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Blessings came our way quickly on our opening day in the form of our first visitors. It was shortly after 11 am when our door opened to usher in a beautiful woman and her handsome husband. We greeted them excitedly and invited them to browse our already beloved cottage. As they perused leisurely, stopping to exclaim over bits of exquisite lace or things too beautiful not to touch, we all chatted easily. Their smiles were bright as their eyes enjoyed the sights of our romantic treasures and they were intrigued by the very concept of our business. We were proud as we shared the Darling Way mission of encouraging happiness in life and relationships through intimacy and connection. But they were prouder still as they shared with us that they had been together over 50 years, happily! The grins on both their faces were priceless; they knew they had achieved what we consider the greatest success in life. Our mouths fell open and pure admiration flowed freely for their commitment, love and happiness. It was a real life fairy tale complete with hard times mixed in with the good, but with a gorgeous couple walking off into the future with smiles ear to ear and a new jaunt in each step. As they left with warm promises of a return visit soon, Tina and I fell silent as we both contemplated the significance of our first guests.
Others may chalk it up to random coincidence, but no one will convince us that our new friends were anything other than an embodiment of our ideals sent to grace Darling Way, sprinkling bits of their love around like pixie dust to be shared with all who follow. After all, love is what we wish for everyone. Each of us deserve to find people to love and care for us as we travel on our journey of life; long lasting love is a gift with no equal. While everyone has the opportunity to find, grow and cultivate this elusive nectar, it is not guaranteed to anyone, even those who obtain and maintain marriage licenses. Even loving someone doesn’t guarantee reciprocity, and few of us leave this life unscathed by the effects of love lost. It may seem rational to avoid such painful events by refusing to risk love again; but that requires foregoing the chance for pure joy that is unmatched by anything other than the deliciousness of the circle that is love. When one is open to it, love is offered constantly to each of us in many forms from friends, romantic partners, children, family, colleagues, neighbors. It is in fact the most abundant resource in our world, absolutely free and the quickest to replenish. The only thing that love and money have in common is that just as the rich get richer, the loving get loved.
Fortunately, love is different from money in that regardless of one’s financial or physical state, intellectual abilities, outward appearance, or prior experience, anyone can grow new love anywhere if they so choose. It is never a question of if, it is always a question of whether we accept it. We don’t have to restrict ourselves to loving only perfect people, or perfect for us people. We can choose to grow love with our neighbors, online video game opponents, healthcare providers, friendly server at our favorite restaurant and anyone else that we interact with. The world today is smaller than ever and there are a multitude of means to connect with others. With every connection comes a unique opportunity for love; platonic or romantic. And no, even complete isolation is not an excuse for a complete lack of love. Developing meaningful love of self is rewarding and leads to hope which can be the sustenance necessary to endure extended periods of solitude. Refusing to love oneself and blaming unfortunate circumstances for the denial of care of one’s heart is a sad path of misery, and yet it is such a well worn path for many of us that it takes incredible fortitude to avoid following it blindly.
Sometimes when we are comfy in the midst of a loving situation, we forget that ongoing devotion and care which are necessary to sustain it. Often, we convince ourselves that such ministrations are the obligation of another, not us. We justify our inaction by blaming someone else for negligence, and then we pretend to be surprised when our love has shriveled and died. Similarly, when it comes to loving ourselves, we self sabotage when we fail to nourish our hearts just as we cause damage to our bodies if we fail to feed ourselves properly. Whether we choose to live with a single source, or a lush garden, of love, we have to remember that love is dynamic and ever changing; it is an energy born of emotional input. Substantive contributions are necessary to maintain its force. Inattention, negativity or diluted contributions weaken and can destroy the energy. It’s not rocket science, despite the unequaled power of love; it is easy and obvious when we are willing to think about it rather than claim victimhood.
However, rather than approach this responsibility as a tiresome duty, we encourage people to visualize the different love opportunities in their lives and celebrate as each measure of time, attention and affection you contribute cause the image to physically expand, strengthen and solidify. In good times, enjoy the vibrancy of the colors of your love and let them warm your soul. Likewise, in hard or simply busy times, take note when love’s image appears to be shrinking. Consider ways to nurture it; never forget that love thrives from shared laughter, affection, and pleasure. Act quickly to avoid significant weakening. Remind yourself that you are fully deserving of love greater than even your imagination, so rejoice as you fuel your love opportunities and watch the love grow wildly as you feel the divine comfort of its embrace.
At Darling Way, we will be forever grateful to the Johnsons for allowing us to witness the true beauty of their lifetime of love and romance. They inspire us with their perspective and example. They are living proof that dreams of forever love can come true. With honor, appreciation and respect, we will forever cherish the love they carried across our threshold and shared throughout our cottage.
We couldn’t have asked for any greater blessing.