I’ve been trying to write this entry for weeks now. With the deadline drawing near I still seem at a loss for words. In college, procrastination was my forte and some of my finest work came in those final hours, so perhaps this will be one of those moments. But the truth is, I cannot explain in words all the ways that love has done and undone me. All the things love has taught and continues to teach me. But for now, here are a few things I know for sure.
Love is vulnerability.
We had been dating for over 4 months and spent part of nearly every day together during that time. I dropped him off at the airport before he left for a job interview and as soon as he walked away from the car I missed him so much more than I expected. I texted him, “I love you” for the first time. It makes me laugh now and it’s almost embarrassing to say out loud, but yes, the first time I said “I love you” to my future husband and father of my babies was over text message. In the moment I remember being so nervous about hitting send and even second guessed if I should have. Probably in part because I didn’t know what he would say in return, which is ironic since, for so much hanging on that moment, we recently tried to remember his response and neither of us could recall. Even now, both “I love you, too” and “Cool, dude” equally seem like things he might have said at the time. The hesitancy in saying those words seems so silly to me now, since I tell him I love him multiple times a day and I give “I love you”s freely to our babies even when they are asleep and I doubt they can even hear me. Back then, what we felt for each other was obvious from our interactions and the time we passed together had been leading up to that eventual moment, but the uncertainty of the days or weeks or years ahead and that first time putting it into words, just made me feel so vulnerable. But if I’ve learned anything from vulnerability, it is that that place of stepping back and opening up yourself is where the light breaks through. Those spaces that we try to guard and those pieces of our self that we are slow to share are the exact ones that become filled: with joy, with peace, with love.
Love is surrender.
When we first met our eldest daughter I knew that I loved her. There was no hesitancy, no doubt, no worry about whether she loved me back. There was a different kind of fear though. A fear that I had no idea what I was doing or how to be the mother she deserved. In those early days of figuring out breastfeeding and trying to sleep, while trying to read every book, website and mommy-blog, I realized that I could either become entirely overwhelmed and consumed by the information or I could just surrender to the process. I opted for the latter. I surrendered to not knowing all the answers and figuring it out along the way. I trusted that I knew her and she knew me in a way that no mother and daughter had ever known each other before, but in solidarity with generations of mothers and daughters before me. I would encounter times when I had to choose between spending time with my family or catching up with friends or studying for my board exams or finishing work obligations. And sometimes it would feel like I chose wrong between the two (and perhaps sometimes I did), but my love for my daughters was never a choice or a question. I surrendered my time, my energy, my body to motherhood and the fruit of my offering was an unbreakable bond, an unimaginable love.
Love is grace.
But perhaps the biggest challenge that love has presented me is not in loving my husband, or even my daughters, but in loving myself. My friend recently shared a quote: “If I asked you to name all the things that you love, how long would it take you to name yourself?” When I think about my life today, I feel a heavy sense of awe and gratitude. I have a very long list of people, places and things I love. I could tell you about all that I have built or created over my lifetime and how proud I am of each item. I could tell you about the lives that I’ve touched personally and professionally, or the adventures and things I’ve collected over the years. Each of those would be a reflection of me, but none of those fully defines me. I’m very happy. But that doesn’t mean I’m happy about the way I look and feel each day. I look in the mirror and there are often things that I wish reflected back differently. And I’m definitely not happy about the way I sometimes get frustrated with my husband or daughters and want a break from them. But in those moments, I give myself grace. I remind myself that this body grew two humans or that these hands and feet worked a full day before coming home to these people who I love. I remind myself that it is good to love myself, but it is also ok to not love every part of myself all the time. I give myself grace to live out a version of myself that is both simultaneously imperfect and beautiful, while continuously striving to be that better version of myself. And it is love that makes me want to bridge that gap between what I am and what I hope to be: my best self, wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter, doctor, teacher.
So, take the first step, trust the process, embrace the brokenness, seek the beauty and evolve. In other words: love.