Do I know how to love?

do-i-know-how-to-loveHe said that he loved me.

I said “that’s nice”.

I didn’t know what else to say.  I did not know him to love him, or did I?  Even more than that, I was not sure if I even know how to love.  How do you love someone?  What does that mean?  I know that it is more than just the words, there are some behaviors that must go with that.  I know enough to know that love is a verb.  It is an action.  It requires more than just an emotion, while an emotion is there, it demands action.

I know that love is patient and kind.  It never gives up and cares for others.  It cares more for others than it does for itself.  It does not force itself on others, it doesn’t keep score.  Love does not revel when others grovel.  Love takes pleasure in the truth.  I know that love is not puffed up, always looks for the best, and keeps going to the end.  Love is the greatest, that is what my Bible tells me.  I know this in my head, my family, my friends, but not romantically.  Is something wrong with me?

What the Bible does not tell me is how does love protect me from the pain that I am anticipating.  How do I not get hurt when I give my heart and soul to someone?  When I first sense that I have been lied to, and especially when I lose trust, my first instinct is to build my hedge of protection.  How do I pull it down or even better, how do I not feel the need to build it in the first place?  How do I know when to trust, when to give a second chance, what is a second chance?   I don’t know, and what is even sadder, is that I don’t know where to begin.

Why am I anticipating this pain?  Because it always happens, doesn’t it?  People inevitably hurt you.  No, not always on purpose, but how do you tell the difference between inadvertent pain and that which is purposeful?  When that pain happen, regardless of the type, what are you to do?  I know I am to forgive, and I do, but how do I forget?  And since I can’t forget, how do I move on?  And I find myself always moving on.

I know that this is making me sound like a total nut case, but I can’t be the only one, can I?  Somewhere in my life, I never learned that I would survive hurt of pain. And when I have survived, it is because of my self preservation mechanisms. Or maybe it was that I have been hurt so many times, that I just automatically begin to protect myself.

I don’t remember what exactly happened the first time I felt my heart break, but I think I was in nursery school in Georgetown, SC when, while eating a banana, Paul Patterson called me monkey girl.  I liked Paul Patterson.  I liked him very much for a 5 year old, and the fact that I still know his name, after over 50 years, means that it affected me deeply when he called me that name.  (That is also the reason that I don’t eat bananas or banana pudding to this day…lol.)  I just remember the pain of that rejection, and I think that I determined at that moment, at 5-years old, I would never feel hurt like that again.  That I would do whatever it took to protect myself from the angst that I felt that day, at lunch, in nursery school.   To this day, I continue to do the same thing, protect my heart.

When someone says that they love me, I am always looking for the reason.  What is the real motive?  What do they want from me?  Of course, there is something that they want, because, dare I say it, truly they don’t love me for nothing more than it is me.  That they see the value I have brought into their lives.  That they want me to understand that their feelings for me are more than just a casual acquaintance or a football buddy friendship.  That they enjoy my company, and want to spend time with me, talk to me, care for me only because I am me.  I know this is not right thinking, but it seeps into my brain, grabs a cup of tea, sits on the couch and takes up residence in my head space.

I am 52 years old, and I am not sure if I have ever really loved someone.  I have lusted after, deeply cared for, admired, respected, and even liked a lot, but I don’t think that I have ever truly loved.  Oh, I have dreamed of being in love.  Dreamed of having that special person in my life that gets me.  That takes the time to understand the quirkiness that is me.  Gets my sense of humor, my love of my family.  Takes the time to learn of my desire and drive to help others and why I have the friends I do.  I have wanted someone to support me in the adventures I embark on, and to join me in the experiences that I desire to have.  Build a future, grow old together, rub each other feet and our what nots, sit on the front porch, wave at the neighbors walking by and hold hands while we look at the sun set.

Someone who can look past me to really see me.  Am I asking too much?  But then I realize that maybe it is because I don’t have a real genuine love to give someone.  Could it be that in always waiting for the other shoe to fall, and being prepared to protect myself, I have cut myself off from those who are willing to love me.  I don’t know how to be vulnerable.  I have a difficult time asking and accepting help.  I have always done it myself, because I don’t want the disappointment of some else not being able to do, say be…whatever.  And, I have discovered that in doing it myself, I have not allowed others to be a blessing to me, to love me, and to show me how to love them.  Which also means that I have not allowed them to learn how to love me.

And so, he told me that he loved me, and I said “that’s nice”.

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