When I was little, I used to ask my mom what I could do to make her not love me anymore.
I started testing people early it seems, and my mom was my first participant. She would tell me “I will love you forever. No matter what. I will always love you.“ I would challenge her frequently, the little four-year-old antagonist that I was, never fully comprehending this concept of forever love, often testing it, yet desperately wanting to believe it. So I would ask, and she would immediately and unwaveringly answer:
If I’m bad, will you still love me then? Of course.
If I yell at you, will you still love me then? Definitely.
If I run away, will you still love me then? Undoubtedly.
Even if I hurt you, will you still love me then? Yes, always. I will always love you.
This memory came rushing back at me this morning in my favorite yoga class, what we fondly call “yoga church” every Sunday morning. The theme was comfort, and our teacher asked us to think of something that has been said to us that brings us comfort. She offered a few suggestions but I chose the first thing that popped up in my head, the thing that is always somewhere in there but needs to be brought into consciousness so much more often.
I will always love you.
Ironic that what comforts me is also what I have the hardest time understanding.
As I moved through the warrior ones and the tree poses repeating my mantra, “I will always love you”, I pondered if it could really be true. Could we ever really make that commitment to someone, to love them unconditionally? Does it only work with your parents, or your children, or your spouse? And could love possibly transcend time and circumstance and everything else that life throws out to test us, and really be forever? How could I believe it from someone else when I wasn’t sure if I could extend the sentiment myself?
I thought about all of the people I have loved in my lifetime, the four-year-old contrarian now in a 35-year-old body, still questioning everything. When I’ve said I love you, when I’ve used the word forever, did I mean it? I think of the ones who broke my heart, and the ones whose hearts I may have broken. I think of the ones who grew apart, or replaced me with another. The ones who told me they were going, and the ones who simply left without a word. Is there truly love left there?
I am surprised to discover the answer is yes.
Through any lingering anger, through pain that may never fully heal, through tears and hurt and confusion and acceptance, there is still love. Love for what once was, love for lessons learned, love for being a part of my past and for leading me to where and who I am now.
And if I can believe my own love exists for others unconditionally, I should be able to believe it when someone uses the words forever and always with me. I should be able to use those words too.
We went around the yoga studio this morning before savasana, each person offering up what their words of comfort had been. Everyone had something, and they were mostly variations of the same “everything is going to be all right” message. It seems everyone has the same basic needs: to feel safe, to know things will work out, to feel loved.
Maybe all we need to feel safe is the promise from someone else that we will be. Maybe this is why we call it yoga church, because it challenges us to rely on faith–faith in our bodies, in our minds and in our hearts. And faith in each other. Maybe what we can offer back to each other most for comfort…is love.
So to all of you, I echo the sentiments that my fellow yogis voiced this morning:
It’s going to be okay.
I will be here for you.
Things will get better.
You are loved.
I will always love you.