Allow me to meditate on a memory. That one time, 11 years ago, when I fought my mother in my sleep after hearing hateful words bounce off of the walls of the home that she had sacrificed so much to make safe–an act of love that I had taken for granted. He was a guest, but had poisoned my mind and my world as I knew it with words my mother would never say.

She came home. I said I was fine but asked if I could sleep in her bed that night. In the midst of a dream I sent my small fists flying through the air at 4 in the morning meeting my mother’s sleeping body—this is a memory I wish was not mine. Forgiving myself was the first glimpse I got of a lifelong battle against screaming frustration and anger into pillows. Not knowing what it felt like to let the noise inside of me be free to fade into open air.

With love can comes subsiding of pain, emphasis of pain, of fear, of uncertainty.

Love is a skill. Something infinite.

Fragile and kind. Fierce and overwhelming. Radical.

Love is searched for.

Misplaced and lost.

Mistaken for other things.

Deserved.

Love is work, and sometimes one’s biggest challenge can be to love, to allow oneself to be loved.

Your sister allows herself to be hurt repeatedly. You cannot understand why, never having had to live with an abusive father.

Taking what she can get, she accepts any attention from him. Any glimpse of acknowledgement—comments about her weight or sexuality.

Your first introduction to homophobic slurs.

How long will it take for you to understand that your deep frustration comes from pain, comes from wanting to protect someone who does not want to be protected, from loving so deeply that you can feel her fresh wounds.

Your mother told you to take care of yourself, love yourself most first—a hierarchy of love, a logical system of love and a most transcendent piece of one’s potential to care for and connect with other people.

This is the most practical skill of all. In being able to practice love, recognize it in the most unlikely places has taken you through what have seemed like rings of fire and allowed you to find purpose. Practicing love is what has kept you alive, your mother alive, your sister and brother alive.

Love has turned into peace, has turned into trust, has put you face to face with the most painful memories and made denial impossible.  It’s turned into honesty, bravery.

All of this is not to say that love turns something horrible into something optimistic and beautiful, only to say that knowing love is what makes your life worth living. Sharing love is what gives your life purpose. You can never say you are done learning, you’ve met everyone who will ever teach you anything important.

You are young, and indecisive and may lack a little bit of direction but be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to be free, and share that freedom.

Live. Keep living. Small things. Great love. No definitive conclusion.