All of our lives we are taught about love. There are more quotes in literature about love than I can count. We especially got bombarded last month (February) with quotes about love on social media; it is after all the month of Valentine’s Day, love and friendship. One common thread I notice when reading quotes and short messages about love is that they often refer to love’s infinite perfection. You may have heard it said many times at weddings that love is patient, and kind. It is even written in scripture that love never fails. As beautiful and uplifting it is to read about how amazing and wonderful love is, sometimes I don’t feel like this is entirely true. Sometimes love is not perfect. In my experience, I have found myself feeling time and again that love is work. Love, for me, can be very hard work indeed.
You see, I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, and a sister. I am a friend, a colleague, and a teacher. In my life, and I suspect in yours as well, a lot is demanded of love. My spouse needs love. My children need it, too. As I go through my days giving out love to all the people in my life who need it, I feel myself slowly depleted of it and sometimes I am left with nothing more to give. When I am all out of love, commitment sees me through– because after all, I am committed to my husband and to my children, and to all the other people in my life who depend on the love I have freely given for decades. And when I am running low on love, and feel like I’ve given all that I can, I realize that love is not this perfect feeling that is always constant. It is in fact imperfect, just as I am.
The love that I have is a reflection of me, and I am not even close to being perfect. Even the love I should have for myself falters sometimes. When I practice negative self-talk and lose faith in myself, my own love for myself fails me. We give and give and give so much of ourselves that in the end, when we are depleted, we are not in fact giving out love, but rather we are working to give some semblance of love that is not the real thing. We love our children, but sometimes want to give up. I have come to realize that in those moments when I want to give up, it is not because I do not love my children. It is due to the fact that I am depleted and tired and overwhelmed. And so, instead of not giving anything at all, I start working at love. I do my best to give a masked version of something that resembles love. This is when we are running on fumes. The fake-it-until-you-make-it stage, if you will.
But how do our reserves of love get replenished once we are out? How do we fill ourselves back up with love so that we can freely give the real thing out again to all of our family and friends? Much has been written about how we can take time out for ourselves so that we can fill our cup and have something to give to others. But I have to admit that for me this is a work in progress. I am still figuring out how to refill my love reserves. The important thing for me has been to realize-and finally accept-that love is not always this perfect thing that I’ve read about in books and heard about at weddings. Love is a complex feeling that is enigmatic at times and crystal clear at others. Navigating through the ebb and flow of love is a lifelong process. Let this journey remind us that love is a mirror image of ourselves: beautiful, boundless, and sometimes, a little broken.
Beautifully written. Thanks for putting to words this struggle I face today as a single working mom, struggling to replenish my love reserves.