I wasn’t brought up to use the word love. It was a difficult word that got rolled out in exceptional and rare circumstances, usually with embarrassment. We’re warned it’s not a word to use lightly – there’s that question in the Guardian Questionnaire ‘have you ever said ‘I love you’ and not meant it?’. We hear people criticising others for using it too flippantly (usually, for some reason, in relation to peanut butter).
But I do. Love and say ‘I love you’, I mean. I’m in love with my husband and I love my daughter more than I believe is possible. I love my friends, my choir, walking, running, laughing, having choice, life, my work, my clients, peanut butter…
So I’m coming out. I never say “I love you” without meaning it. I just love. It was a while before I experienced unconditional love – that’s the love we’d all ideally feel from our parents – but when I did, I learned how to be loved as well as how to love and I’ve just kept on going. There’s something about acceptance and it’s surprisingly easy to do. I think loving’s like decluttering – the more we do it, the easier it becomes. The more I love, the happier I am.
A teacher of a challenging and very troubled child once told me she’d been advised to manage by loving the child. It helped. When a young person in my life began self-harming, a special friend advised me to ‘keep loving her’. Good advice.
I’m not saying I like everybody and everything. Trust me, I’m human and normal. There are times it’s not easy to love me and there are times I dislike husband, daughter, friends, but I never stop loving them. Remembering that helps us resolve whatever’s going on and is the pathway back to liking them. Love feels like the answer to almost everything.
The more I see of a client, the more my love for them grows. I didn’t know it was going to be like that, I don’t expect it, it just happens. Without exception, thinking about any of them days, weeks, months after we’ve worked together makes me smile and feel warm. When you do this kind of work, people show you their stuff and they show you parts of themselves. We spend time together and they let me help them help themselves. It’s always productive, sometimes it’s intense. How can I not love someone who’s prepared to do that with me?