Talking with someone earlier today, I found myself listening to them bare their soul. They shared about how they worried that, if they lost their family, they’d have no one to love them. It seriously felt like their innermost self was saying, ‘Is there anything to love about me?’ I have known this feeling. I’ve been in this state of mind, truly wondering what would happen if I were completely alone. You know what? I learned that I’d be fine all by myself.

See, I walked through an extremely painful time that led me to a truth. I AM alone. We all are. And scary as that may seem, it is alright. I am here to assure you, it is alright. Because once we recognize that we are each truly alone, something happens when that fact truly dwells within you. Paradoxically, you begin to feel at one with others, you begin to experience oneness with life around you. THAT experience is an exquisite blend of feeling loved, lovable, loving and the most not-alone state of being I’ve ever encountered.

Am I able to maintain that level all the time? No. Not at all. But, I’ve experienced it a couple of times for long enough to know that it is possible and that it’s true. In knowing it, I derive comfort from the possibility that I may encounter it again. Each time I did, it fortified me like nothing else ever has. No chocolate has tasted this good. No hug felt as warm or as close. Nothing else has EVER brought me such peace.

Fleeting though it may be, here’s how I got there. First, when I encountered the ‘holy crap, what if no one else loves me?’ moment, I cried. A lot. Buckets worth. For several weeks. Side by side with that was simply being ‘in’ it. The ugly, wet, soaked-tissuey mess of it all. I took a lot of naps. I took a lot of baths. With bubbles. I lit candles and wore my favorite soft, most cozy sweatshirt a lot. Sometimes 24/7 for many days in a row. It helped. And I wrote, drew, painted and read books, cuz those things brings me comfort too.

I got to a particular point one night. It was pitch black out – a new moon – hazy-ish, so not many stars. Simply a quiet night. My husband and animal friends were all asleep and, as kept happening at the time, I wasn’t. And I had that thought I told you about. The ‘holy crap, what if no one else loves me?’ one. It bolted through me as though something had pierced me clean through and cut me in half. First, I was filled with dread. In a freeze-frame moment, I went into my bathroom, lit by a soft nightlight, closed the door and stood there. I don’t know why I went in there, I didn’t need to urinate or anything, but I’ve gotten used to doing odd things for odd reasons, so I just went in there anyway. After a moment or two, I found myself looking in the mirror. The question bore through me again. What if no one else loves me?

I looked in the mirror more closely and tried to answer the question. I had no response. Then I thought, ‘What if they don’t? What then?’. Still, no response. I was void of replies. The next thoughts went something like this: ‘What about YOU? What about YOU loving you? How ’bout that?’

It was a breakthrough for me. I thought of how I feel when I learn of a rescue dog who needs a home. I thought of how I feel when I see a child being excluded from the other kids playing. I thought of how I feel when others feel unloved. I would and could DEFINITELY show THEM love. Of course I would! The compassion in me looms large and ready-to-go at a moment’s notice…for others.

In that moment, I realized that I could extend this compassion inward. Be kind and loving and compassionate toward me. THEN someone would love me. I would. And that is enough. Because that’s where it all begins. It’s utilizing the capacity we have to love towards ourselves first. That’s where the seed is planted. That’s where love begins to grow.

As I moved forward, little by little, indulging my needs, caring for myself gently, something else happened. Without noticing it at first, I began to be able to receive other people’s love. I could actually ‘get it’ when my husband looks at me all goopy-eyed and tells me I’m cute. I could feel him loving me. I could actually receive the words my friend Peg offered when she told recently me how much she cares about me.

Other things happened without any effort on my part. A couple of friends I had in high school and college contacted me. We’ve reignited our friendships. These two women are both loving and supportive and upbeat and kind towards me. They’re the kind of people who let you know you matter. They both leave me feeling happier and better about myself and happy to be in friendship with them. They show love towards me. They remind me I am lovable and loved.

The lesson learned for me here is this: you have to love you first. Before anyone else. You have to fill your own bucket and not count on anyone else to do it for you. It is NOT easy. It is NOT well-known in our current culture that it is so dang necessary. It is often viewed and judged as selfish to indulge yourself like this. But that view is wrong. As flesh and blood human beings, we have certain needs that must be filled. Food and shelter for sure. But another need that is equally important is love for oneself. So go. Get a soft night light or a lit candle, go into your bathroom for no reason and look into your own eyes. You’ll see it. You will. You are lovable. You only have to demonstrate it to yourself.