We all wish to be loved. Embraced and held tight, sheltered away from loneliness and life’s frequent storms.

This year showed me that I am not only loved, but most of all truly accepted as I am.

I never saw this before. I’d go as far as to say that it did not matter if others cared about me or not. Of course, it was lovely to know that my husband and dog love me. How nice to have a couple of friends scattered around the world still keeping me in their thoughts. It felt nice and made my heart feel good, for about 5 minutes.

The rest of the time I was too busy trying to stay alive to even wonder how those around felt about me.

It was only during a couple of sudden health scares that I saw how much goodness my life is filled with. I came to realize that “my” people rooted for me. They wanted me to be well and thrive.

I, instead, just wanted to be left alone. They kept on reaching out, while I’d ignore their lovely wishes.

“How dare they even think I may need help? Was my only worry.

The idea that others could find me vulnerable, genuinely made me want to hide. What struck me the most, was that at no point I felt they were pitying me. These people genuinely cared about me, and yet I felt very resistant towards them.

This was the hard bit about it all: not being able to understand how I could matter to anyone that much.

I have never been good with the whole “self love” thing. I always felt there was something amiss in our attempt to love and embrace ourselves.

Acceptance does not sound as sweet as love.

It never inspired heartfelt poems nor did it get anyone down the aisle wishing to spend the rest of their lives together. You are never going to sing about being accepted or gently whisper “I accept you” while staring a loved one in the eye.

And yet, receiving ourselves and others as suitable and valid, is a prerequisite for love. The real kind.

I always found this word a bit fluffy and a bit empty. Almost forced. I was never quite able to say why, until one day I heard something that shook me to my core.

A lovely friend told me of how much she loved me for being open and authentic. She found me vulnerable and able to show my fragilities, which made her trust me even more.

As I heard her words, my body shut down. Literally.

Vulnerable and fragile were two concepts quite foreign to me at the time. Almost despised, as I associated them with being weak and insecure. I took pride in my strength and self-confidence: they were my biggest allies, shielding me off from a life often very unforgiving.

The moment I had dreaded the most had finally come: the world knew of my delicate soul, and it would use it against me sooner or later.

Feeling exposed and ridiculed, I remember spending the next hour in total shock, as if I had just given away my biggest secret. What would happen now? How would others treat me knowing that I too, had things keeping me awake at night? It never occurred to me that they always knew. And never minded.

Can we truly offer our love without being able to accept another?

That day I saw very clearly how my inability to allow the softer part of me out in the open, meant that I could never let others off the hook either. For being themselves. Souls living this human life, with her infinite and often inexplicable contrasts. We are the ones able to carry the weight of the universe on our delicate wings. Tough as the most precious diamond, our heart is made to feel alive, without ever breaking.

My sudden insight made me rediscover my long lost passion for life.. The world no longer felt like a war zone, rather a place where we are constantly offered the gift of presence. Every moment we can fully immerse ourselves in our experiences knowing that they mirror and enrich our inner world.

To really “see” others for the very first time, left me deeply humbled and grateful. Mostly, I finally got to see all my scattered parts slowly coming together to tell a story which is not only mine. It belongs to those who fill my life with their loving presence, same as the ones I will never meet. It is your story same as the people who walk by your side. Our stories belong to the World.

So be it,

Antonia Lyons

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