I want to tell you a story about love.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl. She wasn’t planned, but she was wanted. During the first few years of her life she was loved and nurtured. Because of that she didn’t have fears or concerns or worries. Being so young, she wasn’t aware that she “felt special” but because she was cared for with tenderness and affection, she loved herself. She innately KNEW she was important. She explored her world with natural curiosity. She would carry with her a memory of first “seeing” a doorknob; of examining it and being in awe of “that shiny thing”. So went “Book One”; the beginning of her story.
As she grew, and was introduced to the larger world, she (naturally) became exposed to people and situations outside her little family; places where she wouldn’t always be “the best”, “the smartest”, “the sweetest”, “the most important”. She would always remember walking home alone from kindergarten, at five years old, crying because a little boy claimed her circus art. That was her earliest memory of being discounted, feeling vulnerable, and not experiencing what she would later call “love”.
As she got older her life became full of responsibilities because she was “the oldest”. She had chores, schoolwork and helped with the younger children. Wanting to always be loved and special, she did everything she could to make sure she was always in everyone’s good grace. She learned how to be a people-pleaser, and her success at that made her proud of herself and the love tank filled more.
Sadly, she, like many young girls, was taken advantage of by someone who “should have” cared about her. She never told her parents, until after another little girl came to them to tell the same story. I don’t know why. That may have been the first time that she loved herself a little less, but she didn’t acknowledge or process that until many years later.
As she grew into a teenager she realized that she was intelligent, and that being smart also gave her “value”, so she embraced that and again, as always, did her best. She caused no trouble; she pushed no boundaries and that made her “easy to raise” and, I suppose, easy to love. She had wonderful friends and she laughed and sang and danced her way into college and into her dreams of what “life could hold”. The love story continued with “Book Two”.
As she moved into adulthood, she got hurt a little more often. The world and her responsibilities kept growing. There were times when she chose to believe in people who, in hindsight, weren’t those she should have put her faith in. At times, the love she felt for herself floundered. She sometimes believed that she wasn’t “enough”. There were life lessons to learn, and she took them to heart and tried not to make the same mistakes over and over.
When she became a mother, her world expanded with love and devotion that she didn’t know could exist. She fell in love with herself all over again, because in her heart she carried more joy than she ever imagined was possible. With her children she was fiercely protective. They became the center; not in a way that minimized her, but in a way that breathed life into every day, and “Book Three” was beginning to be written.
She eventually realized that the person she chose to be with would break her. She knew that she had to make a change. She was afraid of creating a new reality, but she knew it was something she needed to do. Eventually, she trusted again. Like most of us, she loved the idea of being in love. Unfortunately, she got hurt again, in a way that shook her to the core. She stopped loving herself for a little while. She shrunk back to that young girl who was hurt years earlier. She thought that maybe she didn’t have value, after all. Amazing friends, and the love of her children and mother, gave her the confidence to believe in herself again and the journey continued.
She decided who she would be in the world and worked very hard to “create” her reality. For the most part she succeeded. She had a wonderful career for decades. She was independent. She loved her children with abandon. She was happy and she fell back in love with herself.
She saw tragedy and she was hurt again. She stood strong to her convictions but she tried always not to judge others. She lost her stamina but not enough to lose her desire to help those who needed her. She grieved loss but she celebrated life.
Sometimes she fell in and out of love with herself as a reflection of how others treated her. It took her a long time to understand that seeing herself through other’s eyes was certainly not how God saw her. She grew to understand that in God’s eyes she was always loved; that God was in her and she was in God. She wept when she finally, after over a half-century of life, really “got” that.
In “Book Four”, she grew old surrounded by her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and those who loved her most. She’d recount the stories of her life, but they became the stories of the happiness, not the stories of the pain. She gained the ability to laugh at herself and let go of little hurts. She pursued joy, like the two-year-old discovering the shiny doorknob. She allowed herself to cry, but she laughed and smiled a lot more. She realized, before it was too late, that the essence of life is living into it, with understanding, love, unbridled joy and peace. She had no fear of leaving the earth, because she was secure in who she was, knowing that this existence was simply a transitory state, back to the spirit side. She said “I love you” regularly. It became a statement of fact, a way to say goodbye, a way to reinforce what her heart felt before she left this earth. She knew without a question of doubt that she had value and worth and was loved, and that knowledge helped her to finish her personal love story.
Who is this person? She’s most people we probably know. She’s the person who looks like she has it “all together” and he’s the person who looks like he’s falling apart. He’s the man you see having lunch with his elderly father and she’s the woman you see screaming at her child. She’s the teenager who raises money to help those struggling and he’s the student you see bullying another kid. She’s most of us who have struggled in life to remember that we are valuable, loved. She’s you. She’s me.
I’ve had to rewrite my own love story through life. There have been times when I’ve been so, so hard on myself; times when like that little girl I only saw my value through the eyes of others. There have been times when I’ve been so proud of myself; times when I knew I was doing the best I could. There have been times when I couldn’t imagine life being any harder and there have been times when I walked in a place of complete and utter bliss, knowing I am a child of God, loving and loved.
While we’re still breathing, we have the opportunity (and the responsibility) to love ourselves, to believe in the goodness of ourselves, to be our best self. When you write your “love story” how will your timeline read? Will there be more chapters of bliss and happiness or will there be a lot of bumps of sadness on the road? Will you have always felt confident in “who you are” or will you have allowed others to create a feeling of “less than” in you?
When you write the story of your life, will it be a story of love? This is my prayer for you this week; that with whatever time you have left, in this life, on this earth, you love yourself. Then you can love others and they can love you and you can love others.
And so it is…..
©2015 Peace Full Home/Intentional Living
p.s. from “The Checklist from Z to A”: #26. Live within your budget; figure out what’s most important to spend your money on and take care of those responsibilities first. Then you can decide how to use your additional resources.