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One woman’s journey to Redefine Love

Love is, in many ways, still a raw, open wound for me. It has taken years for me to build up the courage to lay all of this out like this, for the world to see.

I wish redefined love was an instant fix. I wish it just happened one day, with the snap of the fingers, the flip of a switch. But that’s not how it works.

Like anything worth doing, it is really hard and takes a lot of time. Progress is made and then something comes along that knocks me back.

But not all the way back. I’ll never go back to that place I was before I redefined love. Once seen, something can’t be unseen.

For so long I didn’t have the foggiest idea how to be happy. I didn’t even know what happiness felt like.

Children are born with happiness in their hearts. It is innate. But little by little, life whittles away at that happiness, that sense of pure wonder and joy. Reality can be very, very beautiful. It can also be very cruel. Reality is both a giver and a taker, a benefactor and a thief.

It isn’t fair that some children are born into beautiful realities and some are born into chaos. It isn’t something any of us gets to choose.

So much of life isn’t fair. There’s no sense dwelling on it, really. Energy is such a limited commodity. It shouldn’t be wasted on things that can’t be changed.

All that can be done is to find beauty in the despair; to unceasingly seek the lessons. If there is anything I’ve learned from my own journey, and from observing the journeys of others far more difficult than my own, it’s that the deeper the despair, the more profound the opportunities for growth.

I always imagined that I would find happiness at the end of my long journey to awakening. When I got there I was discouraged to discover not happiness itself, but simply a map that would lead me there.

“Really!” I shouted to the universe. “You’re seriously going to send me on another journey?” I felt it was the cruelest of jokes.

I was so tired.

I was angry about this for a while. I didn’t want to follow the map. It was going to take me through some ugly territory. It was going to hurt even worse than the anguish that brought me to this dark place.

The only thing that kept me going is that every now and then, along the twisting path there was a glimpse of happiness.

Once I felt it, I recognized it. I thought to myself, “Wait a minute! I know this place! It’s been a long time, but I’ve been here before.”

I was flooded with memories from way, way back.

I was asleep by the heat register in the hallway when I was very young, snuggled up with soft blankets on the floor with my older brother like two little kittens.

I was digging with a stick in the dirt in a park by the public pool, the sound of sprinklers hitting the chain link fence behind me with a click, click, click, the dandelions glistening with droplets of water. I was wearing a red polka dot swimsuit with a ruffle at the waist. I loved red with all my heart.

I was in my grandmother’s kitchen playing at her feet, the smell of dinner and dessert and rolls baking and she talked to me like I was a whole, real human being and I felt loved and wanted and intact.

Unfortunately, these weren’t the only memories that came back once I started following the map to peace. There was so much fear. So much anger. The only reason I kept going was the drive to reach another happy place.

And slowly, those happy memories began to open a piece of me that had been locked up for most of my life. I could recognize happiness now, not just in my memories but in the here and now.

I realized with not a small amount of regret that it had always been there. I just didn’t recognize it. It was glowing in the smiles of compassionate friends and hidden behind the concern of teachers, professors, and employers who saw more in me than I was able to see in myself.

For 30 years I let fear and anger take over and missed all the good stuff. And like a deadly whirlpool, the more terrified and angry I became, the deeper I was sucked into darkness.

Yet suddenly, as I followed the map to peace, I was able to appreciate a sunset, or an afternoon in the park with my kids, or an inside joke with my husband. Each time my heart opened a little more.

Slowly, slowly, slowly I began to realize that love was at the root of this newly discovered happiness.

Slowly, slowly, slowly I began to learn that love wasn’t what I’d always imagined it to be. It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t always shiny and pretty and wrapped with a bow. It was better than that. It was a real, living, breathing thing. And it was everywhere, even in the darkest corners of my heart.

Although I am not always at peace, I have seen it, touched it, tasted it, felt it pump through my veins. I know how to get there now. I still lose my way sometimes. I still let my emotions and my anger and my fear take over. But now I know how to find my way back to where I need to be.

I have redefined love, and in turn, love has redefined me.

Published March 25, 2018

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