The gift of love is in the giving

Your heart was never made to be kept safe but rather to be kept open. That’s how you let love in.

– Mom

Let me tell you a story about my first teenage crush and how it taught me about the gift of love.

I’d just turned thirteen and recently started my high school career. I’d been looking forward to High School all my life. Everything was going well. I had managed to make a few new friends, I liked my home room teacher and I was ready to take on the world.

Well, that was until I met a boy

I remember the moment like it was yesterday. I hope he doesn’t because I’d hate for him to read this one day and think I never forgot about him. Perhaps let’s not share this blog too much.

Anyway, so I met the boy during our first lunch break. There he was, sitting outside the tuckshop, clearly chatting up the girls behind the counter. He unconsciously, for a second, turned to look my way as I walked towards the tuckshop window. I think I nearly tripped over myself but don’t worry ladies, I managed to keep my cool.

I must admit, I knew it in that moment that he was the kind of boy every aunt, cousin and friend had warned me about. If you know me then it should come as no surprise that he eventually did break my heart but that’s a story for another day – in fact, we could write an entire book with just that story.

Before he even knew who I was, I had clearly become besotted. I was a bundle of nerves getting ready for school everyday and on days when he wouldn’t even look my way, I’d come came back from school with a teenage heartbreak. 

My mother’s first dating advice

One morning, my mother decided the dramatics had become all too much. She walked into my room and asked why I wouldn’t just tell the boy that I liked him and “get it over with already?” I thought clearly my mother had never been in love. Like “real love” you know. The kind of love that felt like could suffocate you if it were not reciprocated. 

“Mom, what if he doesn’t like me? Knowing that would kill me,” I said as I pulled the duvet over my head.

She laughed in response and said, “Lesego, one day you will realise that the gift of love is never in the receiving of it but rather the giving of it. Your heart was never made to be kept safe but rather to be kept open. Being open comes with the risk of being hurt but that’s also how you let love in.”

I was thirteen and not only did I feel like my mother just didn’t get it but I felt like I just didn’t get her.

Wisdom comes with age

It was only years later that I became more open to the idea of loving with the prospect of not being loved in return. No thanks to societal standards though.

Growing up, I felt that society had tried to teach me that as a woman, I should not reveal all my cards until I am certain that I will win. I was taught to sit back and wait for the man to be ready before I can express my true feelings – fearful that anything else otherwise, would scare the man away. 

I found evidence of this kind of thinking demonstrated in the hoards of books written by men “advising” women on how to act in order to get a man to settle down with them. All these books tell us (women) how men are hunters and how women should sit back and let the man be in control.

Sidebar: Whenever I see another best seller women’s book written by a man, my first thought is always, “why aren’t aren’t nearly as many books telling men how to be responsible, loving and accountable?” Is there even one book out there that speaks about how men can attract and keep a woman who likes to sit in the driver’s seat of her own life?

Singleness isn’t celebrated

The world has made being single a defect – if no man wants to be with you then you are not worthy of this “marital status” that we are made to worship. For the longest of time, I feared being alone because I had allowed society to convince me that my purpose is tied to finding a man to love me. 

I feared not being loved in return thus, believed women must sacrifice what we really want for what the world thinks we need. Because I feared being rejected, hurt and embarrassed, I unconsciously gave up living in my truth so that I could be accepted.

Society has perpetuated this fear in most women I believe. And, I believe that it is the things that we fear most that we in turn, allow to make decisions on our behalf. 

Rejection is redirection

I feel blessed to have been born to a woman like my mother. It was the love that she gave to me, as well as others, that taught me that the gift of love was not in receiving but rather in the giving of it.

My mother taught me that true love is open for wounding and that there is true strength in being vulnerable. That I was not responsible for how a man felt about me – my only responsibility was to be the best person that I could be. She taught me that in the end, I was the prize.

I am now grateful that I feel more courageous to be vulnerable, even at the very high risk of being rejected. As dreadful as it sounds, I am happy that I am able to tell my deepest feelings to others even at the risk of not having my feelings reciprocated because I also understand the rejection is redirection.

There is strength in revealing who I really am, what I really want and how I really feel because I have left no questions unanswered. Instead of running from my feelings, from my life, I own my story. 

My mother taught me that my heart was not made to be kept safe but rather to be kept open and to always make my desires known. I allow people to see my truth so that I can be content in living in it. When I reveal my heart’s deepest desire, I set my soul free.

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