I’m more raw and real today than I have been in a very long time.
You might not realize it at first glance. I’m still getting used to it, myself. What happened? What’s different? What changed?
Last year, I became very close to a dear friend who I grew to love. And as love does, that love revealed many things and has taught me an enormous amount.
You see, ever since I was around 12 or so, I’ve gone through these 3-or-so-year swings with love. Romantic love. There’d be a girl, a crush, a relationship, something without a definition or “something more than just hanging out.” And when it would ultimately end for one reason or another, my heart would shatter.
Anxiety. Panic attacks. Depression. Violent heartaches so severe that my days would unroot and my nights would be sleepless.
I would change then, too.
I’d decide to heal by cutting off my love for a while.
I did it to try to heal; I did it to try to preserve myself from the perils of heartache and loneliness and that pain. I acted as if I could reclaim my dignity, my pride and happiness itself by hiding from love; holing it up in my chest and keep my heart from getting hurt like that again.
I’d swear love off.
I’d promise that I would never let it happen to me, ever again. It was a defense mechanism. It was, and has always been, one of the tough parts of being so naturally keen and tuned into to empathy, feeling and emotion — personal strengths that I use as a writer and creative every day, but strengths that feel like weaknesses in such moments of heartbreak.
Three-or-four-years would pass. I’d eventually “let my guard down.”
Someone else would enter my life. I’d let her in. And though there was beauty and love and great moments of learning and experience, I’d end up crushed, heartbroken and shattered, again. And the cycle would repeat.
But this past year, with this special girl, finally something has changed in me — hopefully, forever. Because I believe it’s a life lesson that God has been trying to teach me. And so that lesson is what I’m committing to.
And even though our magical time together has ended, and that has surely has left me hurting, I am determined — this time — to heal openly, and not closed off.
That’s because this wonderful soul taught me how to finally receive love.
To accept and embrace it. To feel worthy and receptive to it. Without judgment or expectation. Just open. Accepting. Receiving. Because I deserve it.
For most of my life, I would deny the love that others offered me with the excuse that a giver is just that, a giver and a giver alone. And a true giver, a true leader, couldn’t accept love and praise and followers if he was to give to the fullest extent he was able. “It was his job to give, not take,” I’d say.
I broke giving and receiving into black and white like that.
One was selfless, the other was selfish. One was good, the other was not.
But she taught me that I am worthy of love. She taught me to finally accept it. To receive it, humbly. To honor it, truly. To cherish it, gratefully. And how receiving love makes everything so much better. Life, the journey, the experience — and what I’m capable of giving.
And now in this space of trying to heal and figuring out how I might be able to write, or create, or give (or receive?) my way through healing, I’m kind of lost.
The truth is that I don’t know how to heal my way through openness.
And I feel part of myself wanting to close off again as I’ve always done: to callous my heart over through the pain with anger and woe-is-me so it would be protected again.
But that’s not what I am going to do.
I’m choosing heart-open, not heart-broken.
And I’m committing to it. And part of that is sharing this with you. It’s being open, instead of closing off. It’s keeping my “heart-opening” just that… opening… so that I can receive, and be the best giver, and let love’s beautiful cycle ensue.
Choosing to Stay Open, or Choosing to Close?
There’s this song that I absolutely love called Amaryllis. It’s performed by one of my favorite bands.
I’ve listened to Amaryllis a total of 422 times in iTunes alone as of this writing (not to mention my iPhone and CD in the car), and the album is not a year old. Amaryllis is a beautiful song because it’s about opening up to someone, and experiencing what happens when someone opens up to you.
Beautiful giving and receiving. True love.
In the song, Brent Smith, the lead singer of Shinedown preaches,
“Stay a while now, undress your colors, ’cause they’re like no others I’ve ever seen. I could get used to your company… Step inside. Ask yourself now, where would you be without days like this? When you finally collide with emotions you can’t resist?”
I love this song more than anything, not only for its beautiful messages at the song’s core but because it embodies what I experienced with this amazing girl for months.
And even though our time together is over — perhaps it is more “open” to say that it has simply changed, for our friendship will grow on — her love and my love have taught me so much and have changed my heart itself.
And today, when I hear that familiar song played, I do not hear Brent singing to his long lost love — I hear my heart singing to me:
“Do I remind you of someone you’ve never met? A lonely silhouette? And do I remind you of somewhere you wanna be? So far out of reach? I wish you’d open up for me, ’cause I want to know you, Amaryllis. Bloom.”
My heart is not broken, it’s open. Maybe the two are one and the same.
But even through the hurt, what I feel now is all my light is pouring out — and pooling in, at the same time. Giving, and receiving love. And this time, I don’t want to patch it back up to hide and protect it. I won’t let it callous. I choose not to seal my love off from the world.
My heart is open. Finally.
And even through the muck and the shit, I feel more raw and real and “unapologetically me” these days than I ever have before — a testament to the last year of growth, learning, endeavoring, experiencing, risking, giving and receiving, failing and succeeding.
“In a while now, I will feel better. I will be better…”
Light and love pouring out and pooling in — it took me a long time to understand that true giving means receiving, too. It’s true leadership, true service. Life is meant to be experienced, but the experience itself is love.
God’s love. The infinite, now. Spirit, inside each of us.
Love is all that matters, I’m so sure of it now.
The purpose of life?
To love: to give love, to receive love, to be loved and to become love, itself.
To my friend who helped changed me, she knows I love her and always will.
Sometimes, life is remarkable. And paths intersect with startling accuracy and dramatic precision to bring two souls together.
It’s like God is playing a game with us as pieces, and when those two need each other to learn and to grow and to become their best to flourish in life, it happens. Only for God, for us, for life itself, the game is not about winning or losing. It’s not that we’re expendable and disposable.
The game teaches us to awaken. Awaken to our truth, to one another, and to living and loving the journey — every step of the way. It’s why we are here — to love and be loved.
And with this rawness and realness so ripe and present with me, I have found myself pouring this love into many places.
Next books. Conversations. Hugs. Moments. “Ordinarily forgettable” moments that are burned into my soul with permanent happiness. Now, I am dedicating myself to the most real, raw, unapologetic and truthful experience that life has to offer. I know that is what I need to do.
Finally. For the first time.
What does it mean, and how will it go? I do not know.
Yesterday, it began by telling a girl that I grew to love “I love you” for the first time. It was something that I was terrified for so long to admit to her — and to admit to myself — that I couldn’t find the strength to say it until it was over between us. And I told my sibling yesterday, “I love you,” because that’s just not something we usually say, but I wanted to say it. I’m telling my friends just how much they mean to me and why, and how much gratitude I have for their love.
I’m trying, and trying hard.
The truth is, everything is okay. Everything is beautiful. I have a million things that I’m so grateful for. Business that’s thriving. New writing and books-in-progress. So many friends. You. Health, happiness, travel, freedom — it’s all wonderful. My gratitude is overflowing.
But I don’t think it has to be one or the other — happiness or hurt, joy or pain. And I feel like it’d be a lie to myself if I didn’t admit that there’s just this bit of pain and hurt lingering.
I know it’ll go away. I know what it means, why it happens, what good it served and how beautiful it all was from the start. It just hurts. It’s just tough.
…but I’m receiving it.
It’s new growth that I’ve never experienced and it’s already been a hell of a challenge. And where this all goes, I don’t know.
But frankly, it’s not about where it all leads, is it?
It’s about being here, right now, fully and presently — being in love with life, with ourselves, with love, with everyone we get to meet and hold, “cheers” or high five.
My heart is done with hiding. It’s here. Open. Fully. Presently.
I don’t know what this all means. But I’m choosing to receive it. Proudly. Humbly. Gratefully.
And that, my friend, is not going away.
P.S. – This essay is a column in my new newsletter, Human-Powered Magazine, and was originally sent to insiders on 2/20/2013. Don’t miss the next edition — sign up here.