Love. When contemplating this seemingly simple 4-letter word, I feel like I've been swept up into the same energy level I'd give a full blown topic. But you know what, love is just like that! It's vast and complicated and at times simple and sweet.
I consider myself somewhat of a hopeless romantic. English/Grammar gurus, WhiteSmoke.com describes a hopeless romantic as, "a person who has romantic notions about life. For a hopeless romantic: life = love. The "hopeless" part might be due to the way these people perceive the world - in a dream-like, wishy-washy, perhaps unrealistic manner. Hopeless romantics have lofty or elaborate expectations, not just about love, but also about life itself". Yep, I think that pretty much sums it up! Yet, when I think into the deeper context of love and what comes about after love develops, for instance how love can go from intense burning flames then just fizzle out, it all ties back to how 'in-love' we are with ourselves.
When we share mutual love, a relationship or partnership, we have some type of expectation. At the very least, the love we posses/share will be reciprocated by our loved-one. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. "Why can't he/she love me the way I love them?" This goes right back to self-love. One can only love you as deeply as they love themselves. In other words "despite how open, peaceful and loving you attempt to be, people can only meet you as deeply as they have met themselves." (Matt Kahn). Think about how much grace we give ourselves when we fail at something or experience pain as a result of a wrong decision...how much mercy, tolerance and acceptance do we have for self with the challenges we face in any given day and the obstacles that sometimes get us down in life? The extent to which we show ourselves these characteristics of love, is the extent to which we have the capacity to love another.
In Corinthians 13:4-8, love is represented so perfectly, in words that are very near and dear to me: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
I love reflecting on this verse because it's a perfect reminder for me of the greatest love we will ever receive, a perfect love, the love of the Creator (God). It's safe to say we all desire a love like this from others, in particular from our partner/mate.
I think of the many relationships I have been blessed to experience (this from the hopeless romantic-HA!) and have identified in most where I chose a less desirable outcome or behaved poorly due to the lack of love I had for myself at the time. For instance, allowing a man to put his hands on me; accepting it and/or making excuses has to start with something in me. I am just as responsible IF I continue to allow it to happen, make excuses or simply do nothing to stop it. I remember the social stigma I felt in my early 20's, as a result of trying to open up to my boyfriend's mother about the physical abuse. It was as if I was wrong for saying anything. As if it was all in my head..and I was making a big deal about it. Well, clearly that wasn't gonna help! As a matter of fact, not much anyone said mattered, and even more than 10 years after the fact I allowed myself to be in another relationship that ended up physical. I stopped allowing myself to be abused (emotionally or physically) by a man the moment I stopped abusing myself with negative self talk and poor life choices.
Throughout my studies of Islam I've come to deeply love and connect with the Sufi way of life; so peaceful, grounded, loving, and self-aware. After being introduced to Hazrat Inayat Kahn, founder of The West Sufi Order in 1914, I began to understand how much greater I am than what I was allowing and accepting for myself. This due in large to past trauma and negative self talk I picked up along my path to adulthood. It's not easy to come face to face with those ugly parts of myself. Now days I often look up into the bathroom mirror and tell myself out loud "I love you Joy. You are beautiful!", with the same loving energy I have for my own children, looking into my own beautiful eyes...it's all in the feeling folks! In Kahn's book, 'The Art of Being and Becoming', he covers friendship in Part 3. In this lesson he likens true friendship to the love of The Creator (God). "Friendship is the first lesson of spirituality that one can learn...For someone who learns the lesson of friendship in this world, this lesson develops in the end into a friendship with God...God's grace does not come specially to the pious; it does not come necessarily to people who are very good; nor does it come readily to people who are very occult or mystical. It comes as love from friend to friend. When love comes it comes without a concept of right or wrong...it is a divine feeling that comes...it may be as inspiration, it may be as comfort, it may be as health, it may be as peace, it may be as rest, it may show itself in a thousand different forms." Here we see that love and friendship are synonymous. I'm sure most of us have heard the saying "God is Love", and these lessons further enlighten us to that fact. To be a true friend is to cover the friendship with the love of The Creator.
As I lay awake in bed this morning (2:37AM), my mind began to race and started running down the wrong choices I made the day before, the emptiness I feel at times as a single mother, the lack of "things" that I desire...etc, etc. I wept and thought, and thought and wept. As I lie there for the next 3 hours tossing and turning, before I knew it my 5:30 alarm went off. Quickly came 6AM and it was time to open my daily prayer call. Through the prayers we shared this morning, I reminded myself of the love, grace, mercy and patience I have learned to develop for myself. Reminding myself that I was gifted with another day to be greater than the day before...to love myself better, be grateful and enjoy my journey.
It's ok to have down moments and even cry, but the love you have for yourself won't allow that to go on for too long. Just as we love our friends or partner on their down days, the love we have for them inspires and encourages them, reminds them of the greatness they posses and all the abundance that's there waiting for them to step into.
Knowing I desire a love of my own, partnership with my best friend and husband, I become more aware and appreciative of the love I have learned to give towards myself; grace and mercy included. I have always been very hard on myself, which is changing and has helped me to grow. And might I add, this is not an easy feat for me!
Queens and Kings, my prayer as we continue this journey to unveiling the gift of love and true friendship, that we remember to start each day with truly loving the most important person in our lives, YOU.