I let love into my heart slowly.
I do this primarily out of necessity. Before I did this, I let love in blindly, fiercely, and without the slightest regard toward my capacity for the force that was freely flowing into me.
This past phase of inhibition didn’t lead to a blissed-out state of love-induced euphoria, or cause my heart to swell up like a balloon and allow me to float my way through life—it left me weakened, vulnerable, and completely unaware that I was letting in all the wrong kinds of love.
The kind of love I was receiving in this state was the kind that bullied its way to my obedience, threatened its way to my faithfulness, and ultimatum-ed its way to my loyalty.
It was the kind of love that wasn’t very kind to me, but was good at making me think I was deserving of that unkindness. It was the kind that, as soon as my right foot told my left foot that it might be time to take some space, was right there to convince all three of us to forgive and stay put. And because my heart was wide open to this love, I did not second guess its fickle nature.
It often told me to ignore my instincts, trust its faulty logic and believe its nonsensical explanations. It encouraged me to go against my better judgement, put myself in compromising situations, and put my well-being on the back-burner all in its name.
The more readily I opened myself to this influx of emotion, the more dubious it became. It blurred the lines between control and compassion. Anger and physicality became synonymous with passion. Words that were intentionally cruel were instead identified as “honest.”
This wasn’t the kind of love that I had planned to let course through my veins. Some people told me that it wasn’t love it all, but I promise that it was. In retrospect, it may have been manipulative love, unhealthy love or desperate love, but a heart only knows love and not love—it needs the wisdom of the mind to shed light on love’s particular attributes.
The problem, though, is that we don’t always give our mind the time it needs to process what kind of love we are feeling. Even after love has left us with nothing but sleepless heartache, our mind is still clouded by the broken love we can’t seem to stop feeling.
So, it took a while for my mind to catch up to my confused little heart, and fill it in on all of this love’s dirty little secrets. Still, when the next love came along and even the one after that, I was so hopeful that each would be a better love than the last that I forgot to take the time to listen to my mind before letting it in.
I continued to let all of this love pour into me, not for a second thinking that I might be shutting out the most important love there is—my own.
We are often so enamored by the idea of being loved, by that idealized gravitational pull two people have toward one another that no trial or tribulation can throw off course, that we forget how dangerous that kind of love of can be when our hearts have not yet learned balance, moderation, or how to beat solely for itself.
There is nothing wrong with accepting love freely and fervently, I just had one crucial detail backwards: it is our own love that we should accept in that way, not the love of others.
Understandably, this mindset can be easily misunderstood. It can come across as closed off, an unwillingness to connect, at times even cold.
It can give the impression that I am opposed to letting any love in at all, that I am bitter and begrudged, or that I don’t fully support sharing each beautiful beat of your heart with another beautiful, beating heart.
But really, it is just the opposite. I am so inclined toward love, so naturally willing to be a vessel for the feelings of others, that I forget entirely how to feel and love myself at the same time.
So, I let love into my heart slowly. And in doing so have learned little by little, everyday, how to accept my own love in ways that are foreign and strange and still largely inconsistent.
It’s an imperfect place, this heart of mine, but if there is one piece of advice it can offer the world, it is this: if there is ever a love that you accept blindly, fiercely, and without regard toward your capacity for its force, make it your love for yourself.
That other love, other’s love, will follow suit.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Anatomy of love by Aysegul Dost