– Bobbe Branch, Seattle

Alone on a boardwalk built over the water, I watch the sunset, finally a night on my own. The cold wind blows from the south making the clouds move as if changing the scene in a play for the next act to come. Across the vast expanse of dark-blue water, a beautiful golden-orange ball perched on the mountains is slipping slowly on its path to the other side of this earth that I call home.

A group of young people challenge each other to run and yes, even dive into the icy water, as a test of endurance to see who can push their edge the farthest.  Families walk together. Children are biking, laughing, running as the day winds down and evening arrives.

Watching all the movement and the energy of being alive, I am struck by how ordinary and very similar we are. We appear so different, and yet we are very much the same. No one is a super-star! This is a scene people have created for centuries in places all over the world.

Standing in this moment, I am full of gratitude for life, love, the wind, the clouds, the water, the people and the breath in my body.

So many awakenings through difficult and unexpected challenges have unfolded in front of me precipitating change.

As I breathe, a memory comes to mind of another time, a few years ago. A younger woman stood on a warm sandy beach in Hawaii contemplating her life as the same golden ball dropped quietly into the sea.  I am not that same woman any longer. So many awakenings through difficult and unexpected challenges have unfolded in front of me precipitating change. Realizations of my behaviors and patterns became clearer. And, somewhere from deep within I felt an open space, like an invitation to live a brand new and different life. Was I ready to make such a move?

Up until then, my responses to challenges came from learned beliefs. The results often left me bewildered and unhappy. My need for love and understanding from others sometimes seemed insatiable. I kept giving more and more in my relationships until my cup of Love dwindled to a trickle barely able to sustain the life I was living. I was looking for answers and thirsting for a lasting inner peace.

My soul was listening to my pleas for change. Although the answers came in whispers I was not yet trained to hear them. I was missing the subtle messages as my conditioned mind was still determined to keep me busy, busy. My attention was focused on watching other people’s problems and struggles, as I could see their answers. Caught up in trusting my mind, I was the one who was suffering and feeling lost. Could I begin to find some way to break free of this cycle?

One evening after another challenging phone conversation with someone I loved very much, I felt confused and alone. I gazed out my bedroom window at the outline of the tall pine tree silhouetted by the light of the moon, while still feeling the effects of the call. My stomach was in knots and the familiar pain was once again present. Standing quietly staring into the darkness for a long time, I wondered how to begin to make a shift. What change could I bring about to create different results when dealing with the unexpected words and actions of other people? I was helpless in controlling how others thought or acted. I did, however, have the prospect of helping myself find a different way. What exactly could I do for me?

Suddenly, several thoughts came to mind: “I am with myself twenty-four hours a day and yet I am clueless about how to love me and be with me.” “I am desperate for others to fill my cup full of the love I am always giving out to others…the love I want so much.” “I do not know how to love me.” To top it all off, I didn’t really like being with myself. I would rather be with others, for any reason and I would use any excuse. I would spend time solving their problems, cooking food and do anything other than being alone with myself.

A second powerful thought followed almost immediately. “Was I even worth loving?” I stood for a while feeling overwhelmed! I finally sat down on the edge of my bed and wondered where to even begin. I took some deep breaths and asked with every part of my being for some answers!

As I began to sit and calm myself, more thoughts came pouring into my mind. “I found it easy to give to others in a relationship.” I give until I am exhausted.” “ I have hours of practice loving and caring for others.” “The place where I have failed was in not loving me.”

Instead of concentrating on others, what if I made a commitment to love me, be with me, see who I am and get to know me?

Instead of concentrating on others, what if I made a commitment to love me, be with me, see who I am and get to know me? How would that feel? Was it even possible for me to actually do? Could I accept and love me, all the parts of me? Am I going to be able to see parts I don’t like in me and find the unconditional love to accept them also? Seemed like a big mountain to climb! Yet tonight it felt like the moment to take a chance, make changes and try something different.

I remembered the big, soft, blue body pillow I purchased when I started to sleep alone after my divorce. Twenty-two years of sleeping with someone next to me created a big empty space to fill up in my queen-sized bed and that pillow really helped me make that change. I began to search the house and discovered it in my spare bedroom.

Soon I found myself lying on my bed, with the pillow next to me. I felt the evening’s revelations begin to flow over me. I turned on my side. Holding the pillow in my arms, I imagined I was holding myself and began to say the beautiful words I had said to my partner for those many years. The words felt so tender as I said them out loud, the feeling in my heart was overwhelming and tears flowed lightly down my cheeks. I realized I really had nothing to lose except pain and the old story of not being worthy and loved. That night I began a love affair with me. As I drifted into sleep, I felt happily wrapped in the gift of beginning to love myself.

I got really brave in the morning and looked into my eyes in the mirror and told myself, “I love you! I am committed to being with you. I will hold you, support you, and never leave you. I love you! You are so worth loving!” At first it was difficult to look directly into my eyes, I felt almost shy with myself. Each time I repeated the words, it became easier and easier. My eyes mirrored back acceptance and received the words willingly.

As I continued this ritual each morning and evening, it soon became as natural as brushing my teeth. I found myself buying me flowers, cooking my favorite foods, giving to me the way I had loved and cared for my partners. I got into the rhythm of loving me and gave up running to others for my needs. From everywhere I looked my life began to fill with love. Even on challenging days, I was there loving me through it all. I learned to make myself a priority. This deep connection within me took time and space to cultivate. I am filled with so much gratitude for the courage I found to follow my soul’s promptings and take those first steps.

Today I am more aware of being truly loved and connected to myself and all of life in a deeper way. There is no yearning for more love, no wanting! More love than I ever imagined is within me and in every part of my life. The irony, I realize, is I was never separated from Love. Love was and is what we already are when we breathe our first breath.  I was unable to see this truth through the clouds of thoughts and feelings.

My journey continues as I write and wonder…. What beach or boardwalk is waiting for me to enjoy my next night as a woman alone and in love with the simple sweetness of love and life?

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