After my mom’s suicide, I read her prayer journals. The final six-months of entries were variations of the following:
“Please, Lord, let me feel love. Let me be loved. If I can feel love, I can make it through anything. Without it, I am lost.”
Between Hollywood’s Rom-Coms and the annual commercialization of Valentine’s Day, we’ve been socialized to believe that the feeling state of love is found from external sources. In 2018, Romantic Comedies grossed $241 million in North America alone. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers spent $20.7 billion on Valentine’s Day this year. We’re constantly bombarded with the message that to be happy, we need love from a partner, family members, our friends and our pets.
Love is not found in others; it can only be generated within. Each of us is love; we simply get confused sometimes. When we allow that confusion to take up residence in our head and continue to seek it outside of ourselves, we live in a state of lack and non-fulfillment.
I was named after Guinevere from my mother’s favorite movie, Camelot. She was enthralled with the idea of two men loving one woman so deeply and tragically.
Growing up, I lived in a menagerie of sorts. Name any domesticated animal and we had it…dogs, cats, rodents, birds and reptiles. My mother was continually adding new pets to the household.
Once, I remember walking into our living room and seeing my mother crying on the couch reading her Reader’s Digest. When I asked what was wrong, she handed me the magazine and told me to read the story.
It was about a woman who owned a parrot. She had tried for years to teach her parrot to say, “I love you” without success. Then she had a medical emergency that put her in the hospital for months. When she recovered and returned home, her parrot greeted her with, “I love you.” Cue the tears.
The next day, my mom was highlighting the Penny Saver’s Pets For Sale section. Within a week, we had our own parrot.
Another time, I remember overhearing an argument between my mother and stepfather.
“You never say I love you anymore,” she said.
“Why do I need to say it?” he asked.
“Every morning for the past two years, I’ve walked you to your car and tell you ‘I love you’ before you go to work,” she said. “And every morning, you drive off without saying it back.”
“You’re exaggerating,” he said. “It hasn’t been that long.”
Perception is a powerful force. And I’m not blaming anyone for my mother’s suicide other than her perception of whether she was loved. When she believed she needed others to love her and thought they didn’t, she suffered. She based her happiness and self-worth on external validation.
It didn’t matter that her kids frequently said, “I love you.” We were all affectionate with each other. We spent copious amounts of time on family activities like hiking, riding bikes and crafts. Yet, no amount of “I love you,” quality time, or pets were going to satiate something that only she could provide herself.
If you are also looking for love and coming up empty, I invite you to assess how often you seek it versus how often you give it to yourself. If you’re looking outside more than inside, here are five ways to practice loving you:
- Tell yourself in the mirror, “I love you.”
Look in your eyes and mean it. Each time you pass your reflection, whether you say it aloud or silently, give yourself some love and appreciation.
- Be kind in your thoughts about yourself and your worth.
If you catch yourself talking smack about you, notice it and without more self-judgment, simply acknowledge it as unkind. Take a breath and start over again with a more loving and compassionate thought to replace the original.
- Trust your judgment.
Follow your intuition and trust that you know what is best for you. If something feels icky, then it’s probably not right for you. If something feels zingy, more of that, please!
- Respect yourself.
Set boundaries and keep them. Treat yourself with respect and others will treat you in kind. And if they don’t, respect yourself enough to walk away.
- Treat yourself with the same tender, loving care that you give to your loved ones.
This is the Reverse Golden Rule. Treat yourself the way you treat the most treasured people in your life.
At your core, you are love. The big “L” love. You are your own happily ever after. You are your own knight of the round table.