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For so many years, I stomped my feet and sobbed as I cried out, “But I have so much love to give!” I felt alone – lonely – and carried very narrow thoughts about the persons on whom I would bestow my love.  Namely, “the one true love” and equally strong (if not more), my future child(ren).

I was certain that my cup of love over-floweth. I was convinced that if only given half a chance those persons would be filled to the brim with my love. I tried it out here and there, to share my unending, undying love: I pushed to keep dying friendships alive and I shared all my depression from being alone with whomever would listen. At the same time, I kept people at bay that scared me (which meant anyone I didn’t know extremely well). None of these methods proved successful in securing those certain persons my abounding love.

I grew during that time, to be sure. I learned to laugh at myself instead of becoming toxically anxious every time I goofed. I learned a bit about the art of conversation, enabling me (finally!) to move past the simple “How are you”‘s. I learned to empathize. I even learned how to have a good time without putting myself in the midst of terribly uncomfortable situations. This last one was huge, because just as I never wanted to be around anyone I didn’t know extremely well, neither did I want to be in any place I hadn’t been two dozen times before!

Through my growth, I traveled abroad. I taught school. I worked in marketing. I gave up on the idea of the limitless love I had to offer and focused on not feeling so lonely. I played around online, seeking virtual friends. I met a few and I found them wanting. Specifically wanting sex, regardless of gender. Depression mounting, I nearly gave up. Gave up on… making friends? Finding that ‘soul mate’? Having a child?

I researched adoption. Considered – however briefly – foster parenting. The thought of starting off as a mom with a child (not a baby) was terrifying; what did I know of mothering? Despite the endless love with which I was equipped to give.

All that love I had welling up inside me was in reality a selfish kind of love. Who am I to be conditional with that love? And yet at the same time I was running on empty; how could I love when I could not feel love from others? When I could not love myself?

If you are like me, you have heard the “you have to love yourself first” line far, far too many times. So many times, in fact, that it no longer means anything. Where at first it was thought-provoking, or puzzling, I became deaf to it, tired of trying to figure out how to do such a thing.

I have come to learn, with the help of my Mama, my Aunt and Uncle, and many, many others that loving myself involves treasuring myself. That is, I should treat myself as a precious gem. Not just treat myself as I would treat others (or hope to treat the ones upon whom I would bestow my love!), but to carve out time to nourish my soul, body and mind. To be patient with myself; to infuse my mind with positive self-talk instead of bad-mouthing myself; to seek out time alone (not to be confused with loneliness) as well as with friends; to make the time to work on – or play around with – creative endeavors; to let loose of being productive ‘all’ the time and simply be.

And that lesson, my friends, leaves me no longer loving on empty.

How did you learn to stop trying to love on empty? Where there specific books? People? Places? Events? What happened when you cherished yourself?

For me, this life-long process has brought me to my fourth decade in this body, a 13-year long marriage, and a 4-year old boy. More than bringing me those certain someones to love, though, is that I discovered I AM one of those very important persons upon which I now bestow my love.

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