I confess my addiction to love - I've always been addicted - since ever I remember. There is a difference though - earlier, love used to be something I received from outside, or something I gave to another like a commodity. Now, love is something that is generated from within me and radiates outwards. Earlier I controlled, rationed this thing called love, and more often was controlled by the rationing of it by others. Today, I have neither a wish to control nor can I and I am no longer sure where or whether there is a boundary to this energy.
I wonder when I connect with love is it because someone is giving it to me or is it something I experience within me? Earlier love had to do with attention and compliments and seeing someone as good or important. Today, love just is, people just are and it's just a whole lot of fun. Off course I still love attention and compliments and feeling special - I am just no longer sure it is in anyone else's power to make me feel loved or unloved.
And the awesome part of feeling this way is I don't feel as scared of being judged by others or making a fool of myself or not being good enough. All of that is really someone's point of view. I am now therefore even more addicted to love.My first memories of love are that of my mother kissing me awake. To date there is no one in the world who has woken me up as sweetly as my mother does. And then I remember my little brother's first words in the morning - even when half asleep - "ou est Pallavi?" - French for "where is Pallavi?" A child's love is a special kind of love - innocent and sweet and expressive. I am blessed with the opportunity of experiencing that love once more with my friend's adorable daughter who when I am visiting them asks in that same half awake state - "where is Pallavi Maasi?" and jumps into my arms at the most unexpected moments. It is a simple, unconditional love that moves me to tears.
My first memories of love are also those of Moussa, our house help who would make it on time, every time to pick me up at school and on the way home would even jump into "the forbidden bus" (with me off course) if I asked him to. He never once told me to keep these jaunts secret from my parents, even though he knew he would get into trouble. He would go down on bended knee and hand me my ironing because I was his little princess and despite my mother's well planned menu instructions he would make mashed potatoes with cheese for lunch whenever I wanted it. (Ok I admit I made terrible food choices as a child ;).)
I remember my father singing songs to entertain us on our drives and making us laugh till our stomachs hurt. I still love the Beatles' songs because every time I hear them I hear my father in them.
And those are some of my earliest memories of love.
But then there were the memories of lack of love as well. The teasing from the kids in the playground because I was fatter or had the same pair of sneakers on every day or because my hair was oiled and braided as opposed to golden and open like the other girls in the French school. They didn't care about my mother's painstaking efforts at keeping my hair healthy, long and strong - they just saw me as different and therefore an object of ridicule. The not being invited to birthday parties and the being left alone because I was a teacher's pet. The capacity for children to be cruel is also amazing and I experienced that very early.
All of these experiences together made me believe that love is outside and that I need to acquire it from someone else. I always needed to be loveable and that meant I always had to fit into another person's idea of loveable. I had to like the same games or activities or have the same opinions if I wanted to make friends. Based on my world view at the time, I had to work to be loved by my parents as well. And so love was a scarce resource that needed hard work and perfection. One mistake and love was out of the window - at least that's how it felt to me. Off course I had my revenge on the world - I started choosing whose love I wanted and whose I didn't. I partitioned the world into those who mattered to me and I would therefore invest in changing myself for them. And then there were those who did not matter - and well - they just didn't matter! I still remember being told by a fellow student in my post graduate days - "Pallavi has a club and you are either in it or not. If you are in, you are lucky to have all her heart and if you are out, you practically do not exist." It was a shocking revelation to me but every word was true! Today I regret that there are many wonderful people whom I kept out of my "alleged" club. I can only assure them that membership is much easier these days :D.
And so it continued - there were highs and lows but underneath it all an aching sense of loneliness and unfairness. This was not a beautiful place - it was a barren, harsh existence full of fear and uncertainty. Anything could tip the balance - an unkind word or harsh look and I would spiral into an agony of thinking - did I do something wrong - is so and so upset with me etc. Being myself was out of the question. I neither knew myself nor wanted to know - what made me loveable to others I was ok with, and what didn't I hated myself for - simple. I still remember being asked the question - "if you spoke to a friend the way you speak to yourself, what do you think will happen?" I said, "they would either run away or wither and die!".
As a result of this internal environment - there was also a third category of people - those who were out of my league - those whom I knew there was no chance of changing enough to be loved by them. Unfortunately all the boys my teenage heart fell in love with were in this category. ;) Oh! Those were trying times! I fed my addiction by devouring every romantic novel I could get my hands on. I fantasised about being Darcy's Elizabeth or someone's Jayne Eyre. Of being the Scarlett O'Hara to my own Rhett Butler and I sighed and wished for all the drama and trauma of love depicted in books, movies and music. Having a boyfriend was a status symbol and I felt like the lowest of the low. The only thing that kept me going was top grades in school. At least I was noticed then. :P
And then in college came the boyfriend stage - a turning point in my life. A point where I realised I was not a complete write - off. It still amazes me how far outside of me the remote control for my happiness was! Back to the boyfriend(s) - I have to admit I have been very lucky in that department. Though they reflected my low sense of self worth, they were decent chaps who reciprocated my adulation with the little love they could. What they could not give me though was understanding or respect for me or the freedom to be myself. Yet a subtle transition came over me. A feeling of greater confidence settled into my being and my theme song became the Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer duet from Sound of Music - "I must have done something good." Trust me - especially those who know me now - I really did feel this way. And nothing wrong with it either. It's a lot of conditioning to fight against!
By the time I started working at 23, I was so miserable that I was praying, wishing and hoping all day long for freedom from the helplessness and hopelessness I felt around love.
And as an answer, into my life came Anil who turned everything upside down - he gave me love and respect and the freedom to be me - at a level unexpectedly higher than I could have ever imagined and at a level that required me to begin the journey of valuing myself. When I am asked why I believe in a Divine Power - I secretly think of the miracle that was Anil that walked into my life. He just demands off me to see how beautiful I am without judgement, to loosen up and laugh a little more - every milestone I achieve, he raises the bar a little higher. When he asked me to marry him, the only reason he gave was that he thought "we could be happy together" and little did I know what promise those simple words held.
Being in love with Anil, getting married to him, staying in love and married has by no means been a fairy tale - we have our disagreements and differences and selfishnesses and judgements but through all of it we have grown to realise the value of loving ourselves just for who we are - and how much more love and space we can give to each other, our families and friends. We've also noticed how as we continue on this journey the more we give ourselves the more we receive from others around us, sometimes unexpectedly and as an avalanche of love!
Today as I write this I know myself so much more. I know who I am better than I ever have - from always wanting to be special to others, today I know how special I am to myself and how reduced my need to be special to others has become. I feel so much freer - and I love every moment of that freedom. I may not know everything about everything but I have an opinion and I feel empowered to express it without as much care for the approval of others. As narcissistic as it may sound I thoroughly enjoy my own company and love being by myself. Considering I always have multiple projects running simultaneously, I interact with many, but time with "me" is always a priority. And I receive an abundance of love. Everywhere I go, and whomever I meet I am touched by the love I get without even asking.
I have to be careful while writing this as I have no wish to convey that I feel completely unconditional love. I still have a long way to go. I am also worried that you will read into this that finding the right person is responsible for this state. It was definitely a catalyst and helped - sometimes as encouragement and sometimes as the devil's advocate. Most importantly, I have put in a lot of effort to get here - worked on knowing myself tirelessly. Used every tool and technique I could learn to know myself - even the dark and scary parts, and most difficult of all persevered to accept what I judged about me or others - and there was a lot - there's still a lot. Yet, I have learned to laugh at myself a little more and express my vulnerability a little more - not an easy thing to do. The only thing I can say is the journey is worth it. I am worth it :). I was once told that love is actually gratitude and acceptance and I continue to remind myself whenever I catch myself expecting a return on my "investment".
So now while I am still addicted, I feed my addiction more from within than without! How does it get even better!