As a young girl growing up in India, and then a grown-up married woman raising two boys in the heart of Silicon Valley, I have straddled both cultures and my own conditioning in the matters of love. This is my journey of understanding love.

For a long time, it seemed to me that love exists only to be received from others, in the form of words, thoughts, feelings, actions, gifts, or gestures. I also discovered that one way to find peace was to put other people’s hurtful actions or words in a big-bellied pot of love and to accept them as people who didn’t mean it or didn’t know better. Who would hurt another person knowingly?

I couldn’t set boundaries in any relationships. It took a long time to learn to take care of my own well-being. For a length of time, I too had grown insensitive in my actions and words. Because being sensitive in any way made me vulnerable to the hurts that I was trying hard to digest in my pot of love.

I imagined everyone would have a similar pot, so I will be loved too – I just have to twist and turn a bit to fit in the shape and size of their pot. I went exploring other people’s pot of love. Poured my heart in them. At times made myself small enough to fit into their pots. Alas, all they noticed was how small I was.

So, I learned to dress well, get creative in my appearance to become a little more visible. One more thing needed, I decided, is to tap into the pulse of their feelings and emotion. To figure what they were looking for from me– and just become that. Surely as long as they were happy, they would keep me in their pot? And I’d feel and find love? In different forms and different relations. I will bend, twist, turn, smile, crouch, shoulder, cook, clean, smile, impress, suppress, profess, smile, be positive, be the best, always available, smile!! Anything you say. Just tell me the kind of chutney you like; I will become that and go around the lazy susan and turn myself towards you. Let me in your pot of love, please.

My own big-bellied pot of love cracked and began crumbling to pieces.

It couldn’t hold all of you anymore. I love you all…give me time, let me pick up the pieces of my pot and put them back together.

I don’t know what happened but it feels impossible to live without this pot.

Love is all it carried. Wonder what made it so fragile?

Love is the strength that sustains all. Wonder what broke the pot?

Love has no boundaries. Wonder if that broke the pot

Love is unconditional. Wonder what else the pot needed to stay together with other than love?

Love accepts all. Wonder why my pot didn’t accept all the people and their unintentional ways that I so lovingly put in there – so finally love can dissolve them and we become the people exactly as needed for each other. I wonder what went wrong…

I kept making these desperate attempts to put the pieces together. Everyone seemed to share their pots merrily and I was left with nothing, not even myself. For the first time, I took a good look at my own existence.

Oh My God! There am I! Hello…umm stranger…umm what do you need…LOVE?

Yeah, that’s all I was looking for right?

Yaa but I like how you said hello!

Umm…love…I love myself!

Ahhh! That felt sooo good.

I looked into the mirror. It was scary, different, hesitant. And I repeated I love myself. I love myself. And repeat. It was the strangest feeling and space to be in. But it felt powerful! So, I practiced saying it, looking deep in my own eyes, over and over.

Now when I tried to put the pieces it was so much easier and filled with love, that I could feel too. I had found true love!

It was a long, lonely, difficult process at times. But the more willing I was, the more support I received. I did break a few more times on the way as I let some people in, with their arms flailing wildly around, totally unaware or disrespectful to the fact that these are just glued together pieces of me.

I learned to become strong in choosing what works for me and what does not — to keep myself together because I love myself now. There were people that had taken space in my pot for a long time earlier, I chose to keep them at a distance from me now, and that hurts. Also, there are people that I had held lovingly in my pot before, who won’t interact with me anymore. I am just not the same person to them anymore. That hurts. But then I have hurt others along the way too. I forgive myself. I love myself.

I have now hit this jackpot of love where I relate to people with the interest of authentic human connection. I crave genuine, uplifting, nurturing, nourishing, motivating, inspiring interactions. I want those that I love to choose better for themselves first. We practice loving ourselves best we can, helping each other earnestly on the way.

Love hurts. Lack of it certainly does hurt a lot, so love yourself a lot more!

Pragalbha Doshi lives with her husband and 2 teenage boys in San Jose, CA. As a yoga teacher, she facilitates therapy and change for people who struggle with chronic symptoms of stress, physical & emotional, and who want a productive & fulfilling life.

The contents of this article first appeared on my personal blog Infinite Living on Feb 13, 2016, in a longer form. Find more inspiration in poetry and prose at the link.

Pragalbha Doshi, E-RYT500 - lives with her family in San Jose, CA. As a therapeutic yoga teacher, she facilitates therapy, healing & change for people who struggle with chronic symptoms of stress,...