I am the grand-daughter of Jaqueline Bates Haynes. She was the most unconditionally loving woman I have ever met. A quintessential grandmother.
Loving words poured forth from her mouth over and over. It seemed that her only desire was to impart the depth of her love onto my soul.
Years later, once adulthood had descended and I knew my time with her was short, I would attempt to freeze her words in my mind; to remember the way it felt to have someone care so deeply and shower me with so many words of praise.
She would say, “You are so precious honey. Your heart, your heart, it is such a gift, so pure, so huge, loving. You are such a gift. You are so loved. Your love is so powerful.”
Tears would stream down my face as I allowed myself to be enveloped by her words.
In her last years, in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, where she didn’t know who I was, she would still say, “I love you honey.” Words of praise were a well-worn groove in her brain.
Standing by her hospital bed in the final phase of her life, with her loving words pouring out, though she knew not her own name, I made a decision then and there that I would make words of praise such a ritual that even if I forgot everyone and everything, I would habitually express my love out of habit.
This is easier said than done. Do you ever see a friend and feel your exuberant excitement to see them in the flesh and then feel their energy, less than yours, not a match, so you lessen your joy? I do this all the time.
Early on as a kid I learned to be embarrassed to think that someone might like me. I didn’t want you to know how much I adored you if I thought you didn’t care much for me. Tit for tat. Cool for cool.
The harder lessons of love came in my long-term relationships. My first love was in the seventh grade. We were together for fourteen months and I loved him with a pure and innocent heart.
When he broke up with me, I spent the summer listening to sad eighties hits, writing love poems and crying on my bed as I gazed out the window into a world of emptiness.
By the age of fourteen, I knew what heart ache was and I was searching for my soul mate.
He was the first in a long line of not the ones. I went from relationship to relationship over and over.
I was sent into my first “dark night of the soul” when my boyfriend walked out one day, said goodbye, see you later and kissed me, only to disappear for good.
You can imagine my surprise when he didn’t call again. Never came back. Didn’t answer his door. We had been together for a year. He was gone.
This was the time in my life when my childhood fantasies of love began to crumble. When I met him I thought it was love at first sight. I thought that chemistry meant we were soul mates and we’d be together forever.
I learned in a sobbing heap of despair that what I thought was love was no more than karmic lessons disguised in sexy packages.
I learned that what I thought was the experience of meeting “the one” was little more than a familiar zing from finding someone who would bring the precise triggers I needed to heal the wounded parts within.
I learned that love is who we are, it is the greatest healing force on the planet. Yet, love is messy and dirty and bloody. Healing so we can embrace healthy love can be painful.
So often robbed of love in our young lives, we sometimes don’t know not how to recognize it. We confuse it for other things. We can feel repulsed by it.
I believe we are all on the planet to learn about love and we have barriers and blocks, secret ways we subtly keep love out. Facades we wear, masks we don, roles we play.
We show up in the ways we think will best manipulate, cajole, or convince others of our worth.
We forget that we do not need to do anything to earn love. That we are worthy simply because we exist.
Sometimes we need help to melt our protective cages. We need to be coaxed out of our shells. Reminded not to dim our light.
We must be courageous beings. We must risk when others don’t.
We must sing loudly even if others are not.
We must love ourselves enough to shine, to show up, to share our light and not shrink away. Knowing this, I still do it. I feel the edge when I’m face to face with a being I think is magnificent. I am afraid I won’t be enough, I won’t say the right thing.
Day after day, I have to coax myself out into the world to share myself.
Moment after moment, I have to hush the voice within that comes to whisper I’m not enough.
Night after night, I get down on my knees and I ask to give it all over to God, to show me the way, to bring me my loves, to heal my heart, to forgive those I’ve hurt.
Love is the down and dirty messy prayers of lonely children all grown up. Love is the courage of shy beings.
Love is the letting go and saying goodbye to those who lifted our spirits and sang our songs at one time, but can’t stay to nurture the fire.
Love is a bloody, sad, messy ride that may end up with you on a hospital bed having forgotten your whole life and everyone in it.
Why? You want to move forward. And it’s who you are.
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