I’ve struggled to write this entry for weeks now. Was there an inciting incident? Yes. Isn’t there always? At first it seemed like an obvious but herculean thing, something that’s been lingering in my heart for a long time, and I had finally gathered some courage. I was finally gonna give it life, with no expectations, just the chance to speak my heart. It was on the tip of my tongue. I’m not good with these kinds of things. That kind of vulnerability renders me absolutely shaking, feeling completely naked in front of a person who’s capable of smashing my heart in their hands. My mouth, which often shoots off unbidden, is remarkably silent; glued shut.
So the moment came, and then…..
The moment left.
In the way that moments often do.
You see, I’d learned my lesson before. I’ve been burned. A lot. And I told myself I would NEVER let anyone have that kind of power over me ever again. But I think, when I made that vow to myself, I went too far the opposite direction and I shut off a part of myself and left her in the dark, in the guise of “being Strong”. I’m mad at myself for letting that moment pass by. Disheartened that I lost my courage. Emotional because I was/am so close, and I just want what I want. I have so much gumption in every area of my life – but I struggle with love, abandonment and feeling like I am enough. I have struggled with this challenge for the whole of my existence. After the “Inciting Incident” I sat in Las Vegas, taking in a lovely view of lights, and planes making their approach to the airport, trying to get my heart together. To be perfectly candid, normally, I would go out and drink it away, and that thought had crossed my mind on this go around as well. Vegas is a perfect place to go hide behind smokescreens of excess. But instead, after arriving that afternoon, I took a nap. I woke up in the early evening, and found myself settled in my room, cup of tea in hand and sitting in front of this screen, feeling raw as hell, trying to finally soothe my soul, once and for all. I started writing. I express myself so much better on a page. I had a whole entry done and lined up. But it didn’t feel complete – it didn’t feel like I’d said all I wanted to say. So I waited and thought this out.
All of my life, the concepts of love have baffled me. I’ve talked about it in the context of romantic relationships and familial relationships. I’ve never tackled the topic in a singular focus – love of one’s self. Did I have to learn how to define Love before I ventured into that territory? Is Love, in fact, its very own language? Are there hidden pieces of love in what people say and do? Is it a tangible THING? Something we can hold tightly to our chests, or something better thrown out into the universe around us, without any kind of discernment as to who “deserves” it?
I realize that Love is a subconscious obsession of mine, but also something I’ve actively run from and withheld from myself. I’ve only just owned up to it. I’m an over-thinker so bear with me but……How do I earn love? How do I know how much is enough or if I need more? What are the signs of love? What kind of love is “appropriate” for each person? Do I really know how to love? Am I loved? How do I get “that” kind of love. Why does love come easier to some as opposed to others? Why are there times that I try to deny that I love as much as I do, to the point that it causes me literal physical pain? What is it about humanity that makes us think we are not worthy of it? Why can’t we love ourselves the way we love some people around us? All I know, is that it has been this topic that has consumed my psyche for the whole of my life. In some way shape or form. I’ve always felt that it’s the reason that we are put on this planet: To figure out what love is and how to do it.
How do we figure this all out? Author of The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman, posits that we all have a love language. His breaks down into five categories: physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and receiving gifts. So I took the quiz and learned my language, not at all surprised at the results, if I were to sit down and really analyze them. So that was a step in me recognizing how I view people “speak” to me in the language I determine is love. William Goldman, author of The Princess Bride, ventures to say that “As You Wish” actually means “I Love You”. How did Buttercup figure that out? Why did it take her so long? Because Westley kept doing any and all things she asked? Because he got mad and told her off and went and made eyes at a Countess, which sent Buttercup into a tumultuous fit of jealousy causing her finally see how she really felt about him? Was it some kind of game on his part to get her to finally throw herself at his feet so to speak, so that he would finally have his chance to come clean? (If you haven’t read the book, this is actually how it really happens, the movie just glosses over this beautiful moment of conflict in her, unfortunately) In that same vein, another author echoes a similar sentiment:
Love resides in song and poetry. Words from the heart that somehow capture the grief and simultaneous exultations of being in love. Some of my favourite songwriters (Bryan Adams, Phil Collins, Thom Yorke and Peter Gabriel to name a few) have a sheer gift of talking about how we can reside in this space of conflicting emotion and come out more whole than when we went in. Bono of U2 writes ballads that speak of residing only in love, in any way, shape, or form we can, no matter the dysfunction, love is the only thing that will save us in the end, that love is all we have left. The Bible tells us that three things remain: Faith, Hope and Love and that the greatest of these things is Love. Love has been defined by the likes of Rilke, Lord Byron and Tennyson as the thing shared among a mentor/disciple, a secret admirer/object of affection, and knights/noblewomen of the court. I’ve even Googled love. Seriously. (FYI, the definition is convoluted and not at all clear.) So I would venture to say, if you could figure out the love language of yourself, then feasibly, you could unlock the languages of your family or your friends, your significant other. You could find a way to tap into a hidden well of love and communication thus far unseen with them.
How do we determine what love is and where it comes from? One might argue that if I cite my sources, I should be an expert of sorts on that. I have examples from parents, friends, family, I’ve been in a longterm relationship, I’ve been engaged. I’ve been broken up with. I’ve been left. I’ve been an object of affection. I’ve read all kinds of love stories, plays and novels. I watch deep, thought-provoking family dramas, finding love lost in time and space, films about unrequited love, films about love conquering all obstacles. I’ve been in love. Fallen out of love. Fell back in love. Loved my family even in dysfunction. Loved my cat that I had for sixteen years. Loved my horse that I grew up with into my thirties. Loved friends I’ve made along the way. Loved a thousand hobbies and experiences that I’ve had or have. I’ve listened to dozens of songs about true love, unrequited love, bad love, tragic love, passionate lustful love, and lukewarm love. I’ve nursed friends through break-ups and potential relationships, hookups and dry spells. For the longest time, I’ve known nothing and everything all at the same time. So to talk about love to others felt easier when it wasn’t about me. None of them were about me, so it was easy to stay “objective”. Hah. Well that’s backfiring on me now, isn’t it?
Time to face the music. How do all of these definitions fit into the most important relationship of all? I was finding myself SO frustrated that I haven’t attracted a loving mate into my life. What was it about me that I was putting out there that attracted men who only used me to feel better about themselves but left my needs unmet? I’ve been posing questions to my nearest and dearest friends. We’ve had conversations about love, things we’ve experienced in love, what we hope for in love, what we’ve written and seen about love trying to figure it out. One of my friends managed to break it down for me in a way that clicked in just right in that moment. He asked me, “If you had a billboard about yourself, what would it say about you and who you are? How would his traits fit into yours?” I looked at him and couldn’t think of one damn thing to say in response to that. So now, I think I’ve put a final piece of the puzzle together that’s been missing for a long time. I’ve never really focused on the one person that I really need to love the most:
All of this time, I’ve been looking for traits in other people to love and that could feasibly be compatible with me, but without a clear picture of exactly what those “compatibilities” matched in myself. What is it about me that I would want another to fit with? What makes the ABCs of me in how I want to live and what I want to do? What parts of me have I been brave enough to own? So what do you think I did next? You know that answer…….. I made a billboard of myself, the things that I love about myself and the things I work towards every day. It’s currently on my wall where I look at it every day to remind myself who I need to love first and foremost. Dr. Athena Perrakis brings up a valid point.
I reflect on what shadows and past selves I’m trying protect, and to that end, what do I need to let go of? How do I love all of it? Honestly, I haven’t been embracing all of the shadow and all of the light, nor have I admitted to what I really wanted and what I really needed, because I’ve struggled with insecurities regarding a myriad of things. I realized this in a recent conversation with my roommate. We hadn’t really had a good talk for a few weeks and the conversation went all over the place. And it dug up some really old pieces of me that I had sort of just, put away. Not really released or embraced. Just put away. I’ve kept up a pretty high wall, and neglected to present who I am, in the interest of staying under the radar. I often feel like these shadows were too much of a burden. That it shatters the person that people now know me to be. But how am I going to move forward with anything if I can’t stand strong in the essence of who I am and the experiences that shaped me, dark or light or otherwise?
I’ve always sworn that I would be more humble than some of my previous examples, that my love for others had to be of importance, because I know what it’s like to be left behind in the dust. But I can’t do myself the disservice of downplaying the importance of my own heart. I can still love myself enough to ask for what I want and need and still reside in my heart and soul. The heart wants what it wants. When the soul wants, the soul waits.
So do I have any answers about love? Sure, I have a couple. Is Love a language? Maybe. That’s what we’ve blocked it into, so that we as humans, could figure out how to express it. Is it a feeling? Absolutely. It’s the ache in your heart when you leave someone you love behind. It’s the light in your eyes that shines when you get to see someone you love. But it’s also more: it’s an energy we enact. Love naturally courses through our electrical outlets in our bodies, coded in our chemicals and hearts and minds. It’s who we started as, and as we get older, love is who we choose to be in ourselves. The whole thing is about shining the mirror on your own soul and finally acknowledging what you are seeing in your own psyche. How are you contributing to love in your own environment? Have you started within yourself? Do people reach out to you because there’s something in you that they want to feel and they only feel it with you? Do you find that people respond to you differently than they do to others around you? Do you look in the mirror and love the person you see? All valid questions in my mind and worth looking at.
I’m now going to post this as is. No more editing. No more fine-tuning. No more doubting. It is what it is, and it’s time to move forward. So if you’ve come this far with me, have I presented any solid answers? Maybe, but in reality, I have no solid conclusion to this missive. Love is Love. With yourself or anyone else. Love is communication. Love is action. Love is a choice. Love is heart. Love is a language. Love is a life transforming emotion.
And Love is bigger than anything in its way. (According to Bono).