Alternative title: Unconditional love and how to stop being an Emotional ATM
Yup. Just finished crying on the couch with my husband. It was a happy sad cry. It was an I can’t figure it out cry. It was an I’m lonely and I feel so loved cry.
And then came the a-ha:
I have everything I’ve ever wanted in my life.
And I’m not living in fear that I have to anticipate every scenario that could upend this happiness.
I have faith.
I am a vessel for unconditional love.
What on earth does this mean for me?
And what about you?
If you are feeling, lonely and sitting in a church full of people
If you are sitting alone in your apartment facing an open day in front of you with a to-do list chomping like the childhood monsters under your bed
If you can’t sleep
YOU ARE LOVED.
You don’t have to believe in God for this one. I believe in God and lots of other fantastic and fantastical things.
There is a universal force out there and it is this: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.
Now unconditional love is so dang different from TRANSACTIONAL LOVE.
I have had people very close to me offer transactional love.
If you answer my 911 calls, then I love you. If you listen to all of my problems and do not introduce your own into the conversation, then I love you. If you call me, then I love you. If you send me one of your signature care packages, then I love you.
I used to try to keep up with the people whom I love by “holding space” for all of them. A text to let you know I was thinking of you, a voicemail, a card. And then, I started to do that for myself.
I slowed down and sat in my own pain. That experience actually stinks. What I found however, even this morning, is that I was missing Father Jerry from my old church in Chicago. When he got reassigned, I tried the new priest a few times, but I basically left. Like a kid who didn’t get her way in the kickball game, I picked up my ball and went home. I didn’t leave God. I didn’t leave faith. But I left Regina and Greg. I left Mrs. Clayton. I left Liz. I left my friends and I left my community.
Then I left Chicago.
So I’m rebuilding again. I’ve sat in meditation. I’ve embraced yoga on an entirely different level than ever before in my life. I’ve prayed. I’ve tried two churches here. I’ve met God in the ocean, on the mountain and on the trail.
Yesterday, I went to the Catholic Church in my town and kneeled and prayed. And all I got was, “You don’t belong here.”
Last night I went swimming and I asked God, “What do you want me to know?”
And here’s what I heard: “Stop trying to figure it out.”
So this morning I sat with it. I just shared with my husband:
“I miss Father Jerry. I miss my church community. I’m lonely. And I feel more loved than I ever have in my life. I only have people in my life who love me unconditionally.”
I’m no longer an emotional ATM. Occasionally, people make deposits via the ATM. But usually, folks use the ATM to withdrawal funds.
What if I were to tell you that you are actually a vessel for UNCONDITIONAL LOVE?
Yes, the capitalized version of those words.
I have found my path to unconditional love to be painful and messy and beautiful and illuminating and magical and fantastic.
Here’s what worked for me:
- Receiving: the next time someone thanks you, pause and take it in. Or if it’s a compliment, receive it before you volley back a reciprocal compliment.
- Pause: I am the fastest emailer in the west. I cannot wait to finish typing this to send it to you right now right now right now. Yet, I’m going to re-read it. I’ll ask myself if it passes the vulnerability meter. Like have I written anything that I cannot live with? Does this story represent a wound or a scar? Then I’m going to ask my husband to read it. And he’ll ask me questions and point out areas that don’t make sense. And I’ll have to pause and fix. And wait to see. You can pause with any action or reaction. You may not have control over an event, but you do have control of your reaction to an event.
- Boundaries: Sometimes boundaries can be made in silence. It’s worth avoiding engaging in gossip or even the pretend kind in which you’re sharing someone else’s story without their permission because you’re concerned for them. My boundary-making was learned the hard way. Childhood trauma actually has helped me understand and make better boundaries as an adult. I have a major radar for what is not okay—even in the simplest interaction in the grocery store. I’m safe. And the way I keep my heart safe is to be particular about which people I allow into my life. If something or someone’s behavior makes you uncomfortable—watch how that shows up in your body. Maybe when you read an email from that person, you notice your jaw clench or your back stiffen. Your body will often signal you before your heart and mind catches up.
- Detachment: This is about allowing for what is, to be. You cannot save everyone. You cannot actually change people. It’s the ultimate act of taking action on your end and letting go of the result.
And finally, there’s big faith. I have big faith in “if not this, then something better.” And I know I’m a vessel for UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. And it feels so good.
I want you to feel that way too.
I love you. I love me.
Love thyself. Start there. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be.
Thank you for reading. This has been my Father Jerry moment. I feel in community with you. I needed that today. Thank you for loving me unconditionally.
P.S. I’m currently obsessed with the work of Glennon Doyle Melton. I’m listening to her book, Love Warrior. Tomorrow* I start The Wisdom of Story course with her and Brené Brown. The code LOVE20 gets you 20% off. I’m not an affiliate, just sending you big love to write your own story and your own ending. In case you’d like to get to know Glennon better, I enjoyed her interviews with Marie Forleo, Lewis Howes and of course, with Oprah Winfrey on Super Soul Sunday. For more on Brené, check out aisle 2 of this post. I have a selection of her resources there.
*A week later…
P.P.S.: Well, I let this baby marinate for an entire week. I actually wrote it the morning of Sunday, September 11th. It’s been a beautiful week of healing. The Wisdom of Story course has been phenomenal. I also created this downloadable Ocean Meditation in the middle of the week which addresses many of the themes above. It’s only 10 minutes and it invites you to keep a paper and pen handy in case you need to get some things out of your head and on to a list. I hope you enjoy it! Sending you big UNCONDITIONAL LOVE for a phenomenal week. Witness a miracle because you are the spark behind one (or more!) every single day.