In the week since writing Do You Love Me, I have had a hard look at what love means. I have had to redefine love in a way that is true in my life.
My ideal love would have looked like this….a child born into a two parent household, loved the moment she was born, and shown through the way the parents lived that the child was very much wanted and needed. That child would live in a happy, safe home. She would feel that no matter what happened she could just go to her parents, be heard and assured that her well-being was first priority.
As a child, my best friend was Suzy. (insert my fear of being labeled crazy, if you don’t all ready think of me this way. ) Suzy was safe. Her skin was soft. Her eyes coal black. Her nose slightly pink from the nose kisses she gave me. I could hold onto her, and I could just know that there wasn’t anything Suzy couldn’t do to shield me from what happened. Suzy and me would talk for hours. I would lay next to her days and nights. We were inseparable. Suzy always wore this purple knit sweater with a white border that had snowflakes on in it. I loved her. Suzy was a Christmas gift my parents gave me. She was a stuffed rabbit. Yes, a stuffed animal. Not only was she a stuffed rabbit, but she was my childhood friend, until she was buried with someone I deeply loved.
Loved didn’t come from me.
I learned from an early age that I was unlovable. I was sexually abused for a good part of my childhood and into my teenage years. At a recent counseling session, I asked Amy if Oscar–my abuser–ever loved me. Sounds sick to ask, as the mother I am today, but as an adult survivor of child sexual abuse there are parts of me who still are child-like. I have this visualization in my head of two cups. One cup is smaller. The other cup is larger. Those cups symbolize love that comes from an adult and child. A child can never give the type of love an adult needs in every way. I was lead to believe through the abuse I endured that this belief was wrong. My love filled Oscar’s cup in ways he sought from me. The love I was shown was sick and revolting. I can remember vividly Oscar telling me my parents didn’t love me. I still believe it for so many valid reasons…like if they loved me, then why when I told them what was happening did they choose to do nothing or how about them sending me off in spite of my pleas not to go. For those two reasons and many more I choose to believe they did not love me in the way I needed as their child. Instead, the man who abused me manipulated my need for love for his sick purpose. I grew up believing if I wasn’t treated a certain way that I wasn’t good enough to have any sort of attention or affection. I thrived on being what he wanted me to be. A seven years old child…a thirteen years old or even a fifteen year old shouldn’t have to know that “love.” There are parts of me who believe to this day I am still unlovable.
I was incapable of inspiring love and affection.
Love has been something I saw in other people. Love was something I read about in romance novels. Love was something someone else felt. Love was everything but me.
When I gotten pregnant with my son, I truly believe this was the first time I felt true genuine love. Yes, I spent the better part of loving my son, sort of afar out of fear of me losing my son. What a horrible way to live. That way of loving stemmed from me believing that nothing good could ever come from me. I felt the tremendous amounts of despair having lost the pregnancy of a little girl who never would know her mother’s loving arms. I felt afraid to love my son, even though I loved him from the start, because I was diagnosed with having some form of cancer during pregnancy. I feared that I would lose my life. I feared that everything good would be taken away from me.
When Tien came into this world, I was completely mentally unstable. My hormones were out of whack. The feeling of being so alive was replaced with a complete void in my body. There were failed attempts to eliminate surgically the cancer that grew in me. I was angry at God for giving my son and having to fight to hold onto life. I felt like an epic failure at everything I did. And to make matters worse, I dealt with domestic violence every single day that passed.
I tried turning my life around. I sought to repair my relationship with my Savior. I felt like if Jesus couldn’t save me then who could. I began walking a pathway straight to my Savior’s door. I would pound on it…desperately seeking to correct any wrong in my life. There at His door I found love. That love was a hope to experience an eternal freedom. The very first thing I had to do was escape. I saw escape as my only way to find true freedom in finding perfect love because you know…in perfect love there is no fear. In the days since making our escape, I have had to make some heart wrenching realizations. Each step I took led me to where I am today.
If you asked me what love is today, I would tell you that love is something that lives. Love is something I am learning to do. Love is something that needs to be told. Love is something pure and safe. Love is something I have. Love is something I am capable of giving. Love is something that comes from knowing I love because God first loved me. The foundational truth in my life is that in order to have love I must continue to receive Ultimate Love…a love that died at Calvary and rose to fulfill the greatest love story ever to be told. Love is something I hold onto for dear life. Love is me. Love is something I am capable of experiencing. Love is something born out of me, too. Love lives here in my life.