I love you.

untrue love“There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.” George Sand

Love is a word that is seen and heard everywhere. It is used freely to describe emotions and feelings. It conjures up romantic notions and lusts. Yet there is so much more to love than just a sentiment which makes you feel good.

Of course it’s wonderful to make people feel wanted and needed through words that are encouraging or compassionate. But when you use the words ‘I love you’, it can take the relationship to a completely different level. Those three little words aren’t just a statement of affection or admiration, they can be the ultimate declaration of attachment and loyalty.

When you tell someone you love them you are investing your heart, mind and soul. ‘I love you’ should never be spoken lightly. In my own life I have found it very difficult at times to express my love or receive it. Because I never wanted to feel so desperate, lonely and unloved as I did when I realised my mother had abandoned me forever.

“The love you seek is seeking you at this moment.”                                                              ~ Deepak Chopra

My thinking was that if I didn’t allow anyone to love me and if in turn, I didn’t love anyone then I couldn’t be hurt again. But I did hurt. And the more I used alcohol to numb the pain, the more I distanced myself from ever being able to love not just others, but myself. And so too will you be distanced  further from what you truly desire if you try to avoid loving or being loved. A loveless life is merely an existence void of real joy or happiness.

So when I reached the point that existing was no longer an option for me, I started on my journey of recovery. If you have ever been on that journey you will know how vulnerable and raw it can be. Not to mention terrifying. But it is worth it. You are worth it.

Through faith I experienced a love that forgave everything I had been, accepted me for who I was, and helped me believe that I could live a life of value and worth. Most importantly it taught me that I needed to love myself because it was only through self-love that I could truly extend that love to others.

“Love one another.” ~ John 13:34

It wasn’t easy but I had to learn to look at myself and say ‘I love you’, before I could declare it to anyone else. Even now I have to admit that I am much more at ease at telling those I care for deeply that I love them than reassuring myself. But the reality is that you can’t give away what you don’t have, and that includes love.

illusionAs well as needing to be loved, we need to love others. For me this means not just speaking of love, but showing it. Gifts, tokens of generosity or sensual actions are all ways to demonstrate love, but just as important are respect, empathy, commitment and authenticity. ‘I love you’ can then have huge impact and meaning.

I am so grateful that today my life is filled with friends and family that I have genuine love for and who reciprocate that love time and time again.

My message to you is as always, ‘I love you.’

Untrue love’ and ‘Illusion‘ images thanks to the fabulous talent of Boryana Gold   http://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BoryanaGold

 

What’s love got to do with it?

aliherrmannoneEverywhere you look this week there are Valentine reminders to celebrate love. Hearts adorn shop windows, displays of red roses appear at every corner.

And there are never-ending references to romance which allude to the idea that if you don’t have a significant other in your life you are somehow inadequate or even abnormal.

But this focus on things like cards, candies and flowers perpetuates the myth that love can somehow be bought. And that for the right price you can experience true romance.

It’s nice to receive a love token and a genuine romantic gesture is something we all can appreciate. If this time of year prompts you or your partner to do something meaningful or just fun, that’s wonderful. But has love got anything to do with it?

What if love is just too painful at the moment? Feeling unloved or experiencing rejection is hard enough but when you’re surrounded by expectations of romance it can reinforce your loneliness. And worse, it can make you believe that you are unlovable. The message is clear – No Valentine. No love. No life.

And that is so wrong. Because Valentine’s has so little to do with love. Love isn’t a gift that can be exchanged. It isn’t the bigger the gift, the bigger the love. Love is something so precious and so pure. It can be given and received but it can never be bought.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Corinthians 13:4-8

This is one of my favourite definitions of love. One that I only discovered through my own emotional recovery. My perception before that was based on my experience of a complete lack of love as a child. I wasted so much time in the past in a state of anguish. I tortured myself with questions of why my mum didn’t love me enough not to have run away. Or why my dad ‘loved’ me in the way he did –  through control and abuse. I grew up with a fear of loving and a fear of being loved.

At the lowest point of my life I believed that I would never be able to replace the love that I never had, so there was little point trying. But it was through this absence of love that I experienced real love. Those that stood by me through my darkest suicidal days of addiction and depression showed me unconditional love that helped me gently onto the path of self-love and self belief. They loved me at my most unlovable. And for me that was true love.

“The antidote to pain is love.” ~ The Hurt Healer

I learnt the wonderful truth that love hurts but it also heals. It is powerful yet compassionate. If you let it, love will be your light in the darkness and love will be the truth that overcomes the doubt. I believe that love exists in all of us and that to deny it, we deny the very essence of our selves.

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”                            ~ Mother Teresa

Extending love to others is something that shouldn’t be confined to one day in the year. We can show our support, care, understanding, encouragement and affection at any time and to anyone.aliherrmanntwo

Love is both priceless and infinite. And this is the gift I give this Valentine’s. A love that is free and that lasts forever.

What’s love got to do with it? Everything.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Images thanks to the fabulous talent of Ali Herrmann at Etsy.com

Love you forever.

Is it possible to love someone forever?  Or is it more realistic to believe that nothing lasts forever?

The notion of ‘nothing lasts forever’ can be effective in dealing with disappointments and let-downs. It’s like a mental shrug of the shoulders that acknowledges a setback but allows you to move on unhindered.

In the past however I used it as a permanent mind-set. It was the only way I had of rationalising and managing my life.Of course all that happened was that I became trapped in a self-fulfilling prophesy. I desperately wanted and needed to love and be loved, but as long as I held onto the idea that everything was temporary, it was never going to happen. And believing that I was worthless compounded my perception that love would never exist in my life at all, let alone forever.

A counsellor once said to me, “It’s a miracle that you are married.” She was right. I’d experienced such dysfunctional love. The grief I had felt at losing my mum was based on a false love – I had no love for her, only love for the mother that could have been. And that goes for my father too. His love came at a price. Love was a ‘deal’ – Quid pro quo.

As an adult the problem was my inability to identify what love actually was and then to accept it when it came my way. Who doesn’t remember their first true love? The bitter-sweet romance of youth with a promise that it would last forever. Naturally he broke my heart in a way that only a first love can and left me resolving never to allow myself to feel that vulnerable again.

Whilst everyone else around me seemed to be connecting with their long-term sweetheart, I went through relationships that were at best superficial and at worst completely destructive to my body and mind. Alcoholism and depression became my constant companions. They fed my fear of attachment and ensured a loveless existence. And a life without love is no life at all.

Learning to love was by far greatest challenge in my healing. With the help of faith and hope I confronted my alcoholism, dealt with the traumas of the past and reclaimed my life with a passion. But finding the courage to love myself and others was challenging and painful. Opening up myself to the possibility of rejection was terrifying, as was the notion of commitment.

When I finally believed I was worthy of a relationship, I had to learn how to manage the love within it. I’d previously had the unrealistic expectation that ‘love you forever’ meant ‘I’ll never leave you’ or ‘I’ll never hurt you.’ And I’m sure for some people that’s actually the truth. But for me I could only receive ‘love you forever’ as something for the moment.

I’ve come a long way from only believing in ‘nothing is forever’, and I truly want to believe in ‘love you forever’.  When I made my marriage vows I meant them and want the marriage to last.  But if I’m honest, there are times when I doubt that it’s possible. I struggle with having the experience that reminds me how people can let me down but on the other hand having the wisdom that reassures me that I am strong enough to trust.

Eleanor Roosevelt said “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” And that’s what I intend to do. I’m a work in progress and not a million miles away from doing the thing I think I cannot do.

But in the meantime I’ll take a deep breath and say “Just for today, I’ll love you forever.”

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Top image thanks to Freaky Peas      http://www.etsy.com/listing/89892270/blue-heart-original-multi-media-painting          Bottom image thanks to Joy Northrop           http://www.etsy.com/listing/108601989/forever-love-digital-download-whimsical