By Tammy Darling

My heart spins, restless. Like a hamster on a wheel, I am spinning, turning, going…nowhere. I begin to wonder how long I’ve been living in the wilderness where thoughtless repetition replaces true living.
A thread of dread courses through my veins. Questions pile up like the unfolded laundry on my bed. At what point did I go from living to lost? How did I get so off-course? When did I cease to live? And perhaps more importantly, how do you find someone who wants to stay lost?
And so daily I traumatized that part of myself that was most vulnerable. The resulting mind grenade that detonated shattered my heart as well. Battle-worn, I settled. I settled for a life of all that I was not. I wore the masks, I hid the pain. All the while I placed brick after brick around my hurting heart.
The walls that kept me safe became the walls of my own prison, a prison that I could no longer just walk out of even if I wanted to; I had long ago thrown away the key.
And then, in the stillness of the night, a razor-sharp truth pierced my soul: Everyone dies but not everyone lives. It was then that I realized that a stagnant life is a living death.
By merely surviving instead of thriving, I was headed down a dead end track at the speed of light. Thankfully, I realized that time is not a curse but a gift. Hey, train wreck, find another station to derail. I wasn’t ready to crash and burn. Not in my forties. Not without ever having truly lived.
A holy hush fell over my hurting heart. Bits of memory that had made their mark on my soul were awakening to the truth that had long since been buried. It doesn’t have to be this way.
I once heard someone say that everything comes down to love. I believe that to be true. True love, true living, is where the mundane meets the majestic, where life is seen from both sides and you know which side wins. Even after pain and loss, life is beautiful; it’s different but no less beautiful. The real tragedy is not living, not loving.
I’ve been dipping my toes into genuine love but too afraid to share it with others, too afraid of the inevitable snarky remarks and rejection that will come from those who have never really tasted love and don’t know what to do with it. But holding on to love isn’t really an option either. Love was born to be free – freely given, freely received.
And so, there lies within me an ache to love unconditionally, to love no matter the cost. Love was never meant to be dependent upon circumstances. True love loves no matter what.
Genuine love breeches the definition of beautiful. I want to hold on to love and never let go. But to fill up a cup, it first must be emptied. If there is one thing I’ve learned experientially, it is this: The only way to hold on to love is to give it away.
I used to cherish my back row anonymity. Now I find myself on the front lines. Loving the least of these. Looking the oppressed in the eyes. Caring for those who can’t care for themselves.
When your own mother looks at you and says, “And who are you?” love responds with, “I’m your daughter,” followed by, “Your new haircut looks nice.” Love doesn’t run and hide; love lives. In spite of pain and sorrow – or perhaps because of it – love keeps on loving, keeps on living.
For my remaining years on this planet, I’m determined to live life motivated to bless. That requires that I live intentionally, purposefully. I deliberately seek out ways to put others first, to show affection, support, and thoughtfulness; to serve, and to bless. This is the way of love, the way beauty is revealed in a thousand little ways every day.
Living is so much more than catering to self. I’ve been there, ruined that. True living is loving – loving beyond words. And it is in the loving that we find beauty; it’s where we find life.
I spent far too many years living a life that wasn’t true to the “me” I was created to be, too many years trying to be what others wanted me to be. But along the way, I discovered this: Life is not worth living until you live your own life. Only when I stopped comparing myself to others and quit trying to please everyone out of fear of rejection did I truly begin to live and love. The authentic life is a beautiful life, a life worth living…and giving.
I no longer pretend to know the way. Every step is a step of faith; take one and then and only then, will the next step become clear. But as a wise woman once told me, “Hey, it’s all good.” And it is. Really. Without risk, there is no real living, only settling.
And when people ask how I’m doing, “fine” is no longer my default answer; truth is. If I’m not fine, I’m not going to fake fine. True love is real, transparent, vulnerable. And that’s what I’m going to be. So if you’re not looking for more than “fine” to the how-are-you-doing question, don’t ask me. True love doesn’t hide.
I’ve come to learn that my life doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful; beauty can be painted with ashes just as well as with fine acrylics. And I’m okay with that.
It took a long time for me to pull back the layers hiding the beauty of who I really am. Learning to love includes learning to love yourself, and so I choose to believe that I am God’s poetry in motion. So are you. And together we can live as though we believe we have something to offer the world. Because we do.>

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