Years ago, before I had kids, before I had met Steve, I used to go for walks at dusk. The way the light reflects as it fades and turns everything to a shade of blue made me feel instantly calm.
Since I’ve had kids, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve gone for a walk at dusk. Two nights ago, after the kids were in bed, I went out for a run. It was slow and hard, the result of a good vacation, but the last 500 metres I turned into the woods, a short trail in my neighbourhood. As soon as I entered the cover of the trees, I realized that the light had changed and immediately felt peaceful.
I don’t run in the evenings because I don’t really like to. Because I’m tired by then. Because it’s the first quiet moments that Steve and I get to ourselves or to spend with each other. I don’t because I’d rather get it over with earlier in the day, because it takes more convincing to get myself to lace up my sneakers after supper than it does before lunch.
But if there was one thing I’d say that I miss about being young and single, it might be those evening walks. I know, of course, that I could take it back if I really wanted to, but maybe I realize that those moments in the blue light of dusk, scattered randomly over the past six years, are not only more special because of their rarity, but because of the memories they bring to me as well.
Six years ago… it feels like so many eons have passed since then. So many moments that have irrevocably changed my life. It makes me wonder where I’ll be in six years from now. It’s easy to think that because I’ve already had my children (the quintessential mark of change) life will continue on in a predictable way. But life isn’t like that, is it? It twists and turns in ways we can’t expect or predict. My life in six years will be no less recognizable to me now than today would have been to myself at 23.
My friend is moving to Newfoundland in tomorrow. Five days ago, her boyfriend, who was planning on going with her (not to mention paying for half of everything) up and walked away. I hugged her, while she wailed into my arms, heart smashed into a thousand pieces, and I cried too. So I’m going with her. We’ll drive to North Sydney and board a ferry Thursday night, arriving in eastern Newfoundland Friday morning and spend the day driving to St. John’s. I’ll fly home Saturday morning. I’m going, not because I want to spend a day driving across a barren province, but because she shouldn’t be alone right now. To say nothing of that fact that she is way too upset to be alone in her car for ten hours, but also because, for a thousand reasons, it’s the right thing to do.
One of the things that I realized this year is that I am responsible for my actions. It had been so long that I pointed at other things for the reasons that I bailed on friends or didn’t return emails or forgot to pay bills. I was tired! Or breastfeeding! Or overwhelmed! And though those things were usually quite true, it was also a bullshit way of excusing myself from being the person I really am. But in taking responsibility for my choices, I’ve also learned how to forgive myself. Because I have to in order to move forward.
I am not worthy of love, I thought over and over again, like a dirty secret that no one but me could see. No amount of positive words or actions could negate that feeling, and I’ve felt that way for as long as I can remember. For some reason, it all cumulated this past winter and bubbled over into anxiety and torment in my relationships with some of the people that I love the most. I kept looking for affirmation, writing lists of the things I had done that were good, but reading it made me feel hollow. And then, as I sat on the front porch one night looking at the sky, it dawned on me.
I am not worthy of love because I am a good mother or because I am training for a marathon or because I am raising money for a charity or because I treasure my husband. I am not worthy of love because of any one thing I do, or even all of those things combined together.
I look at my children and believe that they are angels, sent to earth, a gift to me and Steve and all the other people whose lives they touch. Children give us the amazing opportunity to open our hearts to experiences and a profound yet amazingly simple love. My children were not the only gifts sent to this earth – every child possesses this gift, it is up to those in their lives to accept the experience. I was a child once, we were all children once. And so, we are all a gift – a beautiful gift of potential and love and openness. We can love as much as we let ourselves and achieve as much as we believe we can. We are built to love, even though we are prone to fear. And though it is somehow ingrained in us to talk down to the most important person in our lives, the truth is that the self is the one we must love the most. In loving ourselves, we learn that love does not mean possession. Love does not mean rules and comparisons and “you didn’t, you never, how could you”. Love is gentle speak, filled with whispers into my children’s sleeping ears matted with sweaty hair. Love is tender speak, filled with kisses down my husband’s back. Love is positive speak, filled with hope and potential, rattling around in my brain.
This gift of life, given to us, and us as gifts, given to those who love us, that’s why we are deserving of love. Each and every one of us.
I am not worthy of love because of my actions. I am worthy of love, as we all are, simply because I am alive.