Print by K. Barteski
This week I have been thinking about how I love.
The monologue rolling and rolling around in my head always seems to start with what I know for sure about love.
Love is vital for human development. Studies have shown that babies thrive when they are loved. They will fail to thrive if they are not. We are born knowing how to love but often lose those skills as we grow older. The only true way to re-learn how to love is to simply love and allow yourself to be loved. While one can read all about it, it can’t be learned from a book, magazine article or blog post (believe me, I have tried) but instead it must be experienced in the flesh.
Love is a choice. Despite what I read in fairy tales and young adult novels, there isn’t some bolt of lighting that strikes you. There isn’t just one soul mate “out there” for everyone. Instead love is a conscious choice that we each make each and every day, a choice to open our imperfect hearts to falling in love with other imperfect soul before us.
Everyone wants to be loved. Every single one of us, whether we admit it or not, move through the world seeking love and connection through our words and actions. The problems arise when we figure out that what we want most in the world is often what we fear in equal measure – being seen and loved matters that much. I know that I have been guilty of pushing away love for fear of it being taken away.
This week I find myself questioning how I love.
For a long time, for fear of getting hurt or worse yet, looking like fool, I loved in silence, I loved in a way that it was a secret only known to me, the faulty logic being that there was no way that I could get hurt if I did not say the words. Of course, the downside of that strategy was that I often was misjudged as being aloof, cold and distant (even though, below the cool surface of things, nothing was further from my truth) there was no opening for me to experience the joy of loving and being loved in return.
After months of feeling on the outside during an intensive workshop, and with a giant shove from a kind friend, I literally made an announcement that I was open to love. I decided to love big and to love openly, to say the words and open myself up wide. It is all still so new and I often feel like a puppy who hasn’t grown into her body, I feel all sharp elbows and wobbly legs, bumbling my way through connecting and through loving.
I stumble over my words, maybe I say too much too soon, share too much, in my earnest attempt to start with my heart and arms wide open. Like everyone else, I want to thrive in the company of those around me, and at the root I am that little girl who wants nothing more than to be loved.
If you really knew me you would know that I find myself struggling not to love in silence or to push away connection. I am struggling with how to not allow myself to be pushed away. Though everyone wants to be love, not everyone is on board with the way that I love. Not everyone is comfortable with my awkward expressions. Sometimes I feel like I am just too much or maybe not enough and that something I did or said caused them to retreat, to pull away and I am left wondering is it how I love? Will I ever get it right? I am left wanting to retreat myself, to pull it all back, to go back into the mode of keeping it all to myself. I wonder if I can still fit back into that tiny box which stored my heart for so long.
Then, out of the blue, I am reminded that I am seen and held and loved by friends I have chosen in my life. They continue to show me that they choose to love me. I will meet a friend for brunch or receive a lovely text, a funny email or have a Facebook conversation and I am emboldened to love big and awkwardly and openly again and again and again. I am still re-learning. I am always trying to remember that though not perfect, when my intention is good and pure and there is no way to ever love wrong.