A Love That Never Leaves
I can hear my parents screaming at each other downstairs. I’m eight years old. It is like this most nights. The lights are off in my room and I am under the covers, holding a small radio. My headphones are in and the station that’s playing is “Late Night Love Songs.” I listen to love songs so I can hear the truth. The truth of joyful love, respectful love, a love that’s kind, passionate and beautiful.
At eight, I decided I would believe a love like this existed for me. It had to. How else could all these people sing about it if it wasn’t true? Despite what was happening in my home, I told myself I would believe in love.
And I wanted it more than anything.
I wanted it more than anything, and I looked for it like my life depended on it. I spent a lot of years becoming who I thought I needed to be in order to find love. That was first. What did men want? What was beautiful? Nice body. I started there; it seemed that’s where love was. I worked out two times a day in high school and college. I prayed to be liked and approved of.
I started drinking; it seemed that’s where love was. That’s where the fun was. I drank for the first time because a boy offered it to me and I wanted him to like me. That first drink then sent me into six years of full-blown alcoholism. I drank to be loved. I ate to feel loved. I had sex to be loved. I spent money to find love.
My first boyfriend cheated on me. My next boyfriend broke up with me, saying he simply “stopped caring about me” one day. The next guy I dated wouldn’t call me his girlfriend, even though we spent a lot of time together and he took me on dates. The boyfriend after that I spent almost three years with breaking up and getting back together again before we finally said goodbye.
I cried, feeling helpless in my search. I couldn’t seem to keep love. I thought I’d find it, but then it would leave.
I stopped being inspired by love songs, and they started making me angry. I started being jealous of my friends’ love stories because it wasn’t happening for me. I even gave up on dating for a while.
Miraculously, after six years of drinking, in my first of many acts of loving myself, I stopped. I stayed stopped and began looking for love within me.
One day my friend called me and told me she was leading a retreat in Hawaii and wanted to know if I’d like to go. I was really struggling with money at the time, but I could feel that I absolutely needed to go. I ended up moving out of my apartment and slept on a friend’s couch for three weeks before I jetted off to Maui.
I remember how it felt to get off the plane. I had never done something that like that for myself before. The air was crisp and sweet and as soon as my feet were in the grass, I somehow felt like the most glorious, healthy, loving, and compassionate mother was holding me. I spent five days dancing, singing, crying, and playing on the beach. Five days practicing being loving, compassionate, and gentle with myself. Five days with other women who wanted to heal and learn and grow. Five days not worrying about my ex-boyfriends, not worrying about what I was going to do with the rest of my life. Five days not looking for love in any other place but my own heart.
On the last day of the retreat, I realized something: I was trying to “find’ something that had never left me. I took out my journal and sat beneath a tree, and my heart wrote this love song to me:
There are so many love songs written
And none of them will do
Not compared to the one
I have written for you
There are so many reasons
And so many ways
For the love I have saved that’s all for you
You looked in the wrong places
And that’s all OK
For the love that’s been hidden
Can’t be replaced
Catherine, I’ve found you
And I’ve waited with ease
Since I always knew
You’d come home to me
Once here you’ll never leave
And love will be free
It’s the gift that keeps giving
And is yours to receive
So stay with me baby
We’ve got everything
We’ll rest here forever
And we’ll keep singing
This love song showed me that there is a love that never leaves. It’s the love I have for me.
To listen to Catherine’s love song, click here.