In the middle of the night I awaken, slick with sweat.
My mind is hazed with the mild confusion of unfamiliar sensations in a familiar surrounding. I curl into my blankets, suddenly cold from being so drenched when I feel the movement of his body and hear his soft murmurs.
I turn to him.
As his mouth finds my breast I anticipate the sensation of his lips closing around my nipple, sending ripples of feeling and reactions through my body. He’s not the gentlest, but soon he finds a rhythm as we move together and relax, my arms wrap around him, his head on my shoulder.
My mind clears into the peace and solitude of the night and I begin to think about my new love, this great beginning.
I am reminding myself of the last time I fell in love.
The nervousness, the instant attachment, the fear of losing him. I revel in all the excitement being close brings: the surging, full feeling in my chest, the smile that threatens to break my face in half, the incessant babbling, the dread any type of distance brings.
I pull his body closer to mine and lay my lips as gently onto the top of his head as I possibly can, and I feel absolute love.
For a long time I’ve been hearing people tell me to let the love in, to feel love, to allow myself to be loved.
I’ve laid in a wasted heap on my yoga mat as my instructor has told me and the rest of the class that we are worthy of love, if only we could let it in.
I’ve beat my head against the steering wheel while stuck in traffic listening to love advice professionals, wondering what is wrong with me and why I just can’t get it right?
I’ve been thinking about my past relationships and trying to measure my self esteem. Surely if I had higher self esteem, more self worth, my relationships would have worked and I would have lived in love.
I’ve spent hours trying to figure out how to love myself more, value myself more. And then it occurs to me that thinking about myself this way makes me feel badly because I do love myself, I do value myself, and my self esteem is fighting to maintain its ground everyday just as it should.
My flaws are not standing in the way of my happiness. My flaws are the very things that make me unique and vulnerable, and therefore open to love and attraction.
Somewhere, somehow I realized that I didn’t need to let love in. My resistance to love had been destroyed by my last unexpected fall into love, where all walls where destroyed and my heart was left open and vulnerable for all to see. Letting love in, I could argue, was getting me into trouble.
No, letting go and letting love in was not what I needed to do.
I needed to let all the love in me out.
I needed to tell everyone I loved, that I loved them. I needed to value the love I had for every one and everything. If I wanted to lose myself in love, then I needed only to love without the expectation that if I was worthy I would feel something in return.
As with most grand gestures, I started planning this great event. I began to think about giving birth to my second child as a way to let love move freely through my mind, heart and body. I wanted to hold onto everything as my baby grew and developed just in case he might need some energy of my life. I also felt the need to sit with all the convoluted emotions that I have about my life, before purging them and starting anew.
And that’s how I found myself straddling the warm table in the cold operating room, nearly naked—more exposed and vulnerable than I have been in my life.
I tried to breathe, I tried to not be the thoughts that the rapid cycling of my hormones dictated, I tried to lose myself in the easy and idle chit-chat of the OR staff, until the momentum of time took over.
Drugged, draped, marked and positioned, I lay in that cold room. Tears poured from my eyes as my babys father held my hand, caressed my forehead, and did his best to wipe my tears, his deep voice saying soothing words in an attempt to comfort me.
My mind unhinged as the doctor cut open my body, and a new life was born. His cry filled the room and the laughter of happiness found its way into my mind and heart and mixed with my sobs. The doctor placed my son’s small face next to mine for the briefest of moments and then he was gone.
His solitary journey began. Alone for the first time, he was suctioned, weighed, measured and checked to make sure he was prepared for life outside of me. His father stood beside him for support, and I was left alone on the table with a handful of tear soaked gauze.
I think about the nature of our existence, how even in the most crowded of places or in the closest of relationships we are alone.
I am amazed at my ability these days to feel the freedom of love, not because I let love in, but because I let it out, and it makes its way into the world on its own, just like everyone else.
Amanda Ashley is a single mom, yoga teacher, chef and student.
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Assist: Olivia Gray/Ed: Kate Bartolotta