When did I decide I was unworthy of love? For more than two decades I have lived this life. I have walked along beautiful tree-lined paths, crowned with sunshine and clothed with dreams. I have crawled through dark caves filled with mud and tears and nightmares. I have been innocent and flying. I have known the chains of sorrow.

When did I decide I was unworthy of love? I have done so much. I vowed to heal this world with compassion. I stood like a tall, glorious white mountain while my world trembled and crumbled apart around me. I said, "Love is the way." And they laughed. And they screamed. And they tore apart my soul.

I have lost count of the times people have said to me, "I love you." And I faded away, because they did not. I thought my fate was to suffer, so I cast my cloak of dignity into the flames and put myself at the mercy of a man with no heart. I became hard and small, to save the seed of my spirit. I smiled during the day and I wept bitterly during the night. I became a ghost, smiling sadly while I watched my body be hurt with the acid of ignorance and the cruelty of possession. I starved to death and dissappeared.

In a different place, I awaken into a slow dream of indifference, devoid of color, shrowded in the smouldering folds of confusion. I wear nothing but the crown of thorns that is my failure in the mirrors of everyone around me. In my hands, I hold a battered shield for my defense. "I am still beautiful!" I whisper briefly. "I will live a beautiful life!" But they stare at me with dark eyes and say, "Life is not beautiful. Accept it. Get to work."

I pray anyway. I fill my body with prayers. "Show me the way," I plead softly, with my forehead pressed to the hard ground. "Show me the way," I sing, with my hands lifted to the sky. "Show me the way to heal, to live, to love again. Please..."

He comes to me as a bright star in the dark, unlikely sky. We watch each other for a long time, uncertain, while the horizon bursts into color with the coming of dawn. He asks for nothing, but the faith that is my nature. And he offers the story of our meeting:

"You came upon me quite unexpectedly - there we were, striking up conversation about the silliest of topics. Two lost souls reaching out and grabbing hold of something intangible - one cannot put their hands on something so enormous. Time for confession - I told you things I have never shared with anyone before, and you listened, you actually listened, and gave me feedback and advice and sympathy. I was relieved to have someone like you to talk with - invigorating, enlightening, interesting, stimulating, sometimes maddening, frustrating, frightening, touching...

"I came into your life at a time when you felt so empty and alone and scared and full of self-doubt. You had too few people to talk to and who would actually care, nowhere to turn, no place to hide from overwhelming feelings of isolation and despair. Your life has been touched in such an incredibly wonderful way - you rediscovered beauty, inspiration and love when you thought all was lost, your weighted spirit was somehow lifted with my abstract humour and my insane expressions, you blushed when I complimented you, you cried when I loved you, your heart sang out loud beautiful words of romance, my soul smiled."

And a blessing:

"Tonight I pray to whomever is willing to listen, that you might find the strength to face the hardest of times, that your heart might be given eternal joy through our passion, that your love might be bestowed the intensity to endure the time that separates us. Your very existence is a blessing to the Universe, and you are deeply loved and cherished. If you feel lonely, I am embracing you. If you feel down, accept my love as a gift, let it dissolve your anger, hurt, regret, guilt and shame, and know that it is your spiritual right to live in an environment of selfless and unconditional kindness..."

An answer to my own prayers, an echo of my soul. A new path. A new dream.

I smile and let the warmth of love melt my ice. I come to life. And somehow I decide I am unworthy of love.

After all the trials I have endured, the lessons I have learned, the journeys I survived, I shuffle my feet and bow my head. I insist, "I am too quiet. I am not pretty enough. I am not good enough for such a love. He is too good for me. I am not worthy of him."

I weave leaden ropes of my humility and confusion, hang them around the neck of my beloved, and mourn at my enduring sorrow that is reflected in his eyes.

When did I decide I was unworthy of love? I have spent my life loving. I have given everything of myself, asking for nothing, longing for a kind word, a single loving embrace. For an eternity, I have dreamed of being loved for my own spirit, not for the person I will never be, not for the illusions of myself that have been created by hurting hearts. I want someone to see my beauty. I want to be loved for my jagged moments, even when I am small and trembling, even when I am maddening and graceful, even when I run away.

Now that I am, I keep trying not to believe. I create demons and shadows that circle tightly around me, taunting me, forcing me to swallow the hard pills of doubt. They chant, "Life is not beautiful. Accept it. Get to work." They laugh at my every fault, magnifying my errors, poisoning my wine. They whisper, "He is like the others. He will say 'You weak woman, you are not good enough.' He will leave."

I know they are lying. Holding my gleaming shield, my hair wild in the wind, echoing the past, I say, "You are wrong. Love will endure." They laugh, and they scream, and they say, "You are wounded. You are weak. You cannot give him the love he deserves. Your coldness will destroy him. He will die for you, and then you must live with his pain."

My shield falls. The demons find my weakness. Victorious, they salute me in silence. I would die if I hurt him. I am hurting him with my battles. I will die. But he is part of me now. I cannot separate my own soul. What will I do?

As I look through a veil of tears, nothing is clear but my love. For all the perfection in this world, for the blue sky, the cathedrals of forests, the rivers, the laughter of children, the endless fields, the birds... I love my beloved. By loving him, my love becomes boundless and more pure. I love the world, and the people of this world in all their confusion and joy and endless achievement. I love God. I love art. I love music. I love dreams. I love.

My weakness becomes my strength. I smile at the demons. They starve to death and dissappear.

I know my demons will come again. They come every day, with familiar voices that try to harm me or ignore me into nonexistence.

I am expecting them, but I will not offer them food. I will always be learning, sometimes in circles, sometimes by falling or flying or standing perfectly still. But no matter how far I wander, or how lost I feel, there will never be any time or place where love cannot find me.

Love is not always gentle and soft. In many ways, love must destroy in order to save. Love can come in the form of demons.

I could choose not to accept love... be it out of fear, or shame, or uncertainty... and then I would live, but not all of my life. For there are some doors that only love can open, and much wisdom that only love can give.

I choose love.

(Written by Shula. ©2002, Please do not re-use without my permission.)