“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
― Lao Tzu
I have found at various points in my life, that love was the motivating force behind my thoughts, my actions and my happiness. I looked for it everywhere I went, in every pair of eyes I gazed into, every set of lips that spoke to me and every hand that touched me. I felt that I would recognize my soul mate, the one true love, my one and only, forever in love, partner for life individual when I met him. I desperately wished to have that “lighter than air” feeling, walk around with a silly smile on my face and dreamy eyes, out of focus just enough to soften the harsh images of reality; I wanted to be loved. Completely, unabashedly and unconditionally. Funny thing was, as soon as someone would profess their love for me, I would instantly feel my heart stop beating, I would break out in a cold sweat and feel claustrophobic deep inside my soul. So much pressure! Someone now loves me, which means I have to be everything to them, for them and with them. Their very happiness lies in my words, my actions and how I treat them. Within 3 – 6 months, I would find a way to free myself from this new-found love and run as fast as my little feet would carry me in the direction of solitude and safety.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was absolutely clueless about what being loved and loving really meant. I thought of it as more of an ownership of someone, rather than a sharing of two souls who recognize and are drawn to each other. It wasn’t until much later in life that I was able to understand that love does give you strength, courage and the will to live, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all state of being or emotion.
There are many, many different kinds of love and endless numbers of people experiencing those different shades of love every day. Love is not a set thing, it’s fluid, ever-changing, growing as we grow, as our relationships grow and circumstances change. Even happy events in life can change a relationship, place stress where there was little to no stress before; the first child a couple has together, the first home they buy, a new job, a promotion. These are all wonderfully positive events, but they still carry their own brand of stress with them. Changing roles, defining or re-defining boundaries and encountering situations they had never thought would happen. On the other side, there are those heart-wrenching events that life brings, such as the loss of a loved one, illness, mental or otherwise, an addiction that is out of control, loss of a job, loss of a home, loss of self-esteem and self-worth. Growing old to me is a reward for making it out of my “wild years” alive, but some people look at it as The End. Every birthday is not a celebration, but a mourning, a loss of youth. Love changes to survive during these times; the caretaker becomes the patient, the quiet one speaks for the one who cannot, the one who always leaned on the other must now bear the weight of both. If we do not bend, we break. If we do not change, we do not grow. If we do not love, we do not truly live.
Thank you to all of you who have loved me, let me lean on you, carried me when I couldn’t walk and drew me out of the darkness. Your love has given me courage when I was afraid, faith when all seemed lost and hope when I couldn’t imagine ever being happy again. Without it, I wouldn’t be here. Love can move mountains, heal wounds and bring back to life what was thought to be lost forever. It’s our most powerful weapon against indifference and hate. Live, laugh, love.