I’ve been thrown up on more than once in my life. Sometimes it’s been sick children. Sometimes it’s been drunk friends who hadn’t yet discovered their limits. Either way, it’s always a surprise. One moment I’m standing there, perfectly unsuspecting and clean, and the next I’m covered in someone else’s half-digested food. It’s never pretty. It always smells.
But here’s the thing – my first instinct, besides the sudden shock, is always love. The first thing I want to do is hug that friend (child or adult). I want to wipe their face and clean their hair and tell them over and over again that everything will be okay. I want to comfort them. I don’t want them to feel ashamed or sorry or upset. I want them to know that my love for them transcends sickness. I always clean myself off last.
The same can be said for the other kinds of illnesses – addictions and heartbreaks and depressions. I have listened, on more occasions than I can count, to people I love express their anger and sadness and pain. I have sat patiently as they’ve poured themselves out to me, on to me. I have been covered in their word-vomit. It has never once diminished my love for them.
If anything, it has made me love them more. It is a gift that they give me, to trust me enough to confide in me, to respect me enough to share with me their truth. Sometimes it has been painful for me to hear. Sometimes it hasn’t been pretty. Sometimes it has just plain stunk.
But always my first instinct has been love. I have hugged them. I have stroked their hair. I have taken their hands in mine. I have told them over and over again that everything will be okay. I have promised my unconditional, everlasting love. I have meant it.
People assume that it’s easiest to love others when they are at their best, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. I never feel closer to someone than when they are fragile and vulnerable with me. It establishes a level of comfort between us. It illuminates our love. It allows me to open myself up, to reveal my own secrets and truths, to release my own word-vomit festering beneath the surface. It gives them the opportunity to show their love for me. It connects us in this deep and powerful way.
People assume that we only deserve love if we are perfect, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. We don’t search for perfection in others. We search for people who are broken in the same fundamental ways that we are. We search for people who will understand our imperfections and love us, not in spite of them, but because of them. We search for ways to connect. We search for this kind of profound closeness.
People assume that it’s gross to be thrown up on, and they’re right. It’s the kind of thing that clings to you. It changes you. It teaches you, in that single second, what kind of person you are. If you’re lucky, as I have been, you’ll discover that your first instinct is always love, that you’re full of love, that you’re made of love, that you exist to love.
If you’re lucky, as I have been, you’ll love someone enough, unconditionally and everlasting, to smile as you wash away the chunks.