The little girl I was had fantasies of a beautifully adorned white wedding dress made just for me. But the reality of domestic and sexual violence I experience as a child and an adult led me to believe that love was never for me. Relationships in my early adult years convinced me to give up on love altogether. As a result of the abuse and self-destructive actions I took to cope, my heart became hardened, closed. Until the flutter of life grew inside of me. My heart leaped each time I gazed upon a new set of eyes and another tiny hand grasping mine.
On this ordinary week night, I tiptoed through the house, stopping in each bedroom doorway to see that my little angels were asleep. As I observed my youngest child sleeping so sweetly, I heard the smallest whisper tell me that this, my child, is LOVE. I never knew my heart could be so full. Being their Mom taught me more about life, more about love than I could ever imagine. It was easy to be open and so easy to love my beautiful babies. Loving someone in addition to them, nope. This tainted woman wasn’t meant for love outside of motherhood.
Then I met a man who on the first night we met, stayed up all night talking with me and then led me to the perfect spot outside so we could watch the sunrise, hand in hand. He called me often, not to inquire about my every move, but because he loved our conversations. A man who changed the temperature in the room to suit me, cooked my favorite foods for me. A man who took me for a weekend away because he knew how hard I worked trying to raise children on my own. But we were just in it for fun, not to fall in love. Love from a man wasn’t something I fully trusted in yet. Some years later I dated a man who was very driven in his goals. A man who I thought could never fall for someone like me, given my unstable past. Yet, he spoke to me in a soft loving tone after I told him my survivor story. Sitting in his living room one autumn day, as the leaves were falling to the ground, I was falling in love. The only time he spoke about his love for me was when we were snuggled up and he thought I was sleeping. A year or two after our relationship ended, I asked him what happened to cause us to grow apart. His response: the higher the stakes the more he stayed away. Who would help him cope if I broke his heart? Flirting was easy but the strong emotions were scary. If he let himself he could get lost in me. He wanted me to know that I was strong, smart, driven.
Even in relationships that didn’t end in bruises, running was easier than staying around for heartache. Gradually, along my healing journey and through the love of and for my children, I discovered it wasn’t love that gave me bruises on my side and a fat lip. It wasn’t love that shoved me against the wall or the headboard. It wasn’t love that held me down until I couldn’t move and threatened to kill me if I fought back. It wasn’t love that only knew how to take from me and never give back. It wasn’t love that refused to see beyond the physical part of me. Love was not in any of the actions that brought on trauma and caused me immense physical and emotional pain.
We will never have the love we dream of if we remain closed, distant, afraid. Be open, Loves. Whether you begin with a friend or your children or a love relationship, keep your heart soft enough to let love in. It took me time, therapy, being a Mom, faith, support and the boldness to be open to the risks and allow love to sneak in and capture my heart. Love isn’t blind. Love sees it all and is strong enough to accept, to empower, to take you beyond. When you are strong enough to be vulnerable, love will meet you there and guide you the rest of the way. Love is a powerful word, but the impact is in the action of these words. The action is what stirs another heart. May our hearts be open to receive love, to remember that it wasn’t love that hurt us last time. May our hearts be fearless and fierce in showing love through actions that stir another heart, ever so gentle, compassionate, bold.