Do we need to be perfect to be loved by another? The bad news is, yes, we do. The good news is, we are already perfect.
How do I know this? Let me introduce Evey…
I’ve had Evey since she was rescued as a kitten on Christmas Eve. She leaves muddy footprints on my pillow, and fur on my bed. She is the naughtiest cat I’ve ever had. She wakes me at 3am in the morning. She bites me when I try to groom her. She ambushes me as I walk through the house, grabbing my leg with her teeth and claws. Due to an abusive kitten-hood, she has trouble controlling herself and gets aggressive and panicky when we play. She scratches the carpet and the doors. She brings live birds, mice and lizards into the house. She drinks from the shower tray. The vet says she’s fat (I’m sure it’s just fur). Worst of all, when I’m in bed she stands on all my sensitive bits.
Do I love her? Yes, unreservedly, and with all my heart. I would kill to protect her, like a mother bear. She is perfect in my eyes, every day – not despite her imperfections, but because of them.
You might think that this is a bad example, since it’s so easy to love a kitten. But only a month before she arrived, I had lost my other cat, Scooby – he was hit by a vehicle on the main road.
A kind motorist had picked him up and taken him to a vet at a nearby town, who contacted us (he was microchipped). The vet was 20 minutes drive away, and I probably drove it in 10. When I arrived, Scooby had already passed on. He had died in excruciating pain from internal injuries, without those who loved him next to him, comforting him. He must have been so confused and upset. Still to this day I feel like I let him down – it was my responsibility to look after him, and I feel like I failed.
So when our vet offered us Evey only a month later, I didn’t know if I was ready to open my heart to the possibility of another loss like that, especially so soon. She seemed like a nice kitten, and I agreed to take her for a week, on the understanding that I could give her back if it was too much.
My heart was closed due to pain. My mothering instinct was shattered because I felt like I had let Scooby down. And Evey was a scruffy looking thing with clear behavioural issues.
What I discovered that week was that love is not about “perfect” timing, the “perfect” person, or even being “perfect” myself. Love is about opening your heart to the possibility of being loved back, despite the real and likely chance that you will experience pain and loss on the way.
We cannot choose who we love, but we can certainly choose how we love them. If you’re not going to do that with sincerity, openness and ferocity, then you are selling yourself short, because it is a universal truth that in loving others, we love ourselves.
Great love is for those not afraid of tremendous joy, and tremendous loss. But I think it is worth it. I hope you do, too.
Couple hugging photo by Freestocks at Pexels