How do you love someone? Do you love them with part of your heart, with the part that isn’t afraid to be cast aside and brought to your knees? The part that can tolerate time, is a friend of patience and knows the meaning of unconditional. The part that has no memory of rejection and can only see the light and good in others. Or do you love them with another part of your heart? The part that knows all too well how painful love can be and knows the sorrow that comes from a thousand goodbyes and letting go. Or perhaps the part that wants? Wants more gifts, more acceptance, more attention, more of whatever it can take from the object of its affection?
Or do you close your eyes, take a deep breath and love someone completely, with all of you? With every curve of your heart, every blink and every whisper of your soul. Because to love completely and unconditionally is to be truly alive yet it is the biggest risk and freefall you can imagine.
You don’t have a choice who you love. When your heart finds its kindred spirit you may as well give up logic and reason because your heart will only beat louder the more you protest. But you do have a choice in HOW you love that someone. What you choose to do to change that person’s life, to enrich their days and bring laughter into their soul and your own. And that is where I am at today. Pondering love and how to go about it more graciously.
I promised myself a year ago that I would learn to love more unconditionally, that I would strive to see the good in everyone and be less judgmental and more compassionate. This is not an easy task at times. I can be judgmental and about as subtle as a brick with my opinions of others. I am compassionate but that can fade away when I got bored of hearing others moan about their lives. I have little time for pessimists and negativity despite knowing I should be more understanding of their pain. As for loving unconditionally, I am working on it but it confuses me. I can’t decide who it is I need to love more unconditionally – myself, others or both? So far I have taken it upon myself to find reasons to be truly thankful for the people that have entered my life and hurt my deeply. I figured that if I can find a way to love them, I can let them go. And it worked. It wasn’t easy but I can honestly say I am thankful for those people because they gave me the opportunity to become more compassionate, to grow in strength and forgiveness. To find a way to heal and see the good in whom they are. They were doing their best. And thanks to them I can rightly assume the title Queen of Bouncing Back – which is an ace title, I like it. I am sure you all have people in your life that have given you as much. They are strange gifts, in ugly paper, but they are gifts none the less.
I really don’t want to be a spoilt person; someone that expects everyone else to solve my problems, to shower gifts upon me and generally adore me. I suspect I have had my moments of being that way in the past. I probably still have my moments now. Do we all? I don’t know. What I wish for is to be kind to others, to recognise their greatness, to support and encourage them regardless of what their opinion of me is and to do this especially for the people that, quite frankly, really annoy me at times. If I can find the good in everyone I think it will make me a better person. If I can learn to love truly and unconditionally then I have found the gold at the end of my rainbow. But that is my tricky area…unconditional love.
How exactly do you do it? What defines unconditional love and how do you know when you are doing it right? As far as I am aware, there is no qualification in this and no guide book to show you the way. No exam I can study for and know I will pass. Though I do like the sound of ‘The Lonely Planet Guide to Unconditional Love: Find Your Paradise Within’. Do you love someone that physically hurts you and tells you to ‘go hug yourself’ when you come to them in tears? Is that unconditional love, as you are sticking by them no matter what they do to you and you love them regardless of their flaws? Or perhaps the unconditional love in that situation is to walk away because you love yourself unconditionally and they are clearly a moron. I would like to think most relationships don’t involve such extremes but they are stories I have heard from many. And at what point do you withdraw your love because someone doesn’t love you back? Perhaps unconditional love would tell you to just keep on loving them anyway and not to expect anything in return. It is unconditional after all. But then that could mean a lifetime of pining after someone like a dog that knows it has left a bone ‘just there’ and won’t move until said bone magically reappears from the depths of underneath the sofa cushion.
I still don’t know the answer, as you can tell, and I am going to keep on practising and keep on finding out what unconditional love means to me. To date my favourite quotes on love have come from two dear male friends of mine and from one of my favourite films The Horse Whisperer. They go like this:
‘I didn’t love her because it was right. I just loved her’
‘She gives me true, unconditional, uncomplicated love’
‘I just love her and expect nothing in return’
Simple but beautifully put. And the reason I have been pondering this today? Because of a story my friend told me and when I thought of her this morning that story came to my mind. She has a friend that fell in love with a woman, fell utterly in love with her knowing that she had been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer before they had even met. He didn’t turn away from her because of her illness. He just spent time with her and loved her. He saw her beauty, adored and nursed her and from what my friend tells me they were utter soul mates. They only had a few short years together before she passed away but in that time they brought light and love into the world and they celebrated their love by getting married. That they both had the courage and strength of heart to walk that path of love knowing that it would only last a short time leaves me utterly speechless. That to me is unconditional love. I look around at family and friends and I see many similar stories, perhaps less heartbreaking but just as real. Examples of where two people have chosen to love regardless of what may come from it, regardless of the free-fall and with ALL of their heart. You truly inspire me.
And in case you are wondering why I have put a picture of an Airedale terrier on this post, let me explain. For those of you that have not met him, this is Mr Paddington Bear. He was my beloved Bear, my angel and one of my two Airedale babies. I have never known such a loving, enthusiastic, happy soul as his. He liked to howl every day and would swish his tail slowly in bliss with every ahwooooo. He would wag his tail for no reason whatsoever and would sit on my lap at every opportunity, no mean feat for a 33Kg dog, simply because he loved to be held. No matter how tired or grumpy I was he just loved me. He loved life and for that he deserves to be here as a reminder of what this unconditional love thing is all about. And the best bit….whilst I miss him and his sister Hester more than I can possibly describe in words, I know that they are where they belong and living the life they truly deserve. They are giving just as much unconditional love to their new family and they are truly adored in return. With Paddington’s howl, Hester’s black gum drop nose and eight big bear paws they are very much driving the unconditional love train happily into the future. And the photograph, it was taken when I was ill once and lying in bed. He lay on me all day until I was better, poking me with his wet nose occasionally when I fell asleep.