I have limited my understanding of love for a very long time.
For me, this meant defining my successes and failures in terms of love by the romantic kind—determining my worth by whether or not I was ‘coupled’ and finding the aloneness of uncoupled fear invoking.
Now, at 40 years old, I am deliberately choosing to reinterpret love.
I very much believe in love. I am hopeless with regard to romance and couplesque entanglements— staring into eyes, shy glances away and kisses that reverberate through every cell holding you together. In my most recent romantic relationship, I went from never saying ‘we’ to tossing it out like a frisbee to a playful pup.
We. Us. Our.
Bam. Bam. Bam.
All pronouns to evidence my coupledom and our allegiance to whatever I happen to be saying, doing, thinking, planning, responding to, ad infinitum.
Historically, when I experience challenges in my romantic life, they cause me to dismiss love and recoil at every reference. I can become incredibly judgmental, scoffing and rolling my eyes at every Facebook testament of love, marriage, anniversaries or sappy pictures of happy couples. During some of these challenging periods, I have even talked to Facebook posts—telling them that no one cares about the flowers just received, or the dinner being cooked, or the special weekend getaway being planned in the name of celebrating that love—blah, barf, blah.
At this point in my life, I do not care to become a cynic or a pessimist and I really do not want to be the person who talks to Facebook in angry tirades holding happiness in contempt. I would rather think of myself as a wanderer who needs a better understanding of the nature of love. I would rather admit to being a slightly lost soul who recently experienced a romantic relationship seismic shift who therefore simply needs to understand that romantic love is not the all and beyond of love.
This realization takes me back to my roots—takes me home. In home, I return to and am reminded of the love that brought me to this place in my life. The love upon which I entered this world. The love that shaped me as a person.
In my deliberate endeavor to reinterpret love, I planned a trip to visit with my family, particularly my grandmother, the epicenter of all love in my life, and my father, who has never let me stay swimming or drowning in self defeat or sadness.
My grandmother, though her memory has slipped into a place we can hardly reach, represents all that was and is love in my life. She was a lighthouse and a treehouse in my dark childhood—the refuge when I could have been swallowed whole, body and soul, by abuse and assault.
My father has an infinitely outstretched hand, always ready to be held for warmth or guidance whether to do with car problems, retirement, raising children or dissolved relationships. On the latter, he gives me a moment to spit and choke on blubbering mumblings of how much I suck and will never find love again, and then he pulls me up by my scruff, lays me on dry land and makes me stand.
This trip to see family affords me the opportunity to be surrounded by another rendition of love— perhaps the original, beyond romantic love because, I dare say, I need that desperately. I cannot afford another second waxing on and on about how I will forever live without love now that she’s gone. Because right there, in a seemingly harmless statement, purely as a result of this recent seismic shift, I have rendered myself so small and I have erased all connection around me. I have limited love and its expression in my life.
I can no longer inflict this harm upon my experience for as much as my heart breaks, my heart also blooms.
I am far bigger than I allow my own self to believe most days. I have the love of friends. I have the love of my children. I have the love of my family. I have the love of my pup. And for f*ck’s sake, I have the love of my self.
Going home is a necessary ritual to let go of the story I have told myself regarding love. My means to tear down the walls of the compartmentalized notions and to feel, with depth and fierceness, the bounty of love, the infinite expressions and the ever pumping pulse of this thing I tried to keep so small.
I. Me. Enough.
Author: Tina Vaughn
Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: GettysGirl4260 at Flickr