I once told a therapist that I wasn’t sure if I was the kind of person who could be loved. Every time I’ve fallen in love, I’ve had my heart broken. If love dies, how do I know it’s been there at all?
She asked me to list the things that I’ve done for people that I’ve loved.
I told her about my first love and the times I would draw or paint on his back because he said it made him feel so relaxed. And when he called me while I was at an important event, because he needed me, and I made it home in record time.
I talked about my second love, and when he asked me to pick up cigarettes, and how I overdrafted my account to get them for him. I developed a habit to never tell him when I was upset because I wouldn’t want him to feel like I loved him any less. I told her about all the things I failed at cooking for him, no matter how embarrassed I was when they turned out horrible. I told the story of when he needed a ride to the hospital in the middle of the night and I skipped work to make sure he was okay. I went to parties I was miserable at just to see him happy. I tried to ignore my emotional needs to ensure his were met for as long as I could.
I told her about my mom, and how I drove for hours in the middle of the night to be there when she woke up from surgery. I bring her coffee to work sometimes just so I can see her for a few minutes during the day. I snuggle with her as much as she’ll let me every night. I explained how she is the first person I ask for advice or invite to go anywhere with me. I told the story of Mother’s Day 2008, when I used chalk to create her own parking space at work.
I brought up my best friend and our biggest fight. It lasted about an hour, because how could I stay mad at the most wonderful person in the world? I thought about how quiet she is and how I’d stick up for her when she couldn’t. Even though she’s an introvert, I invite her to everything with me so she always feels included and gets the satisfaction of saying no. I showed her the wishlist I have in my phone to keep track of everything I want to get her for her birthday. I watch her location, too, and I make sure to check it before I call her, just in case she’s busy.
I went on and on about my daughter, and all the ways I try to make her feel loved. I tuck her in every night, I never set a budget when we go to Build-A-Bear, I avoid yelling when she’s upset. When she’s really having a meltdown, I trace her face with my finger, or a makeup brush, because she calms down much better with someone’s help than alone. One of her favorite things to do is watch the sunset at the beach with me. I have thousands of pictures of her backed up on many devices so she always has access to the times she won’t remember someday. Whenever she needs to apologize to someone, I find something to apologize for first so she doesn’t feel embarrassed. I remind her several times a day how much I love her.
I told her about how I moved halfway across the country to nanny for a friend that couldn’t find a daycare. I try to always buy food when I visit another friend to make sure she’s still eating. I’ve held my friend’s hand as she faced her abuser in court. I bought a souvenir t-shirt for my ex after we broke up because it just reminded me of him. I always ask if my friends want my old clothes before I get rid of them. I send them TikToks and songs and memes so they know I’m thinking of them.
The only thought that’s ever on my mind is “How can I improve the lives of these people that I love? What can I do today that would make them feel good?”
So my therapist and I discussed how much love I have and share, and she asked me “Do you really think you’re the only person in this world that has that much love to give?”
I’m not. There are billions of other people on this planet that have billions of ways to express love. If you have love to give others, others have love to give to you if you just look in the right places.