I stumbled across a quote yesterday that said “I want somebody to love me.” I immediately thought about Josephine March from Little Women. It’s the scene where she is pacing in the attic of her childhood home, her mother watching. Upon learning that Laurie is accompanying her sister back home, Jo clings to her loneliness and wonders if she’d made a mistake in turning down his affection. Astutely, her mother asks if she loves Laurie.

“I care more to be loved. I want to be loved,” Jo stammers. Without missing a beat, her mother states, “That’s not the same as loving.”

Completely on the opposite spectrum, I pace today thinking, “I want to love somebody. I want to give love.” Perhaps it’s a trauma response, a pain body I carry around from my youth. The experiences that shaped me also set me adrift with this need to be a buoy, a lighthouse in another’s darkness. I’ve never wanted anyone that I care about to feel an ounce of the loneliness that I have felt, that I feel some days.

Because of this, I’ve been an accomplice in my own dismemberment by settling for less love than I deserve. I’ve allowed the capacity of my giving to overshadow the affection I subconsciously, and now quite consciously, desire. Drawing breath from an oxygen mask is not the same as breathing. It’s the type of love I’ve inhaled voluntarily throughout most of my intimate relationships. It’s only been recently that I’ve become strikingly aware that I don’t want this mask anymore.

I can recall a telling memory, a knock on my ship door while I was ill at twenty three, my lifeless body getting up to answer. I was surprised to be greeted by my boyfriend holding a hot beverage steadily in his hands. He must have read the perturbed look on my face, divulging, “I brought you a cup of tea because you weren’t feeling well.” That gesture was new to me. I was always the one with the cup of hot tea, not knowing the sensation of being on the receiving end. Within that mindset, I clung to him. I thought he was the best gift. To have someone treat me so well.

We didn’t last long in our relationship, my ex being contracted to another vessel. We never knew when we’d see each other again. Needless to say, I became depressed. But in that depression, a singer in my cast fed me words of wisdom, much like Jo was given.

“I know you think he was good to you, but you could do so much better.”

That cup of hot tea to me was the grandest gesture I’d ever received in an act of love from an intimate partner. I’ve let men belittle me, use me, lie to me, abandon me in times of need, even pin me to the floor while I screamed so loudly the neighbors asked if I needed saving.

The only thing I needed saving from was myself. I wanted to love so badly that I gave it to the very people who were eager to take. And take. And take, to the point where a silly beverage when sick meant the absolute world.

The bare minimum still astounds me, honestly. Perhaps it’s from TSW, or the many trials I’ve endured from withstanding a chronic illness and the barrage of hurricanes it’s set in my path, but current, small gestures have shown me that giving love, feeling love should be reciprocated. That the giving without receiving stems only from grief. Because that’s what she is — grief is just love with no place to go. She is how I created Preventable. The insurmountable loss that occurred in my life during that time allowed me to channel every piece of my broken heart into that project. It was the only thing holding me up from crumbling to a thousand pieces.

I guess the point of all this boils down to a reckoning. Love is patient and kind and warm and generous and gentle and protective. And it’s for me. To recognize that cups of hot tea are standard and what anyone should be offered when poorly. Gratitude, of course, is alive in those sweet givings, but they are not to be placed upon a pedestal. To never accept anything less than these components that fashion a good partner, a good friend, a good lover.

So, yes, I wish to always give love, that is my nature. But now, I will be more cautious when it comes to matters of the heart. We only have one in our body — know its worth. Untether from the mask and find people that let you breathe fresh air. People that hold you at your weakest, bring laughter to your soul, and never, ever leave you wondering if the love you give is enough.

You are forever enough for the right person. Always.

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