This article was originally featured in Mind Body Green. You can read it here.
For decades, my life had a theme: the absence of unconditional love.
When I got up every morning to start each new day, the sun was up and the day held endless promise. But I couldn't see it. Even in my youngest years, I faced each day with dread and inner resistance. I wanted to avoid the world, cover up, and protect myself. I felt something I couldn't escape but I also couldn't identify.
I saw it in social interactions, on the playground, and in the classroom. I saw it on commercials, sports fields, and at the swimming pool. I even experienced it at family gatherings.
Year after year, there was no escaping it. It took me a long time to finally identify the problem as a lack of unconditional love.
And one day, I made a critical mistake: I internalized it.
I made a worldly problem my own problem. From that day on, I saw the world's inability to love unconditionally as a "me" problem. I began to believe that if I changed myself to be all the things society deemed lovable, then I would experience unconditional love.
I began a desperate search for unconditional love. But that led me to become conditional with myself. I spent years being, doing, and pursuing what I thought would be best received by the world around me.
I had small wins. I got the temporary praise and love I thought I was after. But deep down, I knew it wasn't me getting love; it was my actions that made the other person stop and notice.
Year after year I tried, like a camouflaged hunter standing quietly in the trees waiting for the perfect shot that would conquer unconditional love. I'd leave the mountains with my trophy and mount it up in the den for everyone to see. "Look what I finally seized for myself; I'm finally worthy."
But for decades, it eluded me. The longer I searched for it, the more I found lacked, the more I changed to receive it, and the worse it hurt when it wasn't there.
Then a moment came that changed everything.
One day, I faced the reality that the personal world I lived in lacked unconditional love and decided to stop hiding from it. I asked myself, "What's the bigger picture? What am I missing? I have to be experiencing and seeing this for a reason, so what am I supposed to be doing with it?"
I wrote out all of the strong memories that had shaped my awareness of a lack of unconditional love. Then I took it a step further and separated out my strongest negative memories.
I noticed a theme of feeling unlovable as I was.
This sparked my interest, so I recalled my strongest positive memories. As expected, the feelings attached to these memories were love, acceptance, and unconditional love.
That’s when I realized that my awareness of the absence and presence of unconditional love was something much bigger than me. It’s something I was meant to realize and do something with.
I accepted and forgave.
My focus had been on the lack of unconditional love, so the more I saw, the more I experienced. I decided that instead of seeing myself as a victim of a cruel world, maybe I should see that the universe was trying to communicate with me.
It wasn't the world showing me how unlovable I was; it was the universe showing me my bigger purpose.
It wasn't the world offering relentless suffering; it was the universe being my classroom; suffering was my teacher.
Suffering had my attention. It had me on lock down. I don't blame the universe for choosing suffering as my wake up call. I just wasn't getting it.
A purpose statement was born.
One event captures my inner drive regarding unconditional love. Sixteen years ago, my husband's friend had been belittling his pregnant girlfriend. He kept telling her she was gaining too much weight, grabbing her sides to prove there was too much fat, and telling her she was disgusting.
My blood boiled for this woman. She was vulnerable, and rather than receiving unconditional love, she was being humiliated and shamed.
The next time we had dinner with them, I pulled her aside and told her she was a beautiful pregnant woman and not to let anything her boyfriend said sink in as truth. It backfired. She told her boyfriend and he blew up and rallied his friends to his cause. The men stuck together and I became the pariah, the woman to hate—for sticking up for someone who was being treated cruelly.
Looking back on that event, it speaks volumes about the men involved and speaks volumes about who I am and what I will always stand up for—unconditional love.
I see the lack of it everywhere, and it's not an error. I'm supposed to see it because I'm meant to help people feel and share it. That's my purpose.
I have lacked unconditional love all my life. I used to think it was a curse; something to escape, or to morph myself to avoid.
But it's not a curse. It's the blessing that God has bestowed on me to make the world a better place.
Now when I wake up, I know I have work to do. I see the endless promise of the good I can do.
Helping people see and experience unconditional love is my purpose—and our purpose is our superpower. It's the purest form of love there is—and we're meant to give it to the world.