What follows is probably going to sound like page straight out of a PSA titled Self-Help 101, but the topic has incessantly and incandescently been rolling through my mind like that little marble in the Labyrinth board game, dodging manholes (admittedly falling in quite often).
Last week I wrote, My real fear-based decision was arguably more heartbreaking than that: my belief, down to the bones and the core of my being, that I should not and could not be loved. It was likely this sentiment (or one of the others akin to it) that prompted my mom to sit down at a cozy lunch, exchange pleasantries and giggles, and then ask, “Do you really feel like you have not experienced unconditional love?”
I could see her confusion. From her vantage point, as my truly above-and-beyond mom who loves me so long as what I do is not “illegal, unethical or immoral” (yes, a direct mantra ingrained in me from her lips), what the hell was I possibly doing not believing I should not be loved?
This all spurred a thinking binge. On Wednesday, I woke up in a deep state of calm. I was zenner than zen. Nothing was flapping me – not the fact that someone on the train had a bag that dug into my back for the fifteen minute commute, not the fact that I wasn’t outputting on my book the way I usually do…nothing. My headspace was rational, not catastrophizing, and it felt eerie.
Even though I felt like I was flat-lining, I realized I was just making space for critical thought on the topic of unconditional love.
I sort-of knew I should be loved (hey, I’d even found proof of that). And of course I sort-of knew I already was loved. But none of that felt real. It felt like I was faking it til I could make it. Trying to sort out what that meant for actually accepting love was like trying to rearrange a spider’s web without damaging the silky strands.
And then, like a damn lighthouse beacon through the fog, was a message on a bathroom wall. Love yourself.
Allowing someone else to love me wasn’t helping me actually know I was loved. And putting all the weight of unconditional love on someone else was actually a little unfair. People are people – they are going to make choices and changes. Yes, even my mom could possibly turn on loving me (though it’s doubtful).
All that time on the road I worried I was going to wind up alone. Megan tried to talk me down. “But you won’t be alone.” I asked her how she knew, and she said, “I don’t. But you’ll at least have your friends.” But given choice and change and people being people, even the love of friends is not secure.
Which means it all bubbles down to one thing: the purist, and really only, unconditional love we can have is with ourselves, for ourselves.
I know. Like all of us haven’t heard that enough times in our lives. But seriously. Love. Yourself. Unconditionally.
Of course then, the signs were everywhere. Not just on bathroom walls. In my conversation with Kathy over breakfast. In the lyrics of songs Jesse and I heard while sitting at Butter eating deep fried Twinkies. And of course, in Kimber’s book, Full, which Alexis had handed me saying “I think you should read this.”
I couldn’t tell you what has changed within me, and I sure as heck can’t tell you how it changed, or swear up and down that the change won’t flicker and falter (because if I’ve learned anything in the last few months it’s that I am not quite as strong as I pretend to be, and that is literally okay so long as I know that about myself). But I do know those key words that wise friends have said to me, about having compassion for myself, about accepting myself, about being whole and perfect just as I am, are not ridiculous mumbo-jumbo woo-hooey ways of living. They are indeed the lifeblood of loving myself, being complete within myself, and ultimately, not being afraid.