When I was very little my mother bought me the book Mama, Do You Love Me? as a reinforcement of the fact that, yes, she did love me AND was willing to go to great lengths to make sure I got that love drilled into my young heart and head. As far back as my memories go, I remember strongly ascribing to the idea that I loved people with a depth that far surpassed their ability to love me. This came from both my belief that I was far too challenging and intense a human being to actually be lovable and my belief that the very intensity that made me unlovable, ironically, caused me to love on a more outrageous level than others seemed capable of. Goodbyes seemed harder for me, I never tired of those I cared for even after they had long become annoyed by me, and the wounds of rejection never seemed to fully heal. This theme was repeated over and over throughout my life (oftentimes due to being a self-fulfilling prophecy more than anything else) in a variety of ways. I frequently engaged with (maybe more accurately, I subconsciously sought out) people who did not have the capacity, desire, or sometimes both to love me in the ways I needed and wanted and cried my eyes out when they did precisely what they were always going to do and I used each friendship that went awry as more evidence and fuel for my beliefs.

Through years of wrestling through this with God and trusted ones, I can now on my good days view myself as quite loved and lovable. I wish more than anything though that I could say I’ve been fully freed from the chains of this myth. However, when things go wrong, it’s still sometimes the very first place my mind seems to go. A friend stops responding to calls, texts, and Facebook messages, a conflict occurs with someone I’m close to, there’s a dry spell in my social calendar… All of it can make that voice come out and lie, “You know why it happened… You know why they don’t love you…” It doesn’t help that some I believed have known me and cared for me most have been quick to point out my “intensity” just before they disappear either temporarily or permanently. This will likely be one of those lifelong battles for me. Funny thing is, I think this battle is shared with more people than I ever realized.

Does anyone else who works in mental health ever notice a theme in your clients? Well, I’m pretty sure I ended up with the exact caseload I was supposed to have because there is a STRONG theme among my clients right now and it was out in full force this week. So many feel completely and entirely unloved, unwanted… As if it would take just one mistake, one screw-up, for everyone in their life to say “Forget it… You’re not worth it. You were never worth it. You’ll never be worth it. We never wanted you. No one will ever want you.” And there with them I sit as they cry and they don’t know that I’ve cried the same tears, that so many of my other clients, too, have cried the same tears. No we didn’t feel unloved for all the same reasons, but we all felt it. The mistakes we made, the way we were, at some point, someone made us believe the lie that those things were unforgiveable… insurmountable…

As I’ve mentioned before, birthdays are rough for me. Mostly for all the reasons I noted in my past post on birthdays, but also for another reason I’m far more embarrassed to discuss. I used to view birthdays as a way to gauge just how loved I actually was. This was particularly true in my high school, college and early post-college years. I can’t believe I am admitting this, but I would actually look back and compare how many Facebook wall posts I had received from year to year and if the number had increased or decreased and if I had managed to get more or less posts than my peers had received on their birthdays. If my post number was “low,” if I hadn’t received “enough” cards, if it appeared no one had sought to make that day particularly “special,” it must mean I wasn’t all that loved that year, that others had once again succeeded in being more lovable than I could ever be. For that reason it seemed so incredibly perfect that on my birthday I provided tissues and empathy to those who are still in the struggle, those who still believe that something as magical, as mysterious, as meaningful as love could ever be measured. Those who still believe there might not be enough love for them, that someday love could run out.

I’ve learned a little something about love in the last few years. There’s this great quote from the book The Perks of Being a Wallflower… “We accept the love we think we deserve.” I’ve gotten a lot better at accepting true love and rejecting the counterfeits. I’ve gotten better at pursuing it, too. Now, I don’t wait for disappointment and then cry about it; I tell others what I need and if they can’t give it to me, I go and get it for myself. I cry out for love from the Source that always gives it immeasurably and unconditionally. I don’t hope for someone else to plan the birthday I want; I plan it for myself. I seek to give the kind of love I want to get. I try not to wait for a reason. If I love you, you’ll know. You won’t need to question it. You won’t need to ask. It will just be there, sure and true. Yeah, people still drop off for reasons I’ll never know or understand and I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t bother me. I still love them, though, perhaps in way that is less “intense.” But I’m finding as I go that there is always more than enough love to go around. The more love I accept and give, the more love seems to multiply.

So… Who do you love? Do they know? Who feels unloved around you? Do you have any extra love for them? Are you feeling loved enough? If not, do you have the courage to pursue it? To accept it? I hope so, because no matter who you are, where you are, you are loved and you are lovable. Take it from me. I promise. I know.