On this eve of Valentine I would like to talk about love. I know I have spoken of love before in this blog. When does it end? Is there only one love of your life. When is love really not love? Love languages. I even wrote a piece called “I Hate Valentine’s Day.” So what else is there left to say about love?
Love is not a tap.
True, to the depths of your soul, intelligent, selfless love is not a tap. You cannot simply turn it on and off randomly, depending on your mood. Or circumstance. Real love exists in a state unto itself and it is merely your responsibility to protect it. And express it. And if you one day decide to no longer protect and express then I offer that it was never real love to begin with. Because real love is not a tap. Or if it is, it is a tap that flows freely without restraint or conditions. And if you can turn it off and shut that valve down completely maybe it never really was love? Maybe it was lust or ownership or a simple fly-by. But I don’t think it was love.
Now I reckon at this point a bunch of you are yelling “Hey, wait a minute! I disagree! Because I have every right to despise that shit-head that I married even though I did love him once. After all the crappy things he has done, there’s no way I can love him anymore!”
Again, I’m not so sure. Because as I’ve mentioned before (thanks to Glennon Doyle) – True love is like water. It never disappears. It just changes shape. So if you truly did love that shit-head you would find a way to continue that love ad infinitum. And if you can’t, you might want to dig deep and discern if you did really love or if there were other factors at play that tricked you into believing you were in love. We are all so very capable of confusing love with emotions and desires that actually have very little to do with love.
I personally still love my ex-husband to the moon and back. I could not remain in a romantic partnership with him and I am no longer “in love” with him but my pure love for him is undiminished. As a matter of fact, when I look back over the years, I can honestly say that those I loved, I still love. The shape has changed but the love remains. Those liaisons that I thought were love and were not? Like the guy who threw me down a flight of stairs or the guy who screwed around on me (and every other woman he was ever with) more times than anyone can count? I thought I loved them but in hindsight I most assuredly did not. I needed something from them. Whether it was affirmation or a challenge or simply boyfriend-hood, I was blinded by need. But that is not love. That is when we start to confuse love with desire. And desperation. Ownership. My way or the highway. But real love isn’t any of those things. It is more a deep caring that subscribes to no Hallmark definition. It is wanting your beloved to feel whole and at peace. In harmony with the Universe. Even if that means not in your bed.
So what about marriages that end in volatility? Even when children are involved? Again I offer that it is the grownups’ responsibility to redefine their love. Even when one party seemingly deserves the shit-head crown more than the other. Why? Because those children will always want to believe that it was real love that brought them into this world. And even if that love has now changed shape, it still exists. Even when no kids are involved and even if your heart was broken to bits, it is possible to move forward with love. And gratitude. It’s not easy and it may not magically happen overnight. But it is possible. I know this because I have lived it. And even with a bruised and horribly beaten heart I still chose love. And that’s the beauty. You have a choice.
And what about non-romantic love? Have you ever had a friend who professed love for you at every turn and then one day just decided to shut off that tap? I have, and I admit it hurts like hell. Because romantic or platonic, for me love is love and I can’t turn it off. If it was ever there in the first place it will always be there in the future, no matter how dried up someone else’s tap becomes. It’s not about heart emoticons and blown kisses and “love yous” galore. It’s about patience and trust and understanding and belief. Yes. Believing that real love is worth the fight, the discomfort and the pain. It is worth the effort and the dialogue and even the occasional period of silence. It does not shut down because your feelings got hurt or you had an argument or you lost touch. It cannot disappear – ever – because it is like water. It can only change shape.
I have a friend who refuses to toss out casual “I love yous” to other friends. She reserves her “love” for her partner, as is her right. I used to kid her about this and say “I love you” to her all the time. But now, in hindsight, I think she may have been on to something. We all throw “Love yous” around like confetti at a wedding and perhaps that has made it easier for us to relinquish it fully when it no longer suits our needs. We can always buy more confetti, right?
Tomorrow many of us will in some way celebrate love. For all the love currently in my life I am grateful. For all the love I have known in my like I am grateful. And for all the love that has been unceremoniously removed from my life … I am also grateful. And if those unceremonious removers ever decide that my love is real, that their love is real and that a new shape is better than no shape, well I will still be here.
Because if love is a tap, mine is always on. And always will be.