Love really is an over-used word in my vocabulary. Over-used, but not necessarily erroneously. I just fling it around a lot.
I LOVE that song!
LOVE that photo…
I SO looooove those shoes! (I say that a heck of a lot)
Maybe I use the word "love" when I truly mean "appreciate."
But isn't love appreciation?
That's a good question. What is love?
Oh my GAWD. An eternal question in a slew of eternal questions! "What's the meaning of life?" "What came first: the chicken or the egg?" "What is love?"
I could let Tina Turner plead with me about what's love got to do with it, I could turn to the Bible and be taught love is patient and love is kind, among other things. I could read Byron, Rossetti, Browning and Shakespeare and be immersed in the flourish of love both sublime and tragic. I could stare at masterpieces of love hanging in museums and galleries etching those images onto my brain. Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time watching romantic comedies growing up as a kid, so I kind of got brainwashed by Hollywood's version of love.
But what love really is is something special and unique within each of us – yes, shaped by the experiences we're exposed to throughout life – but what each of us actually feels, what triggers our emotions, the things that we express love for – that's not generic. That's special and individual and exceptionally personal.
What makes me feel the emotion of love might not be exactly what makes YOU feel the emotion of love. What may seem crazy to you, may be "I'm in love" to me. Who are you to question who I fall in love with or why? Who am I to question that for myself? It just happens. It just is. And when we find other people with whom we can relate our version of love, that's magic.
As for Romantic Love... (You pretty much knew this was coming, right?). What I desire to feel between myself and a man, well, that's deep and layered. The love I WANT to experience has been determined by years of mistakes, misguided dreams and naivete in previous relationships. That sounds negative but I don't think it is. I think it's actually quite a good thing. Choosing to be single since my divorce has helped me think about the mistakes I made in the past. It's helped me realize good things are worth waiting for and that I won't allow myself to enter into a relationship with someone just because I feel lonely. My past mistakes have helped me forge a mental image in my mind of what I want in someone based on what I DON'T want. It helps remind me of how I want myself to be in a relationship because I've been what I DON'T want to be. It may be backwards, but how else do we learn? When we were kids, how did we learn not to touch something hot? By touching something hot. Don't put metal crap in the light socket! Why? Because electrocution sucks. We learned based on our mistakes.
A couple years ago I went to a funeral of a very young woman named Devin. On the back of her program was her definition of love. I don't have the exact words here, but it hit a chord in me. Because it wasn't anyone's typical, sappy version of what love is – it wasn't Hallmark material. It was outside the box, personal, honest and stirring. It made me think of what love is for me:
For each other, ourselves and life. It's a fire that never dies out…a continual desire to keep moving forward, stay in perpetual motion, even when quiet and still…it's passion that is both physical and spiritual. It's inside of us and drives us to find the adventure in living. Without passion life is dull, grey and dead. Boring and routine. There must be a consistent fire that keeps us warm and vital inside. One that can be stoked to intensity both in bed and in living life. A great relationship is when we each can keep our own fires burning and somehow that inner passion helps add fuel to the other's fire. It's symbiotic and natural, not forced.
When our senses are engaged with the ones we love, we Listen and See (not just hear and look). We whisper in each other's ears, hug, hold hands, kiss, smile. Touch is powerful. A single brush of the fingers can send volumes of messages. This is affection at it's finest. I'm a touchy-feely person. It's one way I can show (in public) how much I care. My favorite (public! :) ) act of affection is to caress the back of a man's neck. If you want to show me you love me, give me a look, a caress, grasp my hand, plant a gentle kiss on my forehead.
This is taking the Sensual to a whole new level. It's the yummy, raw, physical aspect of love. Sex is miiiiiiighty fine. Two bodies manifesting their emotions through the most intense and intimate touch there is. When the right people are together, sex is limitless. It can be adventurous, gentle, tender, animalistic, sweet, intense. Sometimes all of that good stuff in one go, or in a few fun sessions through the night. When there's love there's no fear so we're free to sweat, breathe hard, move, and make lots of noise (and laugh a lot afterwards…that's the best, really.)
Understanding that we are each viable, unique souls that have a right to think the way we think and express ourselves the way we do is showing each other the utmost respect. Just because we disagree doesn't give us the right to humiliate, control or hurt each other.
Hmmmm. I have some serious trust issues. Henry L. Stimson said, "The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him." RATS! But, yeah, I get it. I've been lied to, manipulated and cheated on. Been hurt bad. My Trust baggage is pretty packed. But if I choose to love someone, I choose to trust them. Trust is important to me. I'm a loyal person, but crush my trust and that's it. Done. Kaput. To trust in a relationship is huge for me. Mistrust is another form of fear. So, if I'm mistrusting you, I need to ask myself what I'm afraid of losing.
It's important to let people know they are appreciated. Saying I Love You is wonderful, but sometimes it becomes habit. Rote. Kind of like a side-note. "Oh, P.S. I Love You. Oh, P.S.S. Don't forget to get cat food on the way home." There's other ways to say I love you…a note, a touch, an act of selflessness, a simple thank you. In "The Princess Bride" the farm boy tells the daughter of the farm "As you wish" as he did the things she asked him to do. Not that I'm looking for a subservient farm boy (wait….thinking, thinking….nope)…but it's a nice analogy of using action to show love.
No one on this planet is perfect. You can't change me, I can't change you. Truly loving someone is saying I'm ok with the good and the bad; I can accept the negative aspects and choose to illuminate the positive. I've entered relationships where I thought "Oh, I LOVE this guy!" and I completely ignored the red flags that were popping up left and right. Because I chose to think I could make "Him" change. Nuh-uh. Ain't gonna happen. I either enter a relationship knowing and accepting the negative, or I don't enter it at all. As much as I'd like to say otherwise, the truth is I DIDN'T love those guys because I didn't accept them wholly for who they are. It's a tough one. It really is.
Not quite the same as Acceptance. Agreeing on a middle road in any situation is really showing love for one another. Insisting on "my way or the highway" is disrespecting your rights, giving myself a false sense of control, and leaving me closed-minded to other options. Being able to let go of some things, see another point of view and coming to a mutual agreement is mature and healthy. It helps me understand how you think and feel.
Sorry guys. But honestly…it does help tremendously. Just try it. Just a little baby step: "I feel……" Ah, honeybun, I feel your pain is what I feel. I know. Not everyone is The Great Communicator. My oldest daughter was five when her Dad and I split. She didn't know how to write yet and she was experiencing a lot of emotion she couldn't articulate. So, I gave her a sketch pad and colored pencils. I told her if she felt something she could draw whatever it is on the paper and it would help me understand how she was feeling. Today we have conversations about what we're feeling. But adult relationships can be tricky. There are different elements involved. Ego, fear, vulnerability, pride. Sometimes words get in the way (thank you Gloria Estefan). So, corny as it sounds, I turn to lyrics and music ALL THE TIME to get in touch with how I'm feeling. Giving someone a note with two or three song titles on it and saying "here, these say what I can't" can be quite powerful. But, honestly, as hard as it may be, the best way to communicate is to take a deep breath, sit down and draw out the strength to say the words I simply need to say. I must admit, I get shaky and nervous when I need to talk to someone about something that's on my mind, so my best offense has just been to get it out. Whew.
Finding joy in life and each other, giggling, enjoying little things, secrets…laughing like kids. That's unbridling ourselves from our strained and strict adult forms and letting ourselves be free. It's wonderful and light and absolutely amazing when two people who care about each other can laugh so hard together they fall over crying. I love laughing to the point where it's just a silent wheeze. Face is red. Can't breathe. That's REAL laughter. May not be pretty, but it usually is good for more laughs from the other party. I think an important part of this is Playing. Whether goofing off on a date-night or getting silly with the kids, playing induces laughter and laughter lightens loads and breaks down walls.
I say enhanced because I cannot MAKE you happy. Nor are you responsible for my happiness. I cannot, WILL NOT require you to fulfill me. I must be happy within myself. I must feel fulfilled alone before I can partake in the beautiful relationship of love with YOU. Two unhappy people don't make one happy couple. They just make two unhappy people in close proximity. Which gets UGLY. (Speaking from experience). I want my happiness to ENHANCE your already happy self. I want to ADD to your life. Not make it. I've said it before: I will NOT stay in an obligatory relationship. I've tried that…just because society says "it's the right thing to do" doesn't mean that's true. What's real is the need for all of us poor slobs here on Earth to be happy. When we're in a place where that isn't happening, it's vital for us to find our happiness. If after all is said, done and tried...if it finally means walking away from a bad relationship, then so be it. Selfish? YOU BET! But I'll tell you what. My daughters have a HAPPY MOTHER TODAY. They did not have that the first 5 years of their lives. I was miserable, lost and hopeless. I finally stood up for myself and stepped back into living my life. Hardest thing I've ever done. And the most freeing, uplifting and strengthening thing I've ever done. I'll never again give up my personal happiness in order to try to be someone I'm not with someone who doesn't love me for who I am.
Oh My GAWD. Give me space. I do not need to be stapled or duct-taped to you to be yours. And for goodness sake, go out with the boys. Smoke cigars. Play poker. Watch football at the sports bar. (Hey. Wait. I like watching football…and playing poker…). Go on a trip. Get away and be the man you want to be. Pound on your chest and make 'um big fire! Enjoy yourself, have fun and come back to me happy and in love. Because occasionally I need the same. I may not need to pound on my chest and make big fire…but I like to have MY TIME ALONE occasionally. I like my girlfriends. Holy cats. When I was married I completely lost my sense of self. I never went out with girlfriends, never had free time. Never ME time. And, we stopped dating. We didn't give ourselves time away from our kids. It was like an eight-legged creature moving to and fro….there were no distinctions, no separate personalities. We were a blob of boring body parts. Well, that's how I felt. And now I feel the security of SPACE. I don't need to talk to you 5 times a day to know you love me. (Once or twice is nice…with texting in between if so desired). But I'm busy at work, you're busy at work…I like my freedom as I'm sure you do. So, let's agree that just because we don't see each other every day doesn't mean it's the end of the world. Ok? Yay!
On a complete flip-side of Space, there is the massively important element of sharing life together. It is a real partnership when we have days and nights enjoying events and rituals together. Having similar interests and desires that we can celebrate hand-in-hand in the adventure of life is oh-so-vital! Mutual hobbies, dreams and goals provide a thread that connects us. It can be as exciting as riding in a hot-air balloon together for the first time, or simply experiencing the unwind of conversation about the day's events.
I'm done with flash-bang romance. I want to learn about you slowly, experience nuances and find nuggets of information over a period of time. Like reading a really, really good book. I want to engage in the story and learn more every day, week and year. There's excitement and anticipation in the unfolding of YOU. If you get it all out all at once there's nothing left to be excited about. And the REALLY cool thing is that we continue to change and grow, so if looked at in a positive perspective, we'll always be learning about each other as time goes by.
It all comes down to Balance. We are two separate human beings. We each have a purpose in this life. We each have busy lives. Life is all about balance. Finding out how to be sons and daughters, siblings, parents, employees, friends, family-members, lovers and partners and spouses, good human beings out there in life. It's a constant rotation of hats…and the only way to stay sane and happy is be achieving balance. To come together as two people, maintain our individuality while combining parts of ourselves. Having faith that in this life there is Time and Space for everything and everyone. Knowing when to say yes and when to say no. When to be selfless and when to be selfish. And understanding that I'm not the only one that needs that.
Oh and I disagree with "Love is never having to say you're sorry." Ideally our behavior should be of such that our actions and words never cause situations to apologize for. But let's face it. We're human. Not all the wonderful principles and ideals I listed above can possibly be adhered to 100% of the time. It's more likely it'll be a lot of some, or a little of most...ideally with practice they become natural in body and mind and spirit. But I think letting go of ego and admitting we're wrong when we know our actions and words have hurt someone takes a TREMENDOUS amount of love.
That and letting them have the last bite of cake. I mean, really. THAT'S love in a nutshell.