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A Valentine's day reflection on what it really means to love.
Unconditional love means loving something or someone exactly as it is, without requiring it to be any different, or considering what it can do for you. If we’re really being honest, there are probably few things we truly love like this. We want others to behave certain ways, put expectations on places and experiences. and hold ourselves to impossible standards. But perhaps the thing we’re hardest on is reality itself.
A therapist once told me, “There’s this theme of, ‘the lover will redeem me,’” and that was before I’d even had a real relationship. Deep down, under all my stubborn, Sagittarian independence, that impulse is still there. I feel like I need other people to fix it, bail me out, help me up. It’s how I was raised to look at God, the big daddy in the sky who would answer your prayers if you did everything his way. But I never did, so I was always pleading, begging, and bargaining in vain, and 30 years after losing my religion, I still want someone to save me from myself.
I didn’t unconditionally love God, I guess, and I’ve certainly never felt that for my own being. It’s getting better, but I still instantly regret many of the decisions I make, fearing I’ve made the wrong choice. I ruminate and shame myself, trying to will what already happened out of existence. This is not accepting reality on its terms, which means I’m not loving what is, and I’m not loving myself, either.
I still try so hard to be good; to get people to see a shiny, polished version of me, covering up the scared little kid underneath. But the harder I try, the more I’m met with resistance, as is always the way. It happens every time I take a psychedelic journey, even though I know what’s coming: my ego feels itself start to fall away, and pushes back with all its might.
I know that freedom comes from letting go, yet I hold on for dear life: grasping and flailing, exploding and shattering, my very being coming undone; everything I worked so hard to cobble together, construct, and present to the world, now all gone. I feel that I am simultaneously every molecule and atom in the Universe and nothing at all, and the latter is more comforting.
“How can I be everything?!,” I scream. “Then who’s in control?” Nothing is, you are, it’s all the same, and this concept is horrifying, until I let go. Then the oneness encompasses me in that experiential way that can’t be described: the sweet relief of melting into pure being that isn’t even bliss, where there is no more trying, and all is calm.
After one of my most meaningful journeys, my guide told me that I was fixating on the part where I was resisting instead of the part where I surrendered. “You’re the kicking and screaming,” she told me, “but you’re also the letting go.”
I love these words, yet I recently realized that even this is a binary, and the kicking and screaming in itself can be a beautiful thing—because it shows that you care. You relish this Earthly experience so sweetly that even when you know freedom is waiting, you grab onto the consensus world, quite literally, for dear life. The time I almost killed myself, what brought me back was the overwhelming sorrow that I might never hear a bird, see a tree, or feel the arms of a loved one wrap around me again, and suddenly I knew I wasn’t done. As much pain and suffering as this life can bring, I love it so much that everything in me wants to hold on.
But unconditional love means loving something exactly as it is, simply because it exists, without requiring it to be any different. Release comes from accepting the past and what’s happening now–and that letting go brings the merging I’ve spent my whole life searching for. Reality is perfect just the way it is, and the lover I’ve been wanting to redeem me is myself. May you find this kind of compassion for yourself today.
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