Lessons in Love….


What is love?
How have you experienced love in the past?
What insights and gifts have you received?

I used to have the illusion that I knew what love was. This was the image portrayed in fairy tales and beautiful stories where a prince would usually save a princess. They would fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after. Alternatively, there was a variation where it was not possible or allowed (often due to an external factor) to have a relationship with each other. A forbidden love with often a tragic ending.

Growing up I was able to remove those rose-tinted glasses a little and personally experience what love means to me, with its ups and downs and variations. The first form of love I had the privilege to experience was that of my parents and my family. As a child, I saw this as a warm embrace, surrounded by grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and loved ones. In the past, there were more celebrations and food was always present. Music, dancing, and above all, traditions. Visiting family was a regular occurrence, and everywhere the food tasted different or had something special about it. In my perception, there was a strong sense of connection and love in various forms. Like the food that was prepared with love, and how I happily helped and watched my grandmothers and aunts cook. Like sharing meals and eating together. Coming together for a celebration, where everyone contributed their part to make it happen. The affectionate cuniets (pronounced as “choo-biets”) on our cheeks that we received from our grandmothers and aunts, or a pat on the head from our grandfathers and uncles. “I love you” was expressed and shared in this manner. Loving communication was done in a completely different way.

Until I grew older and sometimes rebelled against things, I experienced that love seemed to come with conditions. If you didn’t do something or didn’t do it the way someone else wanted, you would be punished in some way. Communication wasn’t something that happened often back then, so conversations often felt like one-way traffic. As a child, you had to listen to and respect your elders. Your own opinion or feeling were not appreciated. Oh, I struggled with this because what was I supposed to do with all my feelings and thoughts if they weren’t being heard? Let alone valued? And I had to behave in a way that met someone else’s expectations. Was this love? I strongly felt that it contradicted something I couldn’t name. How could I know that there was such a thing as an inner voice or intuition? Does love mean that you’re not allowed or able to be yourself? And is this determined by someone else?

I’ve become more realistic to witness and experience completely different things, letting go of the rose-tinted glasses. These were all lessons I had to learn. Instead of a beautiful fairytale, I found myself encountering more struggles in love. It felt like a tug-of-war between staying true to myself and receiving love, where I seemed to be dependent on someone else. Did this mean that I had to completely change myself to receive even a hint of ‘love’? This form of love brought me immense sadness, disappointment, pain, and incomprehension. All because I thought I had to be loyal to others and not to myself. I also feared being excluded. I had never experienced anything different, so how was I supposed to know that love was so much more than that?

There were only a handful of people with whom I could truly relax and not be afraid of making mistakes. They accepted me as I was, even though I didn’t know who I was myself. They radiated a love without judgment, which I found much more enjoyable than the one I experienced at home. Love also seemed very confusing to me, and I didn’t understand why. Where was the prince who could come to rescue me, or other parents who could love in a different way?

Being able to walk through this journey and learn my lessons was not something I could appreciate back then. It seemed that I was given substantial lessons in love. I had various teachers. First in the form of my parents, and then also my surroundings. And I continued to receive them until I had learned my lesson, gained insights, and became a little bit wiser.

I have experienced deep lows where I convinced myself that I didn’t even deserve love after repeatedly making mistakes. It seemed like I could never do anything right and only received criticism and judgment. Despite all of this, I tried to hold my head up high. I saw my father do the same, as he also faced criticism and judgment but always walked with dignity.
I gained more understanding for him because people often spoke poorly of him, just as they did of me. People had formed an image of me, but no one ever asked me how I experienced everything. So, I kept my mouth shut and let people think whatever they wanted, even though it caused me immense pain and sorrow. Family no longer represented the love I had experienced as a child because even your own family can hurt and disappoint you.
Who was I without my family? And why did I want to detach myself from them?
I had already taken off my rose-colored glasses and it hurt my eyes and my heart.

During my adolescence, I had the opportunity to stay with people who taught me how to communicate for the first time, something I had not learned before. Sitting at the table during diner was meant for eating, not for talking. But now, things were different. They asked me questions and I was allowed to speak. This was a whole new experience for me. I was a bit socially awkward and my shyness didn’t really help me with it. Finally, I was being seen and heard, but I didn’t know how to handle it. Thankfully, this was a loving environment where I could learn and grow, without the confusion I experienced at home. It was a different form of love that allowed me to thrive and gave me space. However, I held onto it too tightly, with all the consequences that came with it. I saw them as the parents I needed, but the loyalty and dependence from the past still lingered. Again, I didn’t listen to myself enough and this love also became demanding, causing me pain, sadness, and disappointment when I started setting boundaries years later. I encountered misunderstandings and my boundaries were not respected. Was this love?

Apparently, I still had a lot to learn because my next teacher came around the corner. This time, in the form of a romantic relationship, he brought me the most challenging lesson I was meant to learn from the universe. I was so dazzled by the inner beauty I saw in him. I fell head over heels in love. Life was rosy and I put on those rose-tinted glasses once again. Until they were brutally knocked off my face. And quite quickly too. I had fallen into the illusion that this was love again. And everything came twofold. Not being seen, not being heard, my boundaries were not respected, manipulation, dominant behavior, games of pulling close and pushing away, deceit, passive-aggressive behavior, and once again, stories were told that didn’t add up. And once again, I didn’t listen to my intuition. It was becoming quite clear to me that this really wasn’t love.

You would think that someone would run away very fast. Apparently, that flight reaction is not something that is in my system. I remain loyal to something or someone until the bitter end. Until I have crossed my limits and gone through deep valleys. No idea why I agreed to this with myself before coming to this earth. This was definitely not in my fairy tales?!? Did I really understand nothing about love? Or did I put a lot of  ‘love’ sprinkles on top of everything to avoid seeing it? Did I go along with the story about love that the other person told? What was my story about love? In any case, it was far from perfect.

I don’t want to paint a picture that it was all ‘bad’ because through those challenging lessons, I have come to know love in my own way. By falling and getting back up again.
I have been blessed with the most beautiful gifts and have learned the most important lessons. I needed these lessons to first experience LOVE for MYSELF. To first give it to myself, to then sprinkle it into the world and share it with others. I have learned that I can be more assertive and protect my boundaries. I have learned that it’s okay to experience feelings of love (infatuation) and to give it space so it doesn’t become something toxic. And that I have the choice to do something with it or not. I have learned to also let love in. If you only give, it’s difficult to receive. I have learned that my love is not dependent on someone else. I have learned that there are indeed people who see and appreciate me for who I truly am. That family is more than just being connected by blood.
I have come to understand and experience that I AM LOVE and and like to share this LOVE by connecting with others and sharing my gifts.
One of the most important insights I have received and experienced is:

Love is like an unbiased energy, free from judgments, labels, and expectations. It is accessible to everyone without judgment or restrictions…

I needed these lessons to free myself from a limiting perception of love that is instilled from a young age through fairy tales, among other things. To detach myself from love that is bound by expectations and judgments based on ‘old-fashioned’ values and norms. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe the grass is greener on the other side. If I don’t learn my lessons, the grass won’t get any greener over there either, and I trust that I will be presented with them in a different form again.

So I play the song by Whitney Houston and my heart sings along because she sings and expresses it so beautifully and I feel the love within myself grow even more.

I decided long ago
Never to walk in anyone’s shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I’ll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can’t take away my dignity

Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all