What's Love Got To Do With It?
I realize that I have been using the word LOVE a lot lately. It has been showing up in my writing, conversations, and thoughts.
The meaning the word has been a complete mystery to me most of my life, but my recent exploration of vulnerability is bringing me closer to an understanding of what it does in my life.
So... what's love got to do with it?
Everything, it seems.
Looking back on my life, my twisted views on love have made it impossible to give it and receive it healthily. I really don't know where I developed my distorted view of love, but I know it has caused pain, both for the people I love and the people who tried their best to love me. It's one of my biggest regrets.
I think I'm more focused on exploring it now because there is a power to it and I think it saved my life. It wasn't like I woke up in the hospital surrounded by it. In fact, I felt completely devoid of it. I felt unlovable, unwanted, and completely alone... because I was alone. I had made it so by proving my core belief that I wasn't worthy of it was true.
Sure, over time this belief became more solidified, but it had taken root a very long time ago. I don't believe there is anyone in my life that I can blame for this; it was just there for as long as I can remember. Over time, it just kept growing and became absolute, never questioning whether it was true. I think it was a complete inside job, having nothing to with nurture or nature. It doesn't really matter either way.
What matters today is that I'm changing that and challenging this old belief.
Laying in that hospital bed, still breathing despite my best efforts, there was nothing else to do but think.
I'm here. Something is keeping me here. I want to be here. I just can't be here like that anymore. How can I stay here?
I distinctly remember the burning in my eyes, tears slowly running off the side of my face as I thought about the people I loved. There were certain times every year that were harder for me than others to begin with, and Christmas morning alone in a hospital bed was a new level of utter sadness.
When a nurse came in to change my IV, she asked if I was okay. Of course, I said I was, as if she wouldn't notice the puddle of sadness I was laying in. She did.
"I'm sure it's a hard day to be alone here," she said as she hung the fresh bag.
Without even thinking, I replied, "Well, I deserve it."
She stared at me for a little while and I eventually turned away. I felt her take my hand, more tears of course, but I turned back to look at her.
"Nobody deserves to be alone, sometimes we just are alone. It can always change."
She squeezed my hand and smiled, turning to attend to the next patient. I looked at the ceiling and for the next few hours I continued to think. A perfect stranger had just acted out of love to touch my hand and say something special to me. What about the other people in my life?
Over the course of the next few weeks, I engaged in a tough and questioning dialogue with myself about love... and it started with me. I didn't love myself, never did. Wherever this self loathing came from, not feeling that I was worthy of love made it impossible to accept it. Just that simple realization made me feel terrible for those who tried and many had.
I had developed this absolute belief that people only thought they loved me until they really got to know me, and it doomed any chance of that long-term stability I so desperately wanted. I didn't believe them. I'm not just talking about personal man-woman relationships... all of them. Family and friends, too.
How long were people supposed to keep telling me, showing me, and trying to convince me before they would give up trying out of shear emotional exhaustion? For me, I guess it was as long as it took.
I've done crappy things in my life, it comes with addiction and through flaws of character, so I have amends to make. However, on a deeply personal level, not believing people when they told me they loved me, might be the worst of it all. The selfishness of deciding for people regarding their attempted love for me frankly makes me sick. That regret and remorse is strong, and I am very sorry when I think of it. How hurtful of me.
At the end of that second week, which I wrote about in an earlier blog - A Wooden Heart, when Jennifer handed me the little heart and asked me to open my heart and accept love, I made a commitment that I was going to change that. I would believe people. I would show love to people. I would accept love back.
One of my favourite people in the world would often say, "Go where the love is." I did. I still am.
I believe today, that decision saved my life. I wish I had made it sooner as only in the darkest moment, did I find the way to keep breathing, stay alive, and get up one more time. It wasn't my strength that kept me alive; it was the willingness to surrender to the power of love.