In a painful eye contact exercise, that I contributed to earlier this year, I was asked repeatedly, “What is love?”. This question often pops up for me as I reflect, through various moments since then, on the answers in which I gave. I question so much of my interpretation of love as it has been through the stages of my life and growing up. I analyse my acknowledgement of what it has meant and accept that its truth is as real as it felt with no limitations to what actually defines “love”.
Yes, I’m a renowned over-thinker and spend a lot of my time sifting through the snippets of my life. I piece them together and shred them apart in the hope of justifying and making sense of things. Ultimately, I just want to know myself better.
The answer to that question interrupts my thoughts as things happen throughout the moments in the day;
“This is love” or “That is love” and sometimes “That was love”.
After my teenage emotions matured and the intensity of it all wore off, I transferred what I defined as love to infatuation. Through my teen years, I was quick to fall in love. I clung to wanting to be in love as a way to escape, to experience phenomenally and feel. To be lost and away from reality. I wanted love to be out of this world so that I could journey away from the real world. The world where, for me, love was conditional, untrustworthy, hurtful and full of lies. It was my own obsession with making love perfect that caused me to then project and experience love in ways that became all the things I was trying to escape. Playing out, looping in a fashionably destructive and theatrical way, love was intensely unrequited because the perfection I was seeking, does not exist.
Thus, I was the girl in love with the idea of being in love who didn’t want to be loved. It’s so much easier to get by when every facet of your life plays out the self-belief that I was undeserving, a thought that I held as gospel.
I remember one of the great lines of advice that my Dad has given me after a horrendous breakup, “I know you feel really strongly right now that it’s the end of the world, and you won’t ever feel like that about a person again, but you will.” At the time it wasn’t easy to listen or absorb in a way that made me feel better. Regardless, it was true and a truth I know I’ll mutter to my heart-broken children as they grow up and love and loose. Honestly, the heartbreak stage never lasted very long for me. It was more like slamming my fingers in a car door; It really fucking hurt and then the pain would pass and I’d be bruised for a week or two. It never took long for me to detach and go epically searching off for the next grand love. My episodes in detachment, though, were just a little more chaotic than other people, but once I severed links I could move on very easily.
For a long time, my warped understanding was that love had to be hard, brutal and full of angst. “Love should be soul shattering” so that we can put each other back into the perfect idea of what we want. I’m not sure why, or where that concept came from, or why it was deeply ingrained into the way I chose to experience and abuse love.
Reconciling “What is love?” has brought awareness to my own uncomfortable stance on being loved and even being liked as a person. I downplay affection, intimacy and compassion even when I crave it the most. I downplay my own kindness, and the kindness I receive from others. Love is without condition, expectation or demand, yet I sometimes harbour this perception that I must earn it.
A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. -Mignon McLaughlin
I’m lucky enough to have found someone to love and fall in love with, over and over. That I can share many aspects and identities of love with, however, it’s not brutal, it doesn’t shatter my soul and I’m not constantly trying to fit into a mould of unattainable greatness.
We’re people, not ideas and to love perfectly is incredibly boring. I don’t earn his love, I have it. When I say that I don’t do so flippantly, however, I’m not on egg shells here. I’m not some circus monkey jumping through hoops of expectation to win him over every minute of the day. Nor does he for me.
I’m fascinated constantly by our life together and fascinated that we have the life we do. Having love in my life, experiencing love the way that I do now, gives me the courage to love more. I’m open to loving my family, friends and strangers even. I fall in love with people constantly, acknowledging the wonderous, invaluable and imperfect.
Now, if I could only learn to love myself with that kind of ferocity….
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn … is just to love and be loved in return.”
― Moulin Rouge