It’s Sunday night, and my mother texts me, “Can I call you?” I’m about to run to the grocery store for a snack between sentences for an article I’m trying to write, so I reply, “I’ll call you in a minute.” I call when I’m heading out to the elevator because I know she only wants to talk for a second. When she answers the phone, she has an inexplicable joy in her voice. “Thank you for calling me.” I guess it is explicable.
Sometimes when I hear how much love is in my mother’s voice, I feel tears in my chest. I am not sure I could ever love like that. I am still not sure I deserve a love like that. And if I don’t deserve a love like that, it’s because I am not capable of loving like that. There will always be a part of me that is dark and angry and selfish. I am in a million broken fragments of tears knowing that my mother still loves me, anyway. Unconditional love.
The first time I learned about unconditional love I was sixteen-years-old. I was cynical. I sat in a room with a bunch of other teenagers, and someone got up in front of us and told us that we were loved, no matter what we did or who we were or what we believed about ourselves. We were loved, and we were lovable. At the end of the talk, people came into the room carrying baskets filled with letters. They were letters from people – some strangers, some not – who were telling us we were loved, just because we existed. I read through my pile of letters, while a lot of other people in the room cried, reading theirs. The letters were nice to read, but in my teenage sullenness, I didn’t believe that anyone really loved me that much. So I didn’t cry.
At the end of my pile, I got a letter from my mother. Especially when I was sixteen, I was a bad daughter. I was vicious and angry and hurt all the time. I fought with her often, and I told her sometimes that I hated her. Her letter was not a long one, but it said that I was beautiful, and dear to her, and she loved me. It was like I had never been horrible. For the first time I could remember, I began to cry from somewhere deep and painful inside me. For the first time in my life, I felt I deserved love simply because I existed. And not because I had done anything worthy of love. The only person I believed to tell me about such love was the person that carried me to life, shared her blood with me, and held onto loving me every moment, even when I didn’t deserve it. She had a stake in my life, and for that, I believed her when she said I mattered.
That was the greatest gift I ever received in my life. So much so that almost fifteen years later when someone tells me that unconditional love doesn’t exist, I say, “Unconditional love changed my life. I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for it.” And I still believe that.
I don’t know if I am up for the job of unraveling the darkness of people who don’t believe that such love exists, but I want to be. I want to be up for the job, even if I don’t know how to prove it. How to prove something that someone has never felt? It is much easier said than done, especially when I’m still imperfect and unsure of my capacity to deliver such love. I’ll be waiting on examples that show that such love exists; I’ll be searching for proof that love can be pure and true and honest (conditional love is always dishonest, and it always believes the worst… it never seeks to see love as endless and generous and hopeful and kind). How does one prove that immense, wild feeling that each person deserves love as they are and for who they are because they are? If I could, I would give everyone a basket of letters that says just that.