I came across a quote from Nelson Mandela that has me thinking about my choices. What do they reflect in my life? Who am I if not the sum of my choices, actions, and capacity to love? Let’s look at those three things individually.
My choices long ago were dictated by the preservation of self and the need for love and approval. Wishing, wanting, seeking love and approval from parents, family, and friends from day one. Fueled by fear of not getting these I learned to become what others expected or needed from me. On some levels, it worked like gangbusters for years and years. But on other levels, deeper, internal ones, it caused all manner of issues. Issues such as creating a dysfunctional duality within myself, feelings of not being enough or feeling not good enough, no matter what I did or who’s love and approval I seemed to have at the time. Eventually, I chose to continue running from myself, my feelings of inferiority, fear and depression by turning to sex, alcohol, drugs and even food. It seemed instinctual because I had no awareness, much less any kind of clue about how to help myself. As most of you know my story, little by little over time, I sought help at various times from different sources throughout my young adulthood. At some point, as my choices continued to take me to darker, dysfunctional places despite the occasional help I sought, I made that final choice out of desperation. I was taught it was a gift of desperation and I believe it was so. A desperation motivated by a small spark of hope for something, anything that would help make me and my life better. The desperation lead me to surrender and a power so profound and unexpected that it etched a permanent mark on my soul. Regardless of my learned tendency to still fall back into fear, the guiding force behind my choices over the last 20 years is hope. It’s been a crucial and beautiful default to fall back on.
With choices dictated by hope, my actions have fallen in line with that. I used to shut out, discard or abandon people, friendships, places, or things at the drop of a hat long ago because I thought they’d do it to me eventually anyway. Everything was conditional. I had no tools to work through personal disappointment, conflict resolution or commitment to friendship based on forgiveness and love. Even though my sobriety and recovery have been consistent combined with sporadic therapy over the past twenty years, it feels as if I and my life are finally coming together now. My over-arcing journey towards self-acceptance, growth and self-love feel evident in a way that had been lacking. I don’t force situations. I don’t try to force people to like or love me. I’m able to accept situations, other people and myself for what or who they are. I operate from that and most situations come around or people do. Or they don’t, but I don’t twist myself or my world out of shape or upside down. There are freedoms and a lot of breathing room in that.
Finally, my capacity to love continues to expand and surprise me. Sometimes it sneaks up on me when I look around and notice the existing connections I have to amazing friends, family and people in my life. It hits me in the heart when the connections grow or show an unexpected leap in growth. I believe love is many things. I believe love is made up of many things. It fuels my hope that my ever growing capacity to love can be limitless, like God.