“How do I learn to unconditionally love?” my client asked. My answer was suffering. It’s easier to love something or someone when everything is okay, when they fulfill most of our expectations. In fact, the more of our expectations that are filled the happier we are with the person or circumstance. We take our expectations further and figure unconditional love belongs to our lovers and family. Our judgement from our expectation is that the world does not deserve our love – not unconditionally. I never understood this growing up. We are born into this world, not knowing how to hate, we have our first loves, our parents. I lost my first love in the physical world, before I could even remember his presence, my father. I never saw anyone grieving, no one cried for him or rather, I didn’t see anyone else cry for him.
I wish she would’ve cried…
I don’t have conscious memory of my father, and no one acted like anyone was gone. There were parties, gatherings, family barbeques and birthday parties. I remember being in elementary school and the teacher announcing, “Today we are going to make Father’s Day cards”. I watched everyone excitedly write “Dad” and how much they loved him. As I wrote the words, I spoke to the teacher “but Ms.…. I don’t have a ‘dad’”. I don’t entirely remember her response. I vaguely remember something along the lines of “well you can make one anyway and give it to your mom”. I felt that was weird but sure why not? I felt empty making the card, because who was I making this for? Upon giving it to my mom, she didn’t show much emotion, she took it and said that’s nice and everything else continued as usual.
I saw his pictures around the house, especially the one with my sisters, him and my mother (I wasn’t born yet) and asked my mother, “where is dad?”. She simply would reply “he died”. My sisters didn’t cry, my family didn’t cry, my mother didn’t cry. I saw my mother laughing, my sisters playing and then I didn’t see my mother at all. My sisters, well older than me, were into their own lives. I didn’t know, but my mother would grieve in the next decade behind a door that remained shut more and more each day, until I hardly saw her at all. I never knew why. I’d slide notes under her door asking her to come love me and there would be no reply. The smell of cigarettes and sounds of cards shuffling as she’d play solitaire came out of the room the most.
I was digging through old stuff, exploring like I do around the house and then came across a news paper clipping of what happened to my father. 32 year old male shot dead in the back of the head during robbery. I saw my father’s face. I saw his name “Paul” and I felt like I was suspended in time. I never knew what happened before that day. Showing it to my mom, she nonchalantly looked at the article and told me the story exactly the way the article said. He was being robbed, beat up one of the guys, the other guy comes and shoots him as he was walking away. She said it so casually. I figured it wasn’t real. She to know more. He was a marine, maybe he was on a secret government mission and they faked his death.
There were days that I would sit on the chair near the front window of my home and imagine him coming home through the front gate. I’d run out and say “I knew it!”. It wasn’t until I had my first psychic experience of seeing my father’s spirit that I realized…he was indeed dead. He came to me clear as day, clear as anyone one sitting in this room with me. My father was gone and his soul was in front of me. Not only could I see dead people, I saw the one person I didn’t want to believe was dead.
I sat in my mother’s red car nervously kicking my feet as she prepared to drive. I said “I saw dad, and he said he loves you”. Pausing for a moment with her hand on the car radio, my mother’s eyes were still and her expression made me turn away. She asked me “what else did he say?” and I replied words that I don’t remember. I teared up but looking back up at her calm face, I felt crying was wrong and pushed them down and away.
Still, no one acted like it, like he was physically here and then not. No one visibly grieved. I heard short little stories from his brother how great he was, but the stories felt foreign to me. I had no person to connect them to. I had no father to connect me to. Who is this man, and should I grieve over someone I have no memory of? No matter how much they say I look and act like him, I couldn’t recall this stranger that I was so much like. I didn’t know if I was feeling loss, how could I when there was nothing in the physical to experience? What is loss? What is death?
Our first loves are our parents and I physically lost one, and emotionally lost the other. Each half of my whole heart broken. By the time my mother’s presence emotionally reemerged in my life, I was already too heartbroken to forgive her or anyone, for a long time. It’s important to appear human. I have clients say, “I don’t want my child to see me broken or sad”, and I reply then how will they have the visual that it’s possible to recover when they are sad and broken. Let your child see you fall, and then let them watch you get back up! I never saw my mother fall, and so I never knew she did, until I was older and we communicated. We hide our emotions as if they are something shameful or weapons that can be used against us. We hide how human we are, when the one thing we are to show the little ones is how to be human because that is what they are now. I’d never seen my mother cry about missing my father until I was well into my 20’s. I wish she would’ve, I wish my sisters and all of my family would have. I would have know his death was real, that “falling” happens and most importantly I would’ve known that it was okay to grieve, that it was okay he was not physically with us.
Through my early years I’d go on to experience: verbal and sometimes physically abusive relationships very young, questionable uncles, abused aunts-dying at the hands of their abusers, diseases/cancer/sickness in my family, severe bullying and more. I was broken into more pieces than I could count before I had the chance to figure out why I was broken to begin with, before I had a chance to know who I was as a whole person to begin with. I hated the world, including myself and my love for anything had no leg to stand on. Counseling sessions always seemed to be with someone with whom I couldn’t connect. They were doing what the books taught them how to do, which was great for diagnosing my anxiety and mental cycles, but I couldn’t connect in a way that felt safe to open up. My family was emotionally worlds apart. I hated God for what had been done to me, because why bring me here to suffer with what felt like the curse of a gift to add. One night, while in pain from all the hate in body, I prayed for it to be taken away, because if it were to stay I would certainly die. The next morning the hate seemed to have disappeared, but I knew from that point, that much work was ahead of me and little to my knowledge, I’d die anyway. Many times.
You know how to put a puzzle together by deciphering what’s on each piece and how it relates to the other pieces. Pieces with flowers go with other ones, and buildings with buildings. We may pick up a piece that seems insignificant such as the sky or an odd shaped one, but we know at some point every piece will have its place and you keep it instead of throwing it away as meaningless. Once we connect pieces we admire what we’ve done and keep putting pieces together, sometimes going back to rearranged how we looked at the picture on the piece. What we thought was sky, turns out to be water. If we’ve taken our time and committed to each piece, we don’t have to go back as often, perhaps only maybe to admire the picture it’s created thus far. Well, the same is for our pieces in our lives.
These moments, down to our “insignificant phases” are all pieces. Some people dump out the box of their pieces for the first time and feel overwhelmed, they think “where do I start?” Typically you find a piece that you like, and decide to start there, because you want to see that pretty part of the picture. You may have to sort through and connect other pieces along the way. You may have to put together aspects of the picture that you don’t care for before getting to the “good part”. The difference here from real life is, God has the box and we only got to look at it once before we arrived here.Sometimes we see bits of the picture in our hearts, that comes with understanding. We have an idea of the full picture but upon first looking, we realized we don’t have all the pieces at once. You’re puzzle isn’t complete until you are physically finished here in life, though along the way, each time you renew yourself, another few pieces drop in front of you. There may be times you need to take a break, there may be times you get frustrated and flip your puzzle off the table, only to have to pick the pieces up off the floor. There are pieces connecting that I didn’t even think were a part of my puzzle that I thought someone else put there, but nope all mine.
I’ve come to see how the pieces have fit together thus far but committing to myself, by choosing myself and wanting to contribute something to the direction of society, while I’m here. I think the most astounding view I’ve had of these “life puzzles” is how all of ours connect at some point or another. I’d like the pieces that I contribute to be most beautiful and other times I hope they are not, so that someone can learn to love – love – that part of their puzzle anyway.
It’s not our hearts fault…
So how do you learn to love unconditionally? You do by loving when it hurts the most. By loving when it feels like you just want to close your heart the most. Those moments when it’s “back to my old ways” or “I’m going to be cold to the world and only love my peoples”, love harder than you ever have. It hurts to love with a broken heart because healing is painful sometimes. It’s not our hearts fault. Love seriously hurts because our mind interprets what has happened as deceit, violation, disappointment, “heartbreak”. The truth is it’s the breaking of our expectations. “I loved you so well and you don’t love me back”, “How dare you I’m your mother”, and many, many more. It’s not our hearts that are broke, it’s the expectation from social norms derived in an insecure culture that has broken your hearts. We don’t know how to love, we know how to appease each others insecurities by creating a criteria of expectations that say this is how you won’t get hurt, and we’ve created them for all of our relationships! Unconditional love isn’t hard at all we do it naturally. That’s why we say “I know they did wrong but I still love them and it hurts”. You expected a relationship where a,b,c doesn’t happen and it did. You built your mind and mental picture of your life around someone else who has their own autonomy. Did you think that you’d lock your partner in? Love is not a prison. Love is healing, flowing, embracing, accepting -like God, the source from which it flows. So, I didn’t overcome my circumstances, I didn’t defeat my trials, I accepted them. I let them change me, not to make me colder – in the long run, rather to make me softer and understand those who have similar experiences. I no longer need an emotional safety net just in case my mental expectations don’t play out. I have hope, faith- a positive outlook, and when things are out of my control because they don’t happen as I want I stopped throwing emotional fits where I was handing my peace away, like a spoiled brat. The mind games had to end and be overcome, I had to learn to see the blessing in everything that ever hurt me and how I could use it to make me better- what it was teaching me, so that I could expand my heart instead of closing it to preserve my egoistical expectations. Judging when someone deserves your love, and who deserves your well wishes. You love (feeling) who you love (acting love). I realized unconditional love is a matter of perspective. Healing is a matter of perspective. You don’t need to change your heart to heal or even your natural human emotions, you only just have to change your mind that tells you if it was ever right or wrong.