What the Hell Do I Know?

Via Kate Bartolotta
on Jan 27, 2012
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I can say “I don’t know” in seven different languages.








In a few of them, that’s all I can say. I’m okay with that.

I started writing a post about how real love isn’t selfish, but selfless. I got about half-way in, and realized–I really have no idea.

When I was five, I knew that love meant getting married and having babies. I wanted to go to nursery school and become a nurse. My husband and I would live with my parents, or maybe in the condos nearby.

When I was 15, I knew that love meant sex. Hadn’t done it yet, but it seemed like the key. Making out was such a magical thing that I was sure–sex must be what love is all about. And maybe still marriage and babies and picket fence blah blah blah. But definitely sex.

When I was 25, I knew that love meant someone to ground me, to tell me what to do, to give me direction. Turns out, I needed to do that for myself. Love isn’t roots; it’s wings. Love isn’t finding someone to complete you. Love is already being whole, but broken open enough to let someone in.

Or maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s being like misfit toys or mismatched socks. Maybe you just play together and keep each other warm despite your differences. Or maybe it’s something else. I know how to give it. I know how to run my love headlong into a brick wall. I might even know when it’s time to stop. What’s the mystery of it? We understand it when we’re kids, but then we forget.

We read and write ridiculous articles about “keeping love alive” or “making love stay” like it’s someone on life support or a runaway butterfly.

“Who knows how to make love stay?

1. Tell love you are going to Junior’s Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if loves stays, it can have half. It will stay.

2. Tell love you want a momento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language. Remove the ashes of the burnt hair and use them to paint a moustache on your face. Find love. Tell it you are someone new. It will stay.

3. Wake love up in the middle of the night. Tell it the world is on fire. Dash to the bedroom window and pee out of it. Casually return to bed and assure love that everything is going to be all right. Fall asleep. Love will be there in the morning.”

~ Tom Robbins

Maybe if it’s real love–words like “make” and “stay” are irrelevant?

Now I’m 35. All I really know is that I don’t know much–at all.

And I’m okay with that too.

Zen Buddhists call it “don’t know” mind. It’s a great place to stay. I get too caught up in all the things I think I know. We all do. We want to impress people. We want to feel like we have some semblance of control over life. It’s an illusion, though. Better to sail the vast ocean of what I don’t know than hide in the tiny shack of what I do.

What lingers around the edges of my don’t know mind is hope. I have a golden glow around all my broken places. A shimmering glimpse of “this is what love is.”

I see it when I love my children. With my children, love is simple. Love is my heart swollen full of “let me cover you with kisses and tell me all about your day.” Love is “I’ll hold your hand if that’s what you need, but run free if you need to run free.”

I see it when I love my friends. Maitri towards my friends is easy, favorite pair of jeans love. Love is “I am proud of you. I believe in you. I want you to have the best, happiest life possible. I don’t need you to be what I want–be yourself.” Love is “I will give to you freely. What I get in return is just the icing on the cake.” Love is talking for hours about nothing in particular, or sitting quietly, saying nothing at all.

Maybe if spouses and lovers loved this way, we’d get over all the romantic comedies. We wouldn’t need a relationship category on Facebook that says “it’s complicated” because we’d know the truth–it’s not. Sometimes people love each other; sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you hold on; sometimes you let go. Sometimes…oh, what the hell do I know!

Maybe if we loved like that, we wouldn’t spend time with all those crazy making thoughts of clinging, and mine, and stay or do it my way. We’d stop all the drama and realize the truth:

“Love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward in the same direction.”

~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery


About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is a wellness cheerleader, yogini storyteller, and self-care maven. She also writes for Huffington Post, Yoga International, Mantra Yoga+ Health, a beauty full mind, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. Kate's books are now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com. She is passionate about helping people fall in love with their lives. You can connect with Kate on Facebook and Instagram.


33 Responses to “What the Hell Do I Know?”

  1. karlsaliter says:

    Good stuff Kate. Mental brakes and rereads came at "Better to sail the vast ocean of what I don’t know than hide in the tiny shack of what I do." Bravo!

  2. Andréa Balt says:

    Luv this! So much… Or… maybe not… I don't know anymore… but I also love the unknown. Except for when I don't.

    I could quote the entire piece but just to pick a thought… "Love isn’t roots; it’s wings. Love isn’t finding someone to complete you. Love is already being whole, but broken open enough to let someone in."


  3. karmais says:

    Beautiful. Love the image of the heart as we grow. And agreed. All of it. I love you!

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  5. jjwaltersj says:

    Kate . . . that was so nice . . . and it certainly fits my version of the truth.
    I want to tell you something kinda serious . . .
    I am at this point in my life, at times very pessimistic when it comes to human beings. Sometimes it gets the best of me and I would just rather hang out in the woods with my dogs . . . but then I read something like "you" and I visualize what people could be like if they quit all the damn pretense . . . thank you.

  6. Well done, as always! Trying to read all your recent work today. xo

  7. Aww thanks! I've been a busy bee, but a lot of it's short!

  8. Keep at it! Thanks!

  9. Love you too! Thanks for the other day venting time- mwuah!

  10. My definition of love has certainly morphed over the years. If anything my definition has gotten broader.

  11. Love that, Jennifer! Thanks!

  12. Hector says:

    #5? If you are born in 1976 it explain a WHOLE lot.
    Love is both selfish and selfless.
    LIke most things in life, such as how to treat one another, it is something that seems to have been forgotten as we get older, at least by most people, and then has to be rediscovered through spirituality or something of that nature, which I find very very sad that as a species that is our current state of the world.

  13. Yup. Still have lots to learn, as I said. Thanks.

  14. Tessa says:

    "Better to sail the vast ocean of what I don’t know than hide in the tiny shack of what I do."

    This is such a great article, thank you for the reminder that at least half the fun is the mystery itself. You are quickly turning into one of my favorite writers at EJ, thank you for your great work!!

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  16. Joshua says:

    Great post, my dear. Who knows how the hell to do anything! Lol I love your "don't know" mind reference, I think I learned that, originally, from Trudy Goodman, I didn't understand it until a few years later.

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