Learned to Love

They tell me I loved a boy before I could even walk. My parents recall vividly that I would toddle my walker to the gate and call for a boy named Oscar who lived downstairs.

I fell madly In love with a boy in 8th grade. I wrote my first name with his last name inside all of my school notebooks.

When I was 18 years old, I accepted a proposal of marriage. No one could’ve told me at that age it wasn’t anything but the “One and Only Love.”

When my son was born and I became a mother, love changed me. Mother’s love drove me to sleep next to the crib with a hand on his back to make sure he was breathing. Mother’s love causes my heart to swell with pride for every single one of his accomplishments; and break with every one of his disappointments.

I have loved and been loved. Of the many types of love I’ve experienced, I never fully understood the concept of self-love until recently. Self-love is necessary to a healthy heart, mind and body. Self-love has made it impossible for me not to fall in love with complete strangers, and be more in love with friends.

I’ve done a little time in the place society teaches women to fear [read: single and alone] and I wouldn’t change a thing, for it has allowed me to see, feel and touch love in ways that I didn’t know I could. Unconditionally.

Unconditional love goes deeper than desiring a playmate or the sound of his name combined with yours. Unconditional love is kind. Unconditional love says, “Come, sit with me a while and show me who you are.” Unconditional love allows others the space to be themselves without fear.

Of all the love that I have experienced, giving and receiving unconditional love is what sets my soul on fire. Because unconditional love is a decision.

It takes a conscious choice to love someone without limitation. When I first became conscious I was capable of doing so, I was simultaneously euphoric and engulfed. Never before had I felt the intensity of wanting someone’s best good with no regard for my own. Love affairs are generally thought of as a give-and-take kind of thing. What I have learned is that it is possible it’s truly a give-and-give thing.

For as many loves as I’ve known, this one is special in a way I’m not often able to describe in words – because I don’t want to. It’s a love I feel from a very tender place and one I’m not entirely familiar with, but know I want to feel it again, and again and again. If I could bottle it and keep it with me forever I might feel inclined to do so, but that would take away its nature.

What I love about this love is that it feels free. It feels like, for the first time, I am allowed to love without restrictions. I don’t need his love, because I have mine. The love I feel although directed at him, really has less to do with him – and more to do with me. It is the manifestation of my own self-love and acceptance. It challenges me to show my affection for his kind heart and his gentle ways in a manner that I myself don’t understand.

It scares him sometimes, and I suppose it would. It is fierce and full, and doesn’t require anything in return. These are things we aren’t taught to understand. That love, in its most pure form, is a decision. I decide every day, and in every moment, to love – strangers, friends and in this moment, him.

When he teases and says, “Okay, you can love me” I smile. I don’t know what the future brings, and I honestly don’t care. Because for now, I’ve found a soul that will let me love him the way I have found that I must – wholly, completely and with everything I have.

Because tomorrow isn’t promised – I’ve learned to love.

No longer obsessed with finding misplaced items or dreaming up worst-case scenarios has opened up a lot of time for me to do the things I love - writing (one of my first loves) and appreciating all the joy I find in loving people deeply. Mental illness of any kind can be difficult to navigate. Today I am better through the magic of chemistry and the many lovely friends I've found along the way. Be good to one another.

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