Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Dear God: The Desire to Love Is Enough

Dear God,
I take comfort in the words of Isaiah (8:23—9:3) that I read this week:

Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness: for there is no gloom where but now there was distress. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of the gloom a light has shone.

In fact, I repeated that verse all though Advent, as I contemplated the arrival of light in the nativity story. And I find solace in the theology of medieval German Dominican priest John Tauler, who wrote:

The soul must raise herself to the divine splendor if she is to receive the clarity of the light. But this being nigh is nothing else than an intense desire for God with perfect love in the light of faith; this makes the soul receptive of the divine light.


Nowhere does this popular preacher mention a perfect recital of the Our Father or becoming president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, or perfect Mass attendance. Nowhere does he instruct us to fast for 90 days or say 31 rosaries. Just the desire to please you will please you, like Thomas Merton wrote in one of my favorite prayer:

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.


Why am I always trying so hard to win your love and approval? Perhaps because I didn’t feel it from my own father growing up. Or because I am aware of your standards of love (per 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is patient, Love is kind, Love does not envy, Love does not boast, Love is not proud, Love is not rude…”), and I always get about three lines down, and then blow it. Big time.

Or maybe, I have in mind your greatest commandment (Matt 22:36-40): to love you with all my heart, mind, and soul, and to love my neighbor as myself. Loving you is easy for the most part, on my good days anyway. Loving my neighbor I’m getting better at. I’ve stopped yelling at the preschool administers who take three weeks of vacation in the middle of winter. Simply because they can.
But loving myself? Therein lies the problem. At least according to my last four therapists.
After eight years on that dang couch, I’m just now starting to wrap my arms around the scared little girl in me and tell her that, really, it will be okay, and that the world isn’t as terrifying as she thinks it is.
I recently came upon this entry in my journal, written about six weeks before I was hospitalized. On that day, extremely sleep deprived, I sketched on a piece of scrap paper a rough profile of “me,” so that I could begin to learn how to love her:


Why is this so painful . . . finding my inner sanctuary? I’m at my sister-in-law’s vacant apartment in desperate need of sleep, since I totaled a whole three hours of sleep last night courtesy of Katherine’s new sleep cycle. Instead I can’t stop the torrent of tears, the many conversations inside my head—what my therapist says, what my doctor says, what Eric says, what my mom says, what friends say.
All the voices, the questions, the conversations make it impossible to nod off. Instead I take up my weapon and make war with the commotion on the frontlines of my mind.
I feel like giving up right now. After all the medication adjustments, the therapy, the supportive friends and family, I still feel like dying. Because I’m so tired in the fight towards wellness, the pursuit of “normality.”
Medicine, I know, won’t cure me. And therapy will only get me so much better. The real battle rests within me. How badly do I want it? How willing am I to yield all my instincts towards pleasing others—as a wife, mother, friend, and writer—in order to simply live?
Because when you take it all away—my husband, my kids, my friends, my career—who am I?
I sit here right now attempting to sketch her, as an artist who has taken up the pencil for the very first time. I review my list of 20 positive traits, an assignment from Wednesday’s therapy session. But that provides a mere outline of her essence.
Who am I for real? I ask over and over again, through my tears, through my breaths, through my visions of waterfalls. Take away the sense of humor, the religion, the blondish hair . . . what do you have left?
I desperately want to know so I can throw my arms around her and love her for the first time in my life.
Maybe this is my new mantra—“Love her.” Because until I get there, nothing else truly matters.


Somehow, God, I think you’re telling me that the desire to love her is the first step. That I don’t have to love her perfectly just as I don’t have to love you perfectly or the preschool administrators. It’s enough that I have the desire. The desire alone, Father Tauler says, will bring me into your light, where Isaiah says darkness is dispelled and gloom is no more.

  • Rick

    thank you so much for your words of comfort. Just like you, I am tired of being a people-pleaser. I struggle with feelings of inadequacy and the “enough is never enough” syndrome. Yesterday, at Mass, I actually cried after communion – weeping for the lost boy inside of me. As Lent approaches, I have decided to “sacrifice” self-loathing. Once again, thanks so much for your blog!!!

  • Larry Parker

    **Why am I always trying so hard to win your love and approval? Perhaps because I didn’t feel it from my own father growing up.**
    Or perhaps, in my case, because I projected my tyrannical father onto the “Father” for so long.
    Therese, as always, you are gripping, raw, fearless and fearsome in revealing what you see as the worst of you. It is actually the best of you. Because when you strip down past those around you to YOU, as you said … there is honesty. There is caring — a desire to comfort your wounded inner child as well as so many others.
    And there is a primal, remarkably strong survival instinct. Or else that note could have been a suicide note. (Sigh.)
    PS — I am still getting used to Thomas Merton’s prayer as opposed to the more prevailing view that “the road to h*ll is paved with good intentions.” But I like it — we with depression NEED more positive ways of viewing a world already so cruel to us. Why add to the cruelty if we can at all help it?

  • CarolMarie

    I am amazed! I stumbled on this site by accident and see myself within so many words, sentences, quotes and feelings. I am a long time suffer of depression, since age 12. Had been hospitalized several times, suicide had been been only choice trying several different ways. I long to know why I feel so… I don’t feel well and I don’t know why. I do not take meds for depression and do not want to. I have been the course of meds therapy and so on and so on but that black hole always seems to approach this time of year. Maybe I just need to bundle up and go sit in the sun for a few hours. I feel strong enough to push everyone out of my life and go on by self including family. I rather be alone than feel bad after not being treated very nicely. Suicide has been on my mind but I cannot disgrace myself in the eyes of God for he is my true hope at this point. I pray and beg him to take this burden off my shoulders and in the meantime I try my best to live a normal as possible. I do see a small very small light at the end of the tunnel but thats just today most days there is not light.

  • valerie

    Wow–desire. Thanks for reminding me. I need to pray for the desire. I remember before I quit smoking I kept praying that I’d be able to quit. Then I changed my prayer to “give me the DESIRE to quit.” What a difference desire makes, huh? I’ve been quit for three years. Yeah, desire. I have to remember desire. Desire to change, desire to love myself, etc.
    And thanks for sharing such a personal thing–your journal entry–at such a painful time.
    And on a “funny” note–did you ever decide on which doll (from your video) you were going to use as your inner child? This part “I’m just now starting to wrap my arms around the scared little girl in me and tell her that, really, it will be okay, and that the world isn’t as terrifying as she thinks it is.” reminded me of that.
    Because I remember how very scary all of those dolls were and I’m thinking “No wonder poor Therese can’t wrap her arms around the “scared little girl” or inner child–look at the scary dolls she’s got goin’ on here.” I think a teddy bear (something cuddly) might have been recommended.
    Anyway, thanks again for sharing your soul. valerie

  • Kelly

    Thank you for this post. I completely identify with it. Why are we so hard on ourselves? I try every day to be kind to myself and to love myself and to see myself as my children see me.

  • Debbie

    Thank you. You express so many of the same feelings and insights I have had throughout my life and have always felt I was alone in them. Maybe I am okay?!?!

  • Babs

    Hard stuff for me to read in this entry. One of the very things I have been wrestling with is the desire to love. First the desire to love God; it comes and goes, mixed with indifference. Same with the desire to love the little child who felt ugly and unloveable; whose father molested her. Can’t seem to make up my mind to love her, either. I have a much easier time with loving other people. I can extend them kindnesses that I deny myself. It is as though there is a locked door inside me and I don’t have the key to find and hold on to desire. How can I love if I can’t maintain the desire to love? This is a huge stumbling block for me. Can you feel the frustration I have in just writing this comment?

  • Wendi

    Therese, this post really touched my heart. I have felt so many of the same things. My challenge this year has been self-forgiveness and self-love, and it’s been really hard. I wish there were magic words I could say that could spare you steps on this journey – that you could see yourself the way others see you; the way I see you. I so wish I could talk to that little girl in you and to the adult so that you could both hear me, and that I could hold up a magic mirror in front of you to show you your own shining soul, brilliant mind, and compassionate heart. But I can’t do it for you, as much as I’d like to. It has to come from within you. Open that great big compassionate heart to yourself, honey. Let yourself in. Leave all the rest; lay those burdens down. It’s time. {{{{T}}}}

  • BARB

    Did that ever hit a cord with me. Why is everyone and everything more important than me? at what price do we have to pay for piece of mind?

  • chatter

    It’s difficult to love what you cannot see. That sounds like a no-brainer. I’ve been invisible to myself forever. I was invisble at first for safety reasons in my house of origins, then because of shyness and now, just out of habit. (Or maybe inability.)
    I think as children we seek mirroring. We look to the adults to show us what they like, what amuses them. But if you don’t get that feedback then, I wonder if you learn to move on and exist without it. Almost like there is an “imprinting” critical period whereupon if you don’t get the mirroring then, you never really learn to see yourself; and ultimately, never love yourself.
    Holy Cow Batman: I think I just figured out “blue’s clues.” (for myself anyway.)

  • tomorrow’s promise

    Therese – This touches deeply. You ask many of the same questions I have asked, many that remain unanswered. My husband tell me to just turn off the thoughts and relax. He attempts to be understanding, but he can’t really understand. I guess only those of us who live this life know exactly what it is like to wake up wanting the same thing everyday. Peace. I attempt to meditate and pray, and many times get distracted by my own mind. Therese keep sharing, your thoughts bring comfort to those of us who wonder if we are alone in our silent cries.

  • cathy

    Babs, you helped me understand a deeper layer of my current difficulty. Thank you. I’m so glad you expressed your comment anyway, even though it was hard to write. “How can I love if I can’t maintain the desire to love?”
    I would add, too, for me: “How can I get well if I can’t maintain the desire/drive to be well?”
    But — in essence — both are about love and self-acceptance.
    Therese, sometimes the Monday entries are hard for me because of my struggles with organized religion (did you know that I am a Catholic? bet you didn’t), but they’re powerful medicine. Powerful medicine. And I feel grateful for how you share your spirit here. It inspires me and helps me wonder if there might be a way to re-connect.

  • just1dering

    As I read your words I picture you and that young child arm in arm in the longed for embrace of love. I hear your words and see the tears of love streaming down your faces. Maybe it doesn’t really matter how long it took to find each other, because here you are. And from somewhere deep within I also hear this.
    He knows as he knows his own, that He is my all,
    My earth, my sky, the substance of my world.
    I see not, but through His eyes
    For He has lent me His visions.
    I breathe not but by the breath of His life!
    I love not save in the ecstasy of His affection!
    Truly, Thou livest in me, my All; truly as I live in Thee.
    No earth surrounds me
    But that which Thou hast set before mine inward eye.
    All good springs before–clears my path–for I walk with Thee.
    O Star to the very stars! Thou shinest me!
    Radiant I, with Thy pure radiance beaming!
    O Livingness! O loving Tenderness!
    I breathe, and breathing, drink Thy splendor.
    I live, and living, mirror Thee back.
    I love, and all-embracing love answers in love undying.
    King Thou art. Soul of my life!
    Mount Thou the throne of my being
    And reign, clothed in Thy celestial splendor.
    Grateful for this image,

  • Margaret Balyeat

    this sounds EXACTLY like what I’ve been struggling with for what seems like FOREVER, but even more so the past month or so. thank you so much for helping me remember that I’m not the only one who’snever learned to accept/like/love…even TOLERATE herself. the more I ponder, the more I realize how intertwined that inability to love me is tied into my constant apologizing which I wrote about when responding to Larry’s comment on my post regarding your interview with Priscilla.Unfortunately, the sarcastic parry,”well, eexcuse me for living!” which was popular during my adolescene is a truth in my case, because of the fact that I haven’t been able to embrace myself.I’m glad it’s YOUR assignment to list your strengths and not mine; I’m afraid I’d be hard pressed to complete that particular piece of homework, especially right now. I guess I am currently where you were when you wrote this journal entry; struggling to locate and nurture my little girl whi has become extremely good at hiding herself in the forest of my mind. and like a spoiled preschooler won’t come out untilshe’s good and ready! Once again you’ve touched my very soul! thank you again for being you.

  • peg

    I always struggled with the “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is Perfect (Mt. 5, 48)” words in the bible until I looked in the back of my New American Bible for a definition of “perfect” and it says that the goal is to imitate God’s Divine Mercy and impartiality. I used to feel that being perfect meant that one little fault or failing would be devastating for me, but now I have a little more peace knowing it is the desire or effort that counts toward this goal.

  • Natasha

    I love the title. It speaks volumes….”Dear God, the Desire to love is enough.” Keep the desire to love God first, and then yourself and soon it will become second nature to love on Therese!!! Loving ourselves, perhaps, is a learned behavior. Especially if you consider the love or no love from our childhood. We still have to make a conscious effort to love ourselves. So, the desire to love is a start! Be Blessed!

  • Defib aka Don

    I was drawn to the board by the title Dear God….. so I’m really new. I will say that I have been to the dark bottomless pit so many times. Tomorrow I will be 72 yrs. old so I suffered with depression, bi polar, anxiety and panic long before most doctors could even diagnose what I was going through or what meds to prescribe.Therepy was hit and miss ( mostly miss). I will not go into the details of all I have put myself through since most of you have been through it.
    I am better, don’t ask me how or at what point I came out of it, I don’t really know. I do know that at some point I found out how to love myself and how to love those around me. Let me correct that I’m finding out how to love myself and those around me.
    You asked “When you take away my husband, my friends my kids my career…Who am I?”
    I would like to think the answer is that You are Therese created in the love of God, the other things are just parts of you, wife, parent etc. If you take away the blondish hair, the sense of humor, religion,
    You still have Therese, these things describe you but they are not you.
    I hope I’m not coming across as a smart a$$, I don’t intend to. I just can feel some of the pains you are all going through, the searching, since I’ve done it most of my adult life. I don’t pretend to have the answers, because I’m still searching. I do know that for me it has gotten better.
    I hope and pray that you all find what works for you, I hope you do began to see the distant light. It’s there believe me its there.
    God Bless with Peace & Love

  • marilyn

    therese i know how hard it can be to love yourself i have stugled with that emotion for years always hideing behind others.but i now know that god loves me and i can love myself flaws and all.and in your heart i know theres love for yourself thats why your so compassionate in all you do. blessings

  • Marquos

    T, you have brought tears to my eyes, that anguished cry, who am i, so often on my own lips, speaks not just of searching, but of a total blindness to anything good or descent or strong or right in myself no matter how it might be pointed out. There is no logic in it, it cannot be answered by reason, only endure, pray, and hope the drugs kick in.

  • Larry Parker

    Your comment ought to be printed on a card by MHA, NAMI or DBSA and given to every person in America to tell them how depression FEELS.

  • Sabah

    Wow I’m speechless..lately I have reading these articles and they speak straight into my soul, addressing some of the same issues I am contending with right now with depression , the will to live, and self Love. I was very inspired and tearful because those are questions I often ask God and often not feeling he hears me. It’s something how you can read into another persons story and find the answers you have been desperately seeking! The only real comfort i feel is that I know he hears and he answers.

  • Marquos

    Thanks Larry, you are one reason I am not in that place right now.

  • Donna

    I, Too, have been in that very place and still am a lot of the time. I have had therapy, drugs and christian counceling. I have had a total breakdown of mind and body, and it seems like even after several years, I still struggle with it every day even with drugs. Living alone doesn’t help, but it is better than the constant strife and bickering I lived in for 37 years. But God is truly faithful. When I begged Him to take me home He wasn’t done with me yet. I don’t know what His plans are for me now but He does and that’s what counts. I know He isn’t done with me yet and when He is I’ll go to a much better place. So Why do I worry?

  • Marquos

    The praying that helps, the only thing that helps, when I am lost in the farthest reaches of the inner darkness, is to lie curled up in bed (walking would be better but its impossible at such times) and drench the feet of Jesus with my tears. Try to pour out the burning ache of doom and dread that inhabits my gut like a cancer. Long wretched, pleading monologues along with some beautiful liturgical prayers of the church. And it helps, at the very least it occupies my mind, but I often feel real relief… eventually. His love penetrates the inner darkness, a light not from without but from within, if the drugs kick in, I sleep. And, after I don’t how long, it passes. I am allowed into the “general population”, a nervous. surreal experience. I know one small thing about who I am. I survive.

  • Annie Turner

    When I’m in deep depression I start to pray to the Almighty Jesus & meditate into my furtherest place longing joy where my Spirits dwell & ask them all to bring me out this pain of darkness that I let myself get myself into. With their help along with the medical help I’ll pull myself out this fear mold.


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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mary Jane

    Thank you for sharing your struggles and your vulnerability and your Realness. I am honored to be reading your thoughts and feelings and appreciate what you do and Who You Are!

  • Pingback: Teresa of Avila: The Desire Is Enough - Beyond Blue

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