I have one of those faces. People tell me their problems. When I was seventeen, and on a cross channel ferry, a fellow student (after unburdening herself) told me I had kind eyes. I was surprised and beguiled by the compliment. After all, I had been beaten up when I was ten because I was ‘ugly and horrible’, and my self-esteem was irrevocably damaged. In fact, you could date the genesis of my depression to that day.
Over the years, many people have spoken to me about their problems. I was a Samaritan for five years, a very special time. There was dreadful darkness and some utterly harrowing stories. Life never looks quite the same when you have glimpsed its blackest corners. But to be privy to such intimate secrets was a honour, and my fellow Samaritans some of the kindest and most remarkable people I have ever met. My heart grew: love begets love, and I have continued to reach out.
How many people rarely think of others except as competitors or obstacles? How many would find reaching out to a soul mired in sadness frightening or tiresome? Would rather turn in on their own lives, making them ever smaller, more self-centred, safer? It is very easily done and so pervasive. But it shuts out such a lot of love.
To open our heart, to offer its hospitality to those who need it, should be a selfless act, but of course we are none of us saints. Opening our heart entirely exposes our own vulnerabilities, but if our motivation is love, given freely without need or hope of return, then we are not going too far wrong. I often do go wrong, it is not easy, I can be hurt, and sometimes I lose my way in the intense tangle of emotions. And do I do it to feel better about myself? Perhaps.
If I am honest, there are times when I have needed to be needed. I am by no means selfless, but I am finding honesty an increasingly useful companion. I am learning to believe I’m not entirely ‘ugly and horrible’, and to forgive myself when sometimes I am. I hope I’m learning to be more selfless even as I consider my own needs.
As I totter gingerly along my new path, with the support of a wonderful life coach and some truly special friends, I find myself bumping up against the need to question my motives, to consider altering some of my behaviour, to make hard choices, to think of my own needs. It is very difficult but very necessary, and there is no doubt I am slowly moving forward. Who knows what lies ahead …? It’s an exciting mystery!
One thing is certain, however. I will always offer the hospitality of my heart. At the moment, it is undergoing a bit of renovation and conservation, but essentially, it is open for business. A life without love is no life.
My love to you all.