When I agreed to tell the story behind each of my 35 lessons in 35 years, and when I decided to tell them in order, I immediately regretted putting this one second. I would have much rather told this story near the end of the series, not at the beginning. And still, it is a story that needs telling–not because I want to relive any of it, but because I want to share with you the lessons I have learned as a result.
To tell this story means going back to last winter.
I remember our excitement before the holidays, when we moved into the basement. I was adjusting to being “back to reality” after our summer of sailing. I no longer maintained a personal Facebook account, and that had led to me forging strong friendships with a number of other bloggers, through e-mail. I was being pushed, I was being challenged, and I was overwhelmed by all the positive interactions I was having.
At times I had to take breaks, because hearing so many positive things was too much. I wasn’t sure why I was so overwhelmed, but, in an effort to find out and discover, I chose “Love” as my one-word theme for 2013. I wanted to understand why I had such a difficult time accepting the love that was offered to me. (Before I go on, I should add that I am referring to “love” in the broad sense, not necessarily romantic love, although I had a hard time accepting love from my husband as well).
I sought it out, and it was shown to me, in a most beautiful way.
My life situation was mediocre, but it was safe. I didn’t love it, but the security was hard to leave. (For more specifics on my story, click here). Everyday, as I went to my job, a part of me remained behind, on our boat. I kept wishing that there were a way to remain in the “world” of the summer, rather than having to return to “reality” for the bulk of the year.
Still, with all the positive reinforcement and encouragement, I made the most of my situation. I took more risks, stepped out of my comfort zone, and was beginning to find my passion for my daily life, on land. I took more chances with my writing, as well as in my career. I began to realize that I was strong, and that risks were worth taking.
And then, after a 10 minute meeting, it all changed.
I learned that I knew nothing. As the situation worsened, I felt fear as I have never felt it before. Nothing was safe, nothing was secure, and nothing made sense anymore. I no longer knew who I could trust, or who was planning to harm me next. Everything I believed to be true about myself, about the world, and about human nature was being challenged.
And yet, through it all, I was never alone. Co-workers came to talk to me, to bring me chocolate–and advocate for me when necessary. Friends I’d never met in real life were constantly available, sending me words of encouragement throughout the day. This love was constant, no matter how upset I became, no matter how crazy I acted, in my fear. I was loved, completely, even though I was, at that time, incapable of giving anything back.
It was through this love that I was able to see a path, that I was able to find within myself the strength I needed to do what I needed to do. It was through this love that I was able to see the fallacy contained within my fears–yes, “security” is fake, but the world, life, is infinitely safer than we could ever realize. We have the choice to not believe what is said about us. We have the choice to see when a situation is no longer working for us, and to act upon it. Fear is an experience that we all have, and always will have, but fear exists only in our heads.
Love, on the other hand, is real.
Before we made this move, while we were in the process of making changes, I wondered what lie beyond all of the fears and worries that have defined my adult life. Now I know the answer. What lies beyond, is the only thing that is real. The only thing that makes sense.
The most amazing part of the story is that, after being loved through such a dark time, I gradually learned to love and to regard myself in the same way. And once I was able to extend such love and compassion to myself, I found myself becoming more able to love others in the same way. I see things differently, I understand more. While I still occasionally act out of fear, based on the past, I have definitely grown as a result of the lessons taught to me by love.