How many of us in all conscience can say we love unconditionally?
As I was growing up love from certain quarters was witheld from me if I was ‘naughty’ so I didn’t have a sense of unconditional love till I started going to church as a teenager. I was attracted to church because I wanted to be loved no matter what I did or how bad I was, but could never see myself being capable of loving that way. All relationships I had with boys then men were conditional on how badly they treated me – the worse they were to me the more I ‘loved’ them. Then along came my babies and everything I thought I knew was blown out of the water.
It’s hard to imagine how powerful maternal feelings can be, and I grieve for those unfortunate enough not to experience this. For me, a woman who could take or leave children, I was amazed that as soon as my own children made their entrances into this world I was hooked. The feelings terrified me as they were so overpowering and I was convinced that because I loved my children so much that they would be taken away from me to atone for whatever badness I had done in my life. It took a lot of years to understand that this wasn’t how it worked, that I was allowed to love and be loved without any expectation of ‘goodness’ on my part and I was also able to walk away from people who behaved badly towards me.
So how does someone who believes love has to be earned get to the point of being able to love unconditionally? For me, it just happened but I wasn’t aware of it till my children were teenagers and our relationships were strained to breaking point. I discovered that it doesn’t matter what they do, where they go, what mistakes they make or what hurtful things they say to me, I love them with the same intensity I always have. But it isn’t the old ‘use and abuse me’ response I used to have with men; the love I have for my children and grandchildren surpasses anything I have ever felt before and, to misquote the Bible, it’s a “love that passeth all understanding” or description.
I am possibly incapable of loving a man unconditionally because I have learnt how to set boundaries and how to value myself. I have massive issues about trust and none of the above bodes well for an easy partnership. However, there’s nothing a man can give me that compares with fat little arms snaking round my neck or soft lips delivering wet kisses accompanied by ‘I love you, grandma.’ This is my heaven on earth and the invisible thread that connects me to the whole universe.