I learned early on that I couldn’t really count on people. At least not in the way I wanted to. I have great people in my life, don’t get me wrong, but none of them love the way I do. I don’t know why I am this way or how it happened. I’ve always been this way so I think it’s the way I was built and not the way I was conditioned. But if I was built this way, then why are neither of my parents this way? I WAS TOTALLY ADOPTED.
Ok, no not really. I definitely have my mom’s eyes and my dad’s smile. But I’ve always needed love. Not in the way that everyone else needs love, but in a way that puts me on some different kind of level. I struggled with my self-esteem a lot growing up because I didn’t feel worthy. Like I need to be told I’m loved several times a day. Like I need constant affirmation and affection. I actually remember throughout my childhood proclaiming that my parents didn’t love me. In fact, I would yell this at my mother when we were fighting. It frustrated her of course, because obviously she loved me. It’s not like I had a bad childhood. I mean, there was a period that was hard on my whole family, but I was always taken care of, always given the normal amount of affection you would expect – good birthday parties, hugs, “I love you’s” (although not everyday.) But I also remember eating lunch in the elementary school cafeteria, and one of my friends always opened her lunch to find a sweet note on her napkin from her mom. My mom never did that, and I thought she must not love me as much as my friend’s mom loves her. And I vowed from an early age to always put notes in my kids’ lunchboxes.
I’m good at that. Finding fault in other people. Holding them to impossible standards. I lost a lot of friends in middle school and high school because of this. I asked too much of them. I expected them to be perfect. I wanted them there for me at all times. I wanted to count on them. When I realized what I was doing it was too late. I had already pushed too many people away because I refused to accept their imperfections.
Let me back up here for a second, before you discount me as a crazy perfectionist who doesn’t appreciate what I have. Not only do I crave love to an insatiable degree, but I also give love more than anyone I know. I wanted my friends to surprise me on my birthday because I always surprised them. I wanted my parents to write me notes, because I often did for them. I wanted people to console me when I was upset, because I was always consoling everyone else. I’m actually a damn good friend if I say so myself. I’m a good partner. I’m a good lover. I’m a good family member in the sense that I am there no matter what. I have other faults, of course, one being how critical I am. While I am a good partner, it’s pretty hard to be a good partner to me. I will pretty much remember forever every time you mess up. Scary, huh? But for as critical as I am of others, I am even harsher on myself.
I often feel that I give more than I take, but I also try (more than I used to) to accept people the way they are and to likewise accept the way they express love, even if it isn’t as outward and obvious as the way I express love. Still, I often feel that I am always the one giving and receiving very little in return. Maybe this isn’t accurate. But maybe, just maybe it is.
I wrestle with this often. Mostly in my marriage, because my husband and I are polar opposites when it comes to how we give and receive love. I wrestle with this in my friendships and in many other relationships. But even when I feel alone and unloved (which I know isn’t true, yet I still sometimes feel this way), I have come to one overarching conclusion.
Love is what life is about. Love is what being alive means. Love is at the core of human connection, productivity, and happiness. Love is what makes us who we are.
I have been given a gift when it comes to compassion, empathy and understanding. I have the ability to bring out the best in people. I am there to remind people that they aren’t alone. I make people feel better. I give people confidence. Maybe I even make the world a better place.
I give my heart – my whole heart – to just about anyone I meet. Even when it is broken, I always give it again. I give my heart to strangers.
I don’t always feel that I get back what I give, but maybe that’s the point. Maybe I don’t get it back in the way I feel I should, but I do get it back somehow. I get it back in the connections I help to create. I get it back in the positive feelings I hope to leave in others, who then spread positivity to others. It isn’t always about receiving love, but about spreading love.
I have to like this about myself because I have no choice. I can either change it or accept it, and I don’t think I’m capable of changing it.
So I guess when it comes down to it, if I live the kind of life that gives more than receives, and if I give unconditional love not met with an expectation of reciprocity, then I will make the world a better place. I would like to believe the world needs people like me. I would like to believe that at the end of the day if I have nothing, but I have given love, then I have done something worthwhile.