It's easy to forget that we are all perfect in our own design. Sometimes we muck it up with habits and choices that do not serve us.
My first love was the horse pictured below. Her name was Miss Buck, and I loved her with all my heart.
Just a few weeks ago, my brother sent me this picture—one I’d never seen before. When I saw it, I was reminded of what love feels like and looks like. Love feels safe. Love feels secure. It feels restful. It feels like home.
Do you know what love feels like to you? Several years ago a friend asked me that very question. I distinctly remember pausing, as I was quite sure no one had ever asked me that question before. It moved me and rattled me all at the same time.
Love is like that, isn’t it? It stirs up so many emotions. It can take you to the highest place imaginable, and then break you into tiny pieces. Your heart can be full one minute, and empty the next. You can be so hopeful when you are in love, and yet so full of despair when you feel unlovable.
I know because I’ve been there. But I’ve also come to believe that our view of love is way too narrow. It leaves people out. It leaves people feeling unlovable, which is perhaps the worst feeling in the world.
I wanted to write about love this week not simply because Valentine’s Day is approaching, and not simply because it is my word for this year. No, I wanted to share it because I think we are living in a world full of hate, a world of anger and division, and I believe love is our only hope. It is our only way out.
We are not going to heal our divide with more hate, anger, and name-slinging. We are not going to heal by firing our enemies, shaming, belittling, or being cold, hard, and mean. Love is the only thing that softens the heart. It is the only thing that softens rage, and yet it is the hardest gift to bestow on those who push our buttons—be they in our families or in our political spaces.
The path we are on feels so rage-centric to me. Anger and rage, by the way, are very different, as anyone who has experienced both can attest. They’re as different as love and lust.
I find myself angry at the division that is polarizing our country. I find myself angry at the way so many people are treated in the public space. I find myself angry at those who perpetuate that emotion and who spew hate.
I thought this week about how often we cheapen the word love. We say we love someone—be it in our lives or in the public space—and then the second they do something we don’t like, we proclaim that we hate them. I thought about how rarely we witness any unity on the news or in Washington these days, and how even the National Prayer Breakfast, where leaders have historically put their differences aside to honor their shared beliefs, became a moment to speak about a loving God and spew hatred in the same breath. I mean, really? How did we become this?
But thankfully, I also find myself lifted up by those who push forward with love in spite of all that toxicity. They are the ones I want to learn from, be around, and be in community with. I want to surround myself with these people because they have a rare strength. They have what our world needs and what each of us so desperately desires: a capacity to lead with love. (Which makes me think of so many of the Parkland victims and their families who persevere despite their own loss and pain. This week will mark the two-year anniversary of that day, I hope you'll join me in sending them our love and strength.)
The truth is, I want to learn to love big, which I know means loving people I don’t want to love. People I don’t understand. People who have hurt me. People who piss me off. Even writing that is hard for me. It was hard for me this week, and I’m sure it’s going to be hard for me this election year. But I am going to try.
That brings me back to my friend’s question about what makes me feel loved. Today, thank God, I know exactly what makes me feel loved. It’s completely different from what I thought love was when I was a young girl.
Today, I feel loved when my kids call me to simply check in. I feel loved when they go for coffee with me or just hang out with me. I feel loved when my friends and family remind me of my goodness and are patient with me on my journey. I feel loved when a friend calls and makes me laugh, or offers me a ride home, even when it is out of their way.
Yes, I feel loved when I get flowers for no reason, but I feel equally loved when someone simply waits for me to catch up or arrive at my destination without reminding me that I took the long way home.
Love is about the way someone looks at you. It's about the way someone talks to you. It's about their tone, especially when they disagree with you. Love is about showing up and caring, even when it’s hard. Ultimately, it’s about surrendering any kind of control over another human being. Trying to control or change another human being isn’t love. It’s just control. At the end of the day, love is freeing.
Many of us have been so wrong about what love is and what it isn’t. We have been wrong about what it looks like, who has it, and who doesn’t. We use the word love so recklessly that when it really matters, we don’t even have the right words to express how we really feel.
So as this week unfolds, I want you to know this: you are lovable, regardless of whether you are in an intimate, romantic relationship or not.
From the moment you were born, you were lovable, and no person can take that away from you. You are not defined by your relationship status or lack thereof. You are defined by how you love.
On this Valentine’s Day, remember that love isn’t just about one day. It's not about the flowers or the chocolates, the jewelry or the fancy, overpriced dinner. It's not about whether you have or don't have a date or one particular Valentine. It’s about so much more. It’s about what makes your heart feel full on a daily basis and a weekly basis. It’s about what you're putting out into the world, not just what you are getting.
Love is big. Love can bring you to tears. It’s worth fighting for. It’s worth valuing. It’s worth waiting for. One thing is for sure: love is exactly what we all need more of. It is our common ground. It is what ultimately will bring us together.
So, let’s get to loving—ourselves and others. This week, go get your big love on.
PRAYER OF THE WEEK
Dear God, thank you for loving me. May I always remember that I am loved and that I am deserving of love. Amen.
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