For most of my life I thought love was a verb. I treated it as a transaction. I did for others, gave of myself and in return wanted something back. That’s hard to admit and it’s absolutely true. I loved as a means to win approval. I would do whatever it took to get love and when appreciation or praise wasn’t returned I would be devastated. Crushed was the word I used to describe how I felt. It was as if I would hold my heart out in front of me and beg for someone to take what I was offering. When others didn’t respond as I hoped and give ‘love’ back I felt as if my heart was blown out of my hands, run over right in front of me and smashed into a thousand pieces. Sometimes it took months to clean it all up and piece my heart together again. Devastation and being crushed was a familiar pattern repeated over and over again in my life, until recently.
Leather gets softer and becomes even more beautiful with time. My favorite purse is an old blue, beat up leather bag. It seems to get softer every year and no matter how much wear and tear it has had, the purse is still functional. I take it everywhere. Even with all the marks and scratches I still love the purse. I think I love it even more with all the marks. Being worn out again and again is allowing me to become softer and maybe even more beautiful, in an old leather purse kind of way.
I am 60 now. Cindy died years 6 years ago. My sister Mary, that I adore beyond words has Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. My parents died last year. I get it now, life is terminal. It ends. If I don’t choose to love fully I waste precious time and I probably don’t have a ton of time left to waste.
Painful experiences, loss, acceptance and most importantly, learning to love my self has helped me begin to understand what real love is. I do less for others now and have fewer ulterior motives. My giving is more genuine. The care I feel for others is more true and my expectations of what I will receive in return are less. I love more deeply in spite of what happens ‘out there.’ There are fewer transactions in my days.
The years have taught me that learning to love my self first, gently and compassionately is the key to loving another. As I have held onto my old leather purse with all its scratches, not throwing it away in search of something more perfect, I am learning to hold onto me. Instead of casting away my imperfect parts I am beginning to treasure them and realize, it’s the wear and tear of being used up and lived with that creates what I love most in myself. I am worn and I am worth holding onto. My softness and beauty comes from what I give my self rather than what I want from you.