… is love (all together now). All you need is love …” [sings John Lennon]. How simple this one phrase, this one word. Yet how complicated and elusive. During my wild oats years, past a still-born marriage and clinical depression and well into my fifties, that word always spooked me. I didn’t know what it meant and just saying it to please others would have been dishonest.
To love, for me, had implied ‘to love a woman’ and for years the best I could muster was to be fond of someone, occasionally very fond. The reasons for my reluctance, nay inability, to feel love were manifold, going back — let’s skip the details — to early childhood and teenage years, when being loved meant a whack up the side of the head (or bottom or any other body part) and steady assurances of my unworthiness.
In mid-life I began to experiment with saying the word, but each time felt the imposter. There was always a hunger for love — by any other name — and always a wanting-to-be-loved by another (my dead mom?). During counselling training (surprised?) in the ’70s, I became acquainted with Carl Rogers’ unconditional positive regard, but didn’t think it meant loving the client. And to “love thyself” was just too weird a concept.
Since then, gradually and gracefully, I’ve learned to re-view the rage within as the capacity for loving. It naturally evolved as I let women (and men, rarely) come close to me: wise beings who saw something in me which I couldn’t. Each time the carapace cracked and something softened within. Four years ago, a traumatic experience of loss and grief led me to hospice work, where sitting with people near death opened my heart beyond anything I could have imagined.
“The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size,” wrote Oliver Wendell Holmes. And so, I find, does the heart. I’m glad to have lived long enough to see the day.
image: the soft carapace of a new-born Northern Snake-necked Turtle at www.chelodina.com/8.htm.