Turnaround: I am complete, as I am, in this moment. (notice that “what I do” is not part of the turnaround)Love Lesson #2. What I am able to afford to buy indicates my level of freedom and status in the world. This thought originated in my family’s struggle for survival and advancement and was reinforced by the strong consumerism in our culture. Without realizing it, I have created many outcomes in my life based on this belief. What I eventually realized was that ownership and accumulation of things do not equal greater freedom, and the only status that matters is the one you create from your inner world.
Turnaround: What I am able to LET GO of indicates my level of freedom and the status of my self-trust in the world I am creating.Love Lesson #3. How I look and act in the workplace is more important than how I look and act at home. This thought originated in so many examples I saw of “putting on a face” to play the game of work each day, and how starkly that outward face contrasted with the true self that emerged in the privacy of the home. It was confusing to me and I never understood the justification for sharing your best self with the outer world, and letting out all your stress and aggressions at home, with the people you claim to love the most.
Turnaround: I am creating a life based on authentic expression and generous sharing of my essential self. (I don’t see a necessary distinction between how I present myself “on the outside” and who I am at my essence)Love Lesson #4. Love is an obligation and responsibility to another person. Almost everything in my early life was framed as an obligation and responsibility. It seemed like the only reason to live a life was to be viewed as responsible and duty-bound in every possible way. Joy was not even in the equation of values. I still consider “desires” a luxury and have to practice consciously opening a valve in my mind to allow the flow of messages from my heart to enter into my awareness.
Turnaround: Love flows freely in the space between people. Love liberates.Love Lesson #5. Loving someone means the right to criticize them in a "loving" way. This was reinforced in every arena of my life from my family to my teachers to the higher academic training I received. I was trained to thrive on criticism. No matter how good a job I did, I wanted to know how to do better. We call this “drive” and “ambition” and hold it in great admiration in this culture. We aspire to “improve” ourselves in every way. The problem with this is we have no opposing muscle group or internal barometer to tell when “enough is enough”. We forget that by living our lives based on constant striving, we are training ourselves for imbalance and ultimate dissatisfaction, with no end in sight.
Turnaround: Love is truthful, accepting, calm, and peaceful. Love is filled with joy.Love Lesson #6. Love means the right to hurt someone without having to apologize. I remember the exact moment in a past relationship when I realized that this was my model of love, and the intense pain it caused me to see it in myself. But that moment of realization was also liberating, because I was able to see clearly where I was in the moment, and to consciously seek out another way to express love.
Turnaround: Love has no fear – neither of pain nor of apologizing.Love Lesson #7. Love expects a return on its investment. I believed that love was a transaction. I believed that I, as a person, was the investment of my parents’ love. I also believed that I owed a debt to them for providing this love, for withdrawing love from their bank accounts and depositing it into everything that I needed and wanted. As I saw the magnitude of their investment growing, I could not see a possible way to provide a reasonable return. So I kept setting the bar higher. Finally there were no more ladders to climb, and I had to come down to the realization that I am love, and that the returns on my love originate from within me and from my connection to the source of all love – not my parents but the universe.
Turnaround: Love is self-renewing, and expects nothing in return.Love Lesson #8. Love means constant devotion, never relaxing or taking time for yourself. Love is the ultimate act of self-sacrifice. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “It’s because we love you…” or “If we didn’t love you, we wouldn’t…” as the justifications for overworking, overstressing, overdoing, overworrying. There was not one moment in my recollection that the major love figures in my life ever relaxed or took time for themselves. And they took pride in their self-sacrifice, since it demonstrated how responsible and duty-bound they were. It made love look very unappealing to me as a way of life.
Turnaround: Love comes from love. If you are not loving yourself, you cannot truly or fully love another person. Self-sacrifice is not loving.Love Lesson #9. Love means living up to the expectations of those who love you (and sacrificed to give you your life). This relates to the “return on investment” belief. I really saw myself as an asset of my family with certain expected returns. Every time I saw myself taking a step outside my “asset class”, behaving in a more high-risk (and high-return) way, I felt the weight of not having managed expectations, and having been at least slightly irresponsible. I had a nagging sense that I was never doing things the “right” way.
Turnaround: Love is free of all expectations about the future and exists fully in every present moment.Love Lesson #10. Love needs to be earned. So you might be noticing a theme here. I once believed that I had to earn love, live up to the expectations of those who loved me, pay back the investment of love that others put into me, and sacrifice myself in the name of love.
Turnaround: Love is the joy, freedom, and peace that exists within each of us when we are truly free.I still don’t see myself using the word “love” a lot. Writing this post was a struggle, actually. I suppose I learned during the writing that I don’t have any obligation to use a word, like “love”, with so many old and convoluted (and false) beliefs attached to it. I prefer the words "peace", "joy", and "freedom", as a three-pronged cluster of words that captures the feelings I experience when I love myself. These carry a more important meaning for me right now - how they make me feel and how they free me to express who I am in every moment. And it never hurts when I’m loving myself as I am right now.