Up until three weeks ago, I had very definite ideas of what I thought a loving relationship was supposed to look like. Most of these ideas were rooted in memories of past relationships, and what I thought worked (or did NOT work) for me in those situations. I guess this is normal; sometimes you can only imagine something based on your own experiences, your own frame of reference. It's not easy to visualize something even better when you have no first-hand experience of "better" to which you can compare and relate. So, if you tend to settle for less, it is only because you simply didn't know any better.
Now, I know what "better" looks like. I know what it feels like. It is when you can lock eyes with someone and know you can trust him with your heart in the first 30 seconds. It is when you can see, reflected in his eyes, your own best self, the person you want to be but don't always feel you ARE; yet he sees that in you, even when you don't see it in yourself.
It is when he tells you he loves you, and you know these are not just words being tossed into the conversation with as much meaning as "Passes-moi le sel"; when he says these words, you can see it in his face, hear it in his voice, how deeply he feels about you. There is no question, only an answer.
It is when, after spending time together, you still feel like he is with you. Your senses are still reliving the experience of being in his presence even when he has physically left the room.
It is when he plays a song for you on his piano and you stand behind him, one hand on his shoulder, and you can feel the love emanating from his fingertips. It is when he uses those same fingertips to caress your cheek while he is gazing at you from across a café table, and the same love is always present in his touch.
It is when he, very nonchalantly, pulls a key from his wallet and hands it to you... and you hand him a key, too. There is no need for a big discussion about it... it feels like the natural next step on a path you are both happy to walk together, one where you sort of know the destination but are making up the journey together, as you go along.
Three weeks have shown me that what I used to think love was, was only a small fraction of what it can and should be. On the one hand, I am a little sad that it took me so long to recognize this, that I spent so many years with an expectation of love that was so small. That I didn't know any better then. That I spent so many years of my life not knowing I deserved more than that lukewarm version of love.
On the other, it's really just fine that it took this long for me to "know better", because had I not had those other, so-much-lesser experiences, I would never have become the person I am now. The one he loves so much. The one who was willing, NOW, to take a chance and seize the day. The one who was in the right place, at the right time, to be ready to receive and to unconditionally return his love with open arms, open mind, open heart and open soul.
One of my favorite quotes, by Marianne Williamson, is:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
I think this applies to the ability to give and receive real and unconditional love. I think we are sometimes afraid of really loving someone and being loved BY someone, fully, totally, completely and without censoring it or holding something back. We are afraid to let love shine from us, afraid to give love freely. We are afraid that if we love, we will lose something of ourselves to the other person. So we hold back, put on the brakes, and set conditions on love. "I will love him/her if..." I think I used to be one of those people, the ones who are playing too small where love is concerned.
Now... it's different. So different. The key to love is not to play small. The key to love is to take a risk, because without the willingness to risk your heart, you will only end up with the unfinished version of love, not the whole sonata. The key to love (with the right person, of course) is to look for an opportunity to give more than you receive, to make someone else happy, knowing that when you give of yourself, you lose nothing but gain everything. It's all in how you look at it.
The only part that scares me now is... if we love this deeply, this strongly, NOW, after just three weeks, and the love is growing exponentially every day... what on earth is it going to look like in three months... three years... three decades? It is a bit inconceivable. Which is why, perhaps, it is best that we have no choice but to experience love, and let it grow, one day at a time.
Just how BIG can Love become?