Love: What Does it Mean to Me?

I read a blog post last week entitled “I don’t just love you when you’re awesome” and since then I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.

The lady who wrote it spoke about love in such honest terms that it reminded me of something that I had forgotten. Love comes in many forms.

Last year we celebrated as a family my Nan and Grandad’s 60th Wedding Anniversary. I decided we should have a party with the family and eventually sold the idea to my Mum. It was a lot of hard work to keep it a surprise and I was in charge of picking up the special guests and making sure they arrived on time.

When I got there the first person I saw was my Mum’s best friend and her husband who gave me bone crushing hugs and told me how much I look like my Mum. When we were packing up she pulled me aside and told me how much I look like my Mum but how unlike her I am.

She said she’d been watching me and saw how much love I had, she’d watched me looking after everyone. She said she could see that I was a person that openly loved and she loved me for it. She said everyone needs love and if you love everyone you’ll always be happy. Then she told me how special I am and how she’s loved me since the day I was born and she thanked me for looking after her best friend. I choked up at the time and even now I’m crying thinking about it.

I don’t live in an openly loving family. The ‘I love you’s’ are usually only dished out with the request of a favour. My mistakes are remembered more than the good things I do.

The surprise parties, days out, holidays, gifts, chores, general dogs body duties and thought put into bringing the people I care about most happiness. Mostly my attempts are received with indifference and the occasional thanks.

So I don’t know love. I’m not familiar with it. But I feel it.

For years I’ve called people ‘love’ as a term of affection. I’m always cautious not to do it at work in case people find it strange but sometimes I forget and when I do I see them smile and making someone smile is a nice thing to be able to do.

I started a journey almost a year ago. It was a journey I didn’t expect to find because I wasn’t looking for it but somehow it came to me. It opened me to a world I’d never thought about. It challenged me to consider what I want in life and to go out and live. It made me take down my walls and let someone in and show them the parts of me that I hide from the world. The parts that only a handful of people have ever seen.

The playful look I get in my eye when I’m up to mischief, the way I love to tease people and get teased in return, the way I laugh over stupid things that aren’t really funny often to the point of tears, my awkwardness in most situations and how I pretty much always end up saying the wrong thing cause it sounded cute or funny in my head, the way I like to message people to check they are ok.

The way I cry over emotional things on the TV or in movies and books because I love the happy endings and the romantic part of me wants that for myself one day, that’s why I prefer to write my endings.

The way I use words and phrases or talk about things that make people look at me like I have two heads and I constantly have to explain myself. Most recently when I asked someone if a film was about Karl Marx and they hadn’t a clue who he was. I thought everyone had heard of Karl Marx but evidently not. Or when I made my Mum laugh and was told, not for the first time, I sound like ‘father’ (my mum’s maternal grandad) when I said ‘Gertcha’ the other day.

I have a nurturing instinct to want to protect everyone I care about and I get pangs in my chest when I miss people I haven’t spoken to in a while. I get frustrated when I can’t be who I want to be around someone because I’m scared of how they’ll react or that they will reject me.

Recently I’ve been getting better. I made a promise to a friend that I wouldn’t put up my protective walls. I made a promise to embrace who I am and love myself so that I can accept how others feel about me.

Someone said recently that I was one of the most beautiful women they had ever met and that if they lived in the same city as me they couldn’t imagine not wanting to spend time getting to know me. It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said and my first reaction was to laugh. I only see my flaws and the ugly things I hate about myself when I look in the mirror.

I hate the fact that I’m happiest when I’m making other people happy because it means I can’t make myself happy. I hate the fact that I can’t trust people unconditionally. I hate the fact that I can’t let myself experience life without analysing everything. I hate the fact that I don’t trust my own emotions and reactions enough to be bold and go after the things I want. I hate the fact that I can’t let others see who I really am because I’m too afraid of being hurt because it’s happened in the past and I never really got over it.  I hate the fact that because it happened in the past I always assume its going to happen again so I hold back and push against people instead of being open. I hate the fact that I look in the mirror and see my ugliness when others see my beauty. I hate the fact that I made someone feel like they ruined my life when really all they ever made me want to do was live.

I don’t give love easily. It comes without guarantee that I won’t make mistakes in the future as I’ve made mistakes in the past. But if you are ever lucky enough to see through my walls you’ll see it is unconditional and without judgement. I will be there whenever you need me, to help in whatever way I can, even if I don’t agree with or understand your decisions.

I love people for the special things I see in them, the way they make me laugh or smile, the way they make me cry when they say nice things about me, the way I want to share experiences with them so I have happy times to look back on, the way I want to share my successes and be there to share in theirs, the way I’d stand between them and a bully and take the fight on myself to protect them (I did that in junior school once), to nurse them when they are sick and make sure they always have clean laundry (ok those last two mostly apply to close family, I don’t want a trail of sick friends at my door with dirty laundry).

I didn’t realise how much others had seen the depression grow in me. Very few people commented on it. I made some important life changes and now I feel much happier.

I feel the love coming back into my life. I feel myself being ready to take on the challenges I’ve avoided for years. I quit my job to release myself from the frustration that was holding me back and now I feel free.

So yeah I love people who are important to me for all the things they are now and will be in the future. I won’t apologise for that because it’s who I am, even though people see it as suffocating and annoying.

There is one type of love I’ve yet to experience; the love that comes from a romantic relationship. Who knows now I’m a happier, stronger and more rounded person maybe someone will see through my walls and find that I’m not a horrible ungrateful monster and actually I have some good qualities that make me loveable. But I won’t hold my breath.

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