All love begins in relationship. First in our relationship to our mother and father or our parental figure, and then with ourself. The love from parent to child teaches us to know and feel love. Unless trauma is present, a young child easily expresses love for herself and for the world. It is obvious when you spend time around a toddler, they have an uninhibited flow of love. From there, we experience love between friends, romantic love, and the love of our own family.
Somewhere along the way, for many, this free flowing love is interrupted, whether by trauma, pain or wounding. Enduring the challenges of this human existence, it is not always easy to find that love for the world and for ourselves we joyously felt as young children. Often times we shut down. However, as we do, we close ourselves from the very love we are needing. For it is in relationship to others and ourselves that love is expressed and received.
I have been blessed with beautiful connections and friendships over the years. Some have ended while others have endured. Some have been painfully hard, while others refreshingly easy. Sometimes I have closed myself in fear of being hurt. I now see they all have taught me about love. And when I remain open and vulnerable, I receive the greatest lessons of love.
One new relationship I have come to cherish is with my friend Katie. Although I have only known her for a little over a year, she is one of my tribe. On Monday we were out on our usual rock climbing excursion at a local gym when overcome with emotion after a challenging couple of days, I jumped off a lead climb, just feet from the ground. I looked up at the line, it was harder than any I had led up to this point, and I felt disheartened. I did not want to lead this route.
I stared at the wall, attempting to coax myself to get back on and climb. "Janelle you got this" I muttered halfheartedly to myself. I continued to stare at the wall, becoming frustrated. Just when I was about to give up, the song Karma Chameleon came on. Of all the 80's songs, this song hands down, reminds me the most of my mom (and I might add, it is not one that typically plays at a rock climbing gym). The memory of my mom dancing around the kitchen to Boy George flashed through my mind. She had such a vivacious energy and love of life. (See She Loved to Dance). Although she died six years ago, I suddenly felt her there, urging me on.
"Ok, mom I know you are here. What is it you are wanting to tell me?" I whispered to myself, feeling her presence. I realized she was not just pushing me to lead this climb, but to move through all the challenging "mountainous" climbs in my life with an open heart.
I could feel the tears well. I choked them back, took a breath, and stepped onto the first hold. Halfway to the top, I shouted to Katie to take and sat back into my harness. It was the crux of the climb. Suspended in mid air, I felt a wave of sadness. I fought the tears. But they spilled anyway. I faced the wall, not wanting Katie (or anyone else for that matter) to see me cry. The voice in my head was saying, "C'mon Janelle you're at the rock climbing gym, suck it up, what's wrong with you?" Willing myself on, I gathered up my strength and finished the climb.
“Yeah, nice!!!” Katie shouted enthusiastically as she lowered me.
“That was awesome! I knew you could do it.” She beamed at me.
I smiled back at her.
"I used one hold that was not mine." I stated, looking up.
"No you didn't. That was in. You climbed the whole route!" she exclaimed excitedly.
We grabbed the rope and walked over to our next climb. Standing at the bottom of the wall, Katie began to flank the rope. Yet again, I unsuccessfully attempted to choke back tears before I succumbed to the sadness I was feeling. I shared with Katie what was moving through me.
“I am so sensitive.” I state. “I could learn some mental toughness from you.”
She listens attentively before replying “That's what makes you you. It is one of your gifts. It’s what makes you good at what you do”
I look at her and listen, wide eyed like a toddler allowing myself to receive her love and support.
“I think you have a healthy balance of strength and sensitivity.” She looks at me sincerely.
“Thank you Katie.” I respond feeling her acceptance of who I am.
I know this about myself, but in my fragile state I needed a reminder. I needed Katie to see me. And she did. She not only saw me, she reciprocated love.
A love I am learning. It is a love that is powerful and like no other. A love expressed with joyous curiosity. A love that accepts who I am even when I make mistakes. A love that embraces every aspect of myself, including my sensitivity. A love that makes no excuses. A compassionate love. A bold love. A love that is present, that I can tap into whenever I need. A love that is with me ALL THE TIME. It is the spark and endless source of inspiration inside.
It is radical life changing love. And it is redefining my relationships. Especially the one with myself.
"The more I think about our talk yesterday the more I want to tell you that I think you're the perfect mix of sensitive and thoughtful and silly and contemplative. You would not be as good of a connector and listener and soul searcher and easy friend-maker if you were less sensitive. You're great the way you are, don't wish to be different." Not surprisingly as I was working on this post, I received this text from Katie. xo