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I woke up quite early this morning. Strictly speaking I do not know whether I woke up or whether I was really woken up by a dream. It was one of those very real dreams, the one you want to go back to and complete it. In it I was with my best male friend, whom I really was in love with. I was just telling him what an important part of my life he had been, and how much I had cared, and I'd just been about to say ''I love you'' to him when a group of other friends arrived and I woke up. A sweet lingering feeling of nostalgia, of a moment of shared tenderness building towards culmination and then the end. I woke up before those three beautiful - yet sometimes so difficult to say - words ''I love you'' ever had a chance to come out, forever staying inside of me.
The friend I was dreaming of is not alive any more he's been dead for over 23 years. He died when he was just 23 years old, and I last saw him on his 23rd birthday. I woke him up on that Sunday morning 23rd June 1991. He was a bit grumpy to be woken up, yet happy that I remembered his birthday. We spent a couple of hours chatting, I do not remember what about, but I certainly remember that I did not express the depth of feelings I had for him, thinking ''well, it is not a right moment'', I guess thinking maybe I could do it some other time, and of course not expressing it because I was scared of how he would receive those words, I feared being rejected. At that time I was young, inexperienced and I believed that if I had ever expressed my love to him and if he did not feel the same, although nowadays I am convinced he was as much in love with me as I was with him, it would have been the end of our friendship. The end of our friendship came anyway, not from our choosing, but nevertheless it came. Less than five months after I last had seen him he was dead, killed in the war, that left our town and country ravaged, at the same time stopping his and changing my life forever. He was dead and I did not have any more chances to utter those words directly to him, no more chances to share the beauty of my love with him while looking into his eyes.
From where I stand in my life now I know that my love for him was not wasted, true love never is. It took me time to transform my grief, it took some deep mourning, but I learned to open my heart wider. I learned that love has to be lived through expression and that irrespective whether it is received with open arms or not by others the very act of sharing it is the act of loving and this has nothing to do with others and their reactions, but everything to do with ourselves. I learned that every time we take a chance to say I love you we also give ourselves a chance to enrich ourselves, to live and experience joy of simply loving.
However, in our modern culture, as well as classic literature, there has been too much focus on suffering from non-returned love, on love being worth giving only if it is received and returned, materialised, so to speak, in a form of ever lasting exclusive romantic relationship between two people. This focus narrows love almost to a barter. I give you that much love and for that you need to return so much back to me and only when this and other conditions are fulfilled, only then we are going to call it love and maybe dare to venture in it. This narrow focus misses the entire point, the most intrinsic quality of true love - it is unconditional. This means that the very beauty of love is in giving and sharing it openly without condition.
Beautiful as it may sound it is not always easy to practice. In our western societies, in which we have so many conditioned believes put in our heads about what love should or should not be, we spend so much time concentrating on what ifs, protecting ourselves from hurt to the point that we miss experiencing easy and uncomplicated flow of love. By protecting from potential hurt we miss a simple joy of loving and we miss a chance of enriching our own and someone else's life by letting them know that we love them. However, when we do allow ourselves to experience this flow of love then we are also free to express it with simple words of ''I love you" without needing to hear those words reflected back to us, we just let love flow.
Since I've heard of Željko's death all those years ago, choosing and expressing love has been my personal vow to my self and my way of honouring love for my friend, of course every now end then he needs to pop up in my dreams to remind me to 'stay on course'. I choose to interpret the above dream as a reminder to keep expressing my love, to keep sharing it and taking every chance I have to say ''I love you!'' to those around me who have been enriching me by their presence in my life. I choose to see this dream as a lesson in love, a reminder from my friend Željko, to take every chance I have to express love because I never know whether that chance would be the last one to say to that person, looking directly into their eyes: ''my life has been enriched for having known you'' and simply adding ''I love you!''
I hope that you can find in your life a reminder for yourself, which could help you to choose love the next time you are at that point of choice between succumbing to your fear of rejection on one side and love and its expression on the other.
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