My first memories around love come from my family.
I am the eldest live-born child. My mother had many miscarriages and sadly lost a baby at the time of his birth, three years before me. The umbilical cord was around his neck and choked him as he was being born.
My parents loved me dearly from the moment they knew they were pregnant with me, and then, even more so when I was safely delivered.
The love we share hasn’t changed in my 50 years. My parents express the same love for my younger brother and sister. Although I haven’t always been the best behaved daughter and sister, my parents and siblings still love me just as I am.
This family love, or unconditional love, is the kind of love not based on my behaviour, or personal qualities, or dependant on what I do for my family. It is a love that will never fade or go away. If I do something to upset or offend them, they may not like the behaviour, but it doesn’t mean they will love me any less.
That is what unconditional love means—there are no conditions attached.
If you are an orphan, however, you may never have experienced a family or an unconditional love like this before. But, you may be still able to relate to unconditional love when you consider your love of nature, or animals, the world we live in, or God.
You see, my father was a kind of orphan. He was a refugee of the Second World War and eventually escaped war-torn Europe, as a boy aged six or seven, hidden under the coat of his young widowed mother.
They left Europe on a boat and travelled to Australia to start a new life. But his mother was sick and couldn’t leave hospital for the next two years, so my father was sent to an orphanage. When she was eventually released from the hospital, with little English and education, she could only find work as a cleaner in a hotel, and for this reason he was still unable to live with her. So my father was sent away again, this time to a Lutheran boys’ home and school.
During this time, he was raised as a Christian, and the form of unconditional love he learned has helped him a great deal throughout his life. To this day, he has found that his belief in God, who he feels has always been there for him and supported him, was just like the fatherly love his dad may have given him had he been alive.
Another example of unconditional love is the bond I share with my most trusted friends, sometimes referred to as the “family you choose.” They help support me in my most difficult times, and always believe in me, even when I don’t believe in myself.
People can experience tough times—very tough times—and this may tear a family or that unconditional love apart. It is sad when this happens. Unfortunately, sometimes that’s what life has in store for us. It can leave us feeling lost, confused, rejected, and abandoned. It can also leave us feeling unloved, unloving, and unlovable.
These are devastating feelings.
How can we move through life carrying these heavy feelings?
Let me share how I have coped when I am feeling unloved, unloving, or unlovable:
In difficult times I play a game with myself. I start to count up all the good things in my life, the things I am grateful for on that day. I do this every morning as I wake up, and also before I sleep at night. If I manage to count ten things, it puts a big smile on my face. Even thinking of five things helps me feel better. I feel great comfort knowing there are many sources of love in my life.
Time spent in nature or with animals is always precious and available to us as another form of unconditional love—the kind that softens your heart after a bad day.
By taking time to get to know animals there is so much love to be found. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to have children of my own. Instead, my family consists of two sweet cats. They are sisters and were abandoned when they were newly-born. They have been with me for 11 years now, and are just as much a part of my family as my human family members. We have a way of communicating without words, and getting to know these cats has been one of the greatest joys in my life. They love me without condition, they’re always happy to see me, and they know when I am sick or unhappy too. They stay by my side, and are a great source of comfort, especially when I don’t feel the best.
Over the years, I have also realised that loving yourself is one of the most important things in life.
It has been one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, lessons I have learned. It has taken me 50 years to truly understand and appreciate this kind of love.
I have formed the opinion that all love stems from this place. This is called self-love. It will serve you well. I hope you find it sooner than I did.
This is my parting thought as I wish you well on your life journey:
“I am love. Love is what moves me, motivates me, surrounds and inspires me, supports me, and soothes me. It is found all around me, so that even when I don’t feel loved, loving, or loveable, there are many ways in which it will present itself so that I may draw upon its strength. Love gently fills me up so I can continue to give out of love for others; in my work, at home, in nature, with my pets, friends, family, and lovers. Love is everywhere, for everyone, all the time. We just need to see and accept it in all the forms it shows itself.”
Bonus: the Simple Buddhist Trick to Being Happy:
Author: Sarah Korzeba
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen