My mother’s words of romance advice were, “Make sure they love you more than you love them.” I only understood this as an older woman. As a young woman, her words fell on deaf ears. What would be the point of any love at all if you did not love fully and meaningfully, passionately?
To be drunk on love, that is what the movies, and magazines and romance novels encouraged. And, we now know that love flips our brain switches like red wine and chocolate.
After divorcing my children’s father, I was so heartbroken I actually got atrial fibrillation. My heart broke. I spent many years after this period embracing my mother’s words as I remained detached, disinterested and often disengaged from lovers and they, in turn, had their hearts broken by me because I would never love them.
Recently, I was wrapped in a towel fresh from my post workout shower in the gym locker room. As I brushed out my hair, the woman next to me, attractive, mid-40s, was crying. I wasn’t certain what to do and I pretended not to notice before I turned to her and said, “I’m not sure what a stranger can do, but what can I do?” She looked at me and replied, “Hold me.” I wrapped her in my arms and held her tight not loosening my grip until I felt her soften.
“My mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and my husband just left me and I love him so much.”
My heart ached for her; I had walked in her shoes having been in the unattractive spot of begging someone to stay. As she brushed out her long light brown hair I was struck by its shine and beauty. In an effort to make her smile, I said, “Your hair is beautiful, and you know, if you look good – you feel good.”
She did not miss a beat. “It wasn’t beautiful enough for my husband.” His inability to love her had spiritually killed her. Her lack of love for herself made me want to hug her again until the beauty I felt for her permeated each and every one of her cells.
Later, in the car, I thought about my mother’s advice and how it was given as a mantra of protection. I also remembered the soul crushing pain, agony and sorrow of two men I had loved leaving me, rejecting me.
Then I realized, with bone chilling clarity, what I wish my mother had taught me. Make sure you love yourself first, before you try to love anyone. If I had embraced this little gem, I would not have put up with abuse, settled for less, put myself second, third or tenth. Or felt I needed to be in a relationship to be whole. I may have been hurt but not devastated by love’s loss because I would always have me.
A wise guru once told me that when we love ourselves honestly, completely and adore ourselves as the most loving mother in the universe would, we are on the pathway to true connection to God, the divine and spiritual oneness.
Searching for this holy truth, I found myself on a dirt road in Amritsar, India.
I don’t know where the woman came from, so I am not sure if I imagined her or if she was an apparition. What I do know is I was wandering around the streets of a rural town visiting the temple of a Sikh guru and trying to heal my heart. Praying at the Golden Temple at 3 a.m. was not doing it.
The dusty streets had colored my feet brown as I walked past the Ghats, women were coming to and from market in beautiful colored saris, and a body was being carried by loved ones covered in yellow and gold and red marigolds. India is life.
Suddenly, as if by magic, an old woman stood directly in front of me, smiling, so I had to stop walking. How small and old she seemed. And, before I could register what was happening, she enveloped me in her arms; my heart cracked.
I am being held by the divine mother, I thought. The next moment she was gone, and I blinked wildly. Did this just happen? Where did she go? My eyes searched up and down the street, but I was all alone again. Alone but peaceful, and from that moment forward, my heart began to heal.
This Valentine’s Day, find someone to hug in selfless service. Make a dinner date with a friend. Get yourself a facial, volunteer to walk a dog at an animal shelter. Then bake yourself the most scrumptious dessert you can imagine.
I’ll be baking chocolate lava cake, which I will have with ice cream AND whipped cream. Then I’ll bring a big fat piece to my recently widowed neighbor. Go ahead, give yourself and someone a hug. You both deserve it!
Have you had your heart broken? What love advice did your mother give you? What advice do you wish she had shared? Have you found a path to healing your heart?