear of some kind. I think boredom is a coping mechanism we’ve developed for opting out of presence when we don’t want to face something. Like our inability to appreciate the present state, our confusion, our fear of being rejected, our perceived lack of intelligence or imagination.
We dismiss what we cannot understand, or bear to know.
Being shamed by the fierce honesty of a painting is not easy. And so you leave. You leave because you feel threatened. You leave because the art is inviting you to grow, accommodate new truths, and change who you are… and that kind of change is terrifying.
Humans don’t like terror. So we leave.
Love is the most beautiful art form in the world, so it’s no surprise many people follow the same patterns in their romantic lives. Many break up with their partner, NOT because they dislike the person or think they’re not good enough. Much of the time, people leave because they are scared. They’re afraid of what the relationship is telling them about themselves. They’re worried they are not enough. They’re averse to being vulnerable. They’re avoiding failure, success, heartbreak, intimacy, pain.
True Love is not for the faint-hearted. It’s a gladiator sport.
Why? Because you have to be willing to die for it.
Not physical death, but the death of your current identity.
To love someone fully, I mean really fully, you must be willing to transcend your coveted “I” for a larger “We.” And that is absolutely frightening. But if it’s the right relationship, the “We” gives you back an “I” way bigger, better and healthier than the one you originally sacrificed. When you shift your identity to the “We”, your “I” goes up to the next level. But you can’t offer up your “I” on the altar of “Us” unless you already deem it sacred. Building your self hood into a piece of art you’re proud of, is a pre-requisite for trading it up.
My husband Eben says: “It doesn’t take a lot to be in love… it takes everything.”
J.P Barlow: “The difference between love & true love, is the difference between a very large number & infinity.”
In some cases we’re not willing to risk everything or approach infinity. There are times when completing a relationship is the best move forward (for both parties). But it should never be done out of boredom, disdain or anger. Rather, a healthy break-up is the graduation from one school of relationship, to make room for another. Every romance is a powerful education. You can love someone deeply, yet not be a good match. Never break-up in anger or during a fight; it reduces the self-esteem of the entire system. The ninja move (and hardest) is to break-up from the place where you love each other the most. Always try to preserve the dignity of both partners and honor the growth you shared together. For how you leave your last relationship highly governs your success in the next.
So, here’s what I’m inviting you to think about today:
If you’re with someone (on a date, in a relationship or a marriage) and think you might be “bored, done, ready to leave”, ask yourself honestly—are these feelings true? Or are you secretly afraid? Afraid of the massive work entailed in who you’d have to become to keep the dynamic alive & thriving. This same work will eventually show up with every subsequent partner. There’s no way to escape our shadow in authentic romance. Whoever you’re with now, is either “The One” or “Practice for the One”, so always bring your A-game.
Consider this: Is the version of who you’d have to become (in order to make your relationship flourish), a more trustable, reliable, conscious and powerful person? If the answer is yes, then this is your call to greatness.
The trick is to breathe into your frustrations and examine what’s really happening underneath. Mostly we’re angry with ourselves for not representing our needs. Or angry at another, for failing to live into our own myopic expectations. Only from this belief: that we participate heavily in creating most of our relational realities (including the sub-optimal ones), can we uncover the unconscious commitments that undermine our success.
If you dig down deep enough you may hit a layer of hopelessness inside your relationship. But don’t worry, despair does not signify the end. It can be a great incubator for Love. In the darkest moments, if you can stand for a future possibility based on its sheer beauty & importance (with no evidence of success), then you’ll have the one skill every successful relationship must develop…Faith. It is the only lantern you can light in the dark with your imagination.
Love is scary, because the stakes are high. Your heart, your body and your immortality are all on the line. That’s why I tell my clients: “If you don’t feel terrified at some point in the courtship, then it’s not likely True Love.”
Yet nothing—literally nothing—in the human experience can compare to the consummate aliveness of being in Love. I believe it’s the highest order game we can play in our lifetime. Beyond all the traditional success you might accomplish in other areas, to live your entire life never having known True Love with another, is to miss out on the most exquisite aspect of being human. Anyone who’s had the privilege of knowing one person loves them -fully, no matter what, until death, will say the same thing: it’s worth the work.
Some questions for you:
- Are you willing to stay in the game, past the edges of your discomfort?
- Can you let a fallible, imperfect human being become a masterpiece in your own eyes?
- Do you have the courage to breathe through that primal desire to leave when things get hard?
- If you knew the next greatest version of yourself could emerge through this relationship, would that be enough to inspire you through the terror?
I hope so.
Next time you’re in a museum, on a date, or with an angry partner…notice the moment you get bored, scared, angry, and want to tune out, close your heart…leave. This is where you get to make that heroic choice between love & fear. Breathe into the discomfort and stay present just a bit longer. It will feel counter-intuitive, but lean in -physically, emotionally and intellectually. Keep your heart & mind open to the possibility that an epic transformation is longing to take place. Stay for the opportunity to meet a new strength in yourself. Stay until you can feel this current moment as an art piece on which you can proudly sign your name.
And then sign your name.