This Valentine’s Day my cat Jackie reminds me what unconditional love is and the importance of having an open heart.
As I woke up and reached over to stroke my cat Jackie’s furry coat and gently kiss his head while he purred softly, a feeling of unconditional love washed over me. I wondered aloud, how do I love this creature so much? Considering I was a “non-cat” person as I share in an earlier blog, and that Jackie has ruined two designer chairs in my family room, curtains, an area rug, along with other sundry items. To be sure, cleaning up his business is no fun matter, especially when he occasionally misses his litter box. So what’s his appeal and where does this love come from? He doesn’t actually DO much for us, other than meow for attention when he wants something. And while his purring indicates some happiness on his side, I don’t know if he loves me.
This is where the crux of the matter lies, love is not about what the other being does for us or if they love us first. At its core love, it’s about us. It’s a choice we make to open our heart towards another unconditionally.
It’s common to look to others for love first, rather than considering our own role in a relationship and how we are loving them.
Recently, I came across a social media post on a working mom’s chat group that went something like this, “My husband is really slacking in the husband department lately. I need more compliments, he’s always looking at his phone and doesn’t look at me lovingly anymore. I want a partner that isn’t complacent and works on the spark . He never surprises me anymore or makes me feel special.” This is a typical perspective and tendency we have to look to others to make us happy. The reality is our happiness starts with us. Understanding that we can’t control other people, their actions or feelings, starting with our own action is the most logical course when it comes to love too.
If I want to experience loving feelings, I can ask myself how I can show my love to another. What can I do to make them feel special? I’ve found that in the loving actions I take, as long as I’m not expecting anything in return, this is what fills my heart the most.
For it is in giving that we receive.Saint Francis of Assisi
Giving love can apply to romantic partners, but love can be given to anyone in our lives. We are surrounded by other humans and animals that can benefit from our love. The more love we spread, the more abundant loving feelings we have.
Fear of not being loved in return is often a reason for holding ourselves back from giving love. But when we change our attitude to loving others unconditionally without expectation of anything in return, there is nothing to fear. We have nothing to lose, but lots to give and gain.
However, I’ve found that in order to truly give love, we must first learn to love ourselves.
Love yourself first
Love is one of the eight elements of the Happiness Formula in Good Morning, Life!, where I highlight the importance of loving ourselves above all else. As RuPaul famously said, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” Learning to love ourselves can be a whole topic for another blog, as it can be easier said than done.
Back to my unconditional love for Jackie. When I had labeled myself a “non-cat person” I closed myself off to loving a cat. It was when I dropped the label and opened my heart to this creature that I accessed those loving feelings.
This same heart opening can be done for all creatures, including people. We just need to open our minds and our hearts.
As Valentine’s Day is upon us, it’s a great time to show others our love for them. And while giving chocolate or flowers is nice, that’s not what it’s about. Love can be shown in simple gestures, texts, or calls. While the word ‘love’ can conjure up perceptions associated with romantic love, love can be much more abundant than that. And don’t forget that love always starts with us, so before anyone else, show yourself some love this Valentine’s Day.
Pictured on the left, me and Jackie. On the right, my son, Austin and Jackie.