The Power of Living with a
An excerpt from Big Love by Scott Stabile
About fifteen years ago a good friend asked me, “What do you want to do with your life?” Doesn’t that question drive you nuts? That was hardly the first time I’d been asked it, and I’d never had a suitable answer that felt connected to some clear destiny or deep longing. Yes, there was a time in middle school when I desperately wanted to be a professional tennis player, even though I wasn’t especially good at the sport. The longing was there, though; I played and fantasized about tennis constantly and saw myself battling Boris Becker on the grasses of Wimbledon. My passion for tennis faded through high school, since I preferred to imagine myself onstage with Bono, belting out “Desire.” As a generally directionless adult, I’d always envied my professional friends who had known since childhood exactly how they wanted to spend their time as grown-ups. I never had a clue.
“Really, what do you want to do with your life?” my friend pressed, when I still hadn’t answered him.
I’d like to never have to answer this question again, that’s what, I thought.
I bypassed the impulse to say travel the world and just be happy, trusting I could summon a little more depth in my answer. “I want to spread as much love as possible,” I responded. Cue the rainbows and unicorns! Can I get a puppy over here?
I’m not sure my answer was deep, but it was the truth.
“Okay,” my friend replied, “how do you want to do that?” Pain in the ass, that friend.
“I have no idea,” I said. That was the truth too. I didn’t know exactly what the role of love-spreader entailed, but it felt like a life goal to which I could commit myself, one that came with an important benefit our world desperately needed—love, love, and more love. More than anything, I believed in love, and in the power of love to create important, positive change. I still believe that, as much as ever.
Seriously, what’s not to love about love?
Love makes the most difference in every area that matters.
It always has, and it always will.
We can all be love-spreaders, by the way, if we choose to be. You don’t even need to quit your day job. Every time we act with kindness or acceptance, we spread love. Every time we choose compassion over condemnation, we spread love. Every time we find the courage to forgive, we spread love. Life presents us with daily opportunities to share a little, or a whole lotta love. Every single time we do, an angel sprouts new wings and cries silver tears of joy. Okay, that angel thing doesn’t really happen, but we do absolutely serve ourselves and our world through love.
Isn’t that reason enough to love more? I think so.
It was with fame rather than love in mind that I launched my Facebook author page in 2012. I wanted to promote both a kids’ movie and a young adult paranormal romance I’d written. As it turned out, the crowds didn’t flock to either. After some feeble attempts at self-promotion, along with the realization that marketing myself made me anxious / want to vomit, I changed the direction of the page. The question, What do you want to do with your life? became, What do you want to do with this page? I came up with the same answer: spread some love.
I decided to make my page a home of positivity, a Pollyanna’s paradise. I began posting about the subjects that mattered most to me, such as kindness, compassion, forgiveness, authenticity and, of course, love. I happy-memed the hell out of that page, and people started to notice. The page took off—hundreds and then thousands began showing up—and I was deliriously excited to have found another outlet for my love-spreading desires. My ego, incidentally, felt equally excited to be getting likes all the time.
Being in the heart-and-soul meme business can get tricky, however. How many different ways could one communicate the meaning of life—or a meaning of life—in a sentence or two? There weren’t enough creative fonts and nature backgrounds on the planet to make everything I wrote compelling. Or unique. I knew that. We self-help, spirituality, personal-development types are all saying the same things, more or less: kindness matters, compassion is king (or queen), love wins, just be yourself. These are good things to say, I think. Important reminders. But are they enough?
I thought so, until a woman commented beneath one of my standard life is so beautiful and we’re all blessed to be here posts: “Not everybody is as happy and positive as you are all the time, Scott. Some of us are really struggling.” That comment hurt—not just because I considered myself a particularly moody person who struggled plenty, but also because my happy words had provoked her to feel worse instead of better, “less than” instead of equal. That sucked. Of course, based on what I’d been posting on my page, she had no reason to see me as anything but a smiling Pollyanna. Why would she see us as the same?
So I started to share myself. For real.
I wrote about growing up with a brother addicted to heroin and grieving my parents, who were murdered when I was fourteen. I posted about the shame I carried for years over being gay, and my struggle to be authentic in a world that wants us to be anything but. I wrote about my fears and insecurities, my sadness and rage, and the ways in which I was working through the darker parts of my life in order to create more space for the light. Don’t panic; my page didn’t suddenly turn all gloom and doom. There was still a lot of love rocks and gratitude is the fastest path to happiness going on. I just let myself be more honest, and more vulnerable. The community that gathered around the page responded in kind, and suddenly many of us felt a lot less alone — in our idiosyncrasies and in our pain. Some version of I feel better knowing I’m not the only one became one of the most common comments I’d see. Honesty and vulnerability are nothing but love in action, after all.
Scott Stabile is the author of Big Love. His inspirational posts and videos have attracted a huge and devoted social media following, including nearly 360K Facebook fans and counting. A regular contributor to the Huffington Post, he lives in Michigan and conducts personal empowerment workshops around the world. Visit him online at www.scottstabile.com.
Excerpted from the book Big Love: The Power of Living with a Wide-Open Heart. Copyright ©2017 by Scott Stabile. Used with permission from New World Library—www.newworldlibrary.com.