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This post was written by Mark Tong.
To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides. -- David Viscott
I loved that quote, but it felt like that's all it was ever going to be for me -- an impossible ideal.
What did I know about love? Nothing, except that I desperately wanted to believe in it again, but I just couldn't find the courage.
Oh, and that it burns like acid when it walks out of your life.
That walking out on you part, that was one area of love that I was pretty confident about.
After you've had your heart stomped on, allowing yourself to love again has all the appeal of leaping from a plane with no parachute... with your hands and feet tied together... blindfolded.
It's scary. Terrifyingly scary. In fact, paralyzingly so.
The pain of rejection is so consuming that it can seem better to live a life unloved than run that risk again.
But living a life unloved... that's a half-life at best.
However, my empty existence taught me that in trying to guarantee I wouldn't feel more pain, I was keeping myself in exactly that painful space.
Consumed by memories of that failed relationship instead of forever occupied with building one that would last, I was carving out a life of loneliness for a lack of courage to tell anyone I loved them ever again.
The only shame was that I took so long to work this out.
Losing at love felt like losing at life
I have always been something of a free spirit. I wasn't born under a wandering star, nothing so romantic. There was, however, always something in me that kept me moving. Travel and adventure became my thing.
Always alone, but always looking for love.
I was convinced that my soul mate would appear, probably in the craziest of places, like up a mountain, in a bamboo hut, or aboard a rusty ferry -- I methodically searched them all.
When she did appear, it was thousands of miles from home.
Incautiously, impetuously we fell into a whirlwind of being in love and just as quickly, engaged. This was how I had always dreamed my life would turn out. In love, loved, married. Whole.
Yet all too quickly, she realized that she had another version of how life was going to unfold, and it didn't include me.
That was one of the hardest times of my life. I cursed my crazy lack of caution. It became my greatest regret.
For the first time ever, I lost the point of life and all enthusiasm to haul my sorry self out of the black hole I'd fallen into.
The career opportunities I'd had before dried up. I abandoned my passions and stopped traveling and dreaming -- why court more pain and disappointment? I even stopped believing that true love was real.
I was at the lowest ebb of my life. "Play it safer than safe" became my motto.
I measured taking any action, no matter how small, against the risk of it blowing up in my face again. Those scars of failure and rejection stopped me dead every time.
And then in one short moment, everything changed.
Standing alone with the memory of returning home without the woman I'd planned to live with forever, my heart skipped so hard that I thought it was going to let me down. And in the craziest of places too: a gritty city railway station on a grizzly day when all the jostling commuters could think of was getting the hell out of there.
And all I could think of was I'd never seen such a beautiful smile in my life. And might never again unless I found the courage to act. For in that instant, I knew I'd found my soul mate.
But did she?
No parachute, hands and feet tied together, and blindfolded. Yeah, I was scared and terrified. And I took 36 hours from those first fumbled words to have the courage to say "I love you."
Saying "I Love You" again is an act of courage
That was 27 years ago. And despite all the challenges, in-between have been 27 years of loving, being loved, and having the life of my dreams.
Saying "I love you" after the pain of being jilted took more courage than I was sure I had at the time. It certainly didn't come out all smooth and suave -- more like Jerry Lewis rather than James Bond. But Laura recognized what I was saying. She heard my feelings clearly speaking.
Having the courage to love again genuinely saved my life.
Securing another's heart to yours is the single most magical experience in life. The strength of that commitment will be your lifeboat in every storm, your comfort in every disaster.
Despite all it's problems, love truly is the elixir of life.
Laura saved my life that day and we've been together ever since, through all of life's storms and setbacks, sunrises and sunsets.
And she's literally saved my life more than once, on one occasion chasing away a pack of rabid dogs in the desert that had earmarked me for their next meal.
She's my lifeboat, my compass, and way more.
I'm thankful every day that I found the courage to love again. I'm eternally grateful for the lesson I learned.
Build a life of loving and being loved.
Risk equals opportunity. Venture brings possibility.
The only real risk is in not following your heart, your instinct, your desires. Extreme caution is the riskiest approach to life.
And caution in love and life can be fatal to true happiness.
Rejection or failure are both excruciatingly painful. No one needs that. Ever. Period.
Having experienced either can leave you feeling that you'll never act again.
And you could be right... unless you find some courage. The courage to reverse the situation or start over.
Taking action after you've been hurt isn't easy. It's fraught with anxiety. Hey, getting out of your safety zone can bring on serious palpitations.
But a moment of bravery can banish a life of loneliness or disappointment and give you an incredible life of loving, of adventure, of achievement.
Be bold. Be genuine. Be you, and have the courage to take a chance on yourself and love.
Because having the courage to love again can genuinely transform your life.
Bio: Laura Tong is on a mission to help you seize control of your life and grow your happiness. Grab her free resource: 5 Mind Decluttering Tools that Simplify Your Day and Make You Excited to Roll Out of Bed in the Morning.