As I went through another break-up and some friends left, I was feeling alone.
I began to ask myself what this business of love is all about.
It seems to me that we have put great limits on our self expression when we have chosen to express ourselves through such words as love.
When I think of emotions like sadness, or even anger, it’s pretty clear. When I am sad I cry, my energy is low, I procrastinate, I sleep too much or not enough, I have little will and I tend to turn into myself. I change physically and mentally and I have little control.
The same can be said when I am angry; sometimes there are tears as well, my body shakes, I have a vibration around my head and chest, my voice raises beyond my awareness of it, my scalp feels hot, my muscles tense and sometimes I lose control.
But what of love?
I have experienced a longing for certain people in my life. When they were not with me I thought frequently of them, my energy spiked when in their presence. Often other feelings of joy and lust were aroused when thinking about or in the presence of the one I thought I loved.
After a lot of soul searching, I realised there was a gap in my life, in my existence. I had a longing. Something within me was not fulfilled. I felt vulnerable and exposed.
It has taken me all my adult life, and many affairs and relationships to realise that what I was claiming for myself as love, was often need.
A need to be accepted, to be wanted, to fit in, to be normal, a need to be worshipped, to be adored. Perhaps I lacked something in childhood or perhaps I just lacked something in myself. I wasn’t sure, but the more I examined my past, the more I came to the conclusion that love is not an emotion. All of those feelings in my heart area, and my stomach and all of those desires, were not in fact love.
When I managed eventually to look up the meaning of the word emotion, many of the definitions spoke about mental states and feelings. They referred to joy, sorrow, anger. I didn’t see any that referred to love. That is not to say they don’t exist.
Everyone wants to experience love. Many people think they are in it. When they are not in it, they want to be in it. Some people have even told me they are it. I have been told that “God,” whatever you understand by that term, is love. I have been told to love myself first. I have been asked if I love people and I have told people I love them.
So it would seem that love is a place or thing to be in, an action that can be done—something semi-religious or spiritual. That is, according to other people, to my experience so far, or to the laws of the universe so to speak. Is this enough of an explanation of what love is?
Not for me.
Recently I spoke with a friend who was going through a difficult break-up. She wanted to be in love. She told me she missed being in love. I was struck that it didn’t matter who with. The other wasn’t even important. What was important was the feeling she was missing.
It’s a feeling I had when I was a teenager and saw a beautiful girl. I still have that feeling, that wow moment, where my judgement is clouded and all I can think about are her beautiful eyes, skin, mouth, breasts or legs in front of me, the tone of her voice as it washes over me.
All that is just the wrapping of another human being and not anything to do with their morality, their politics, their judgement-calls in life. So I ask myself, how can I love a person I don’t even really see when I am looking at them? For me this is not love.
This is attraction—even passion or lust, but this is not love. Many theologies accept we are created in the image and likeness of God and that God is love. I don’t claim to be God. But I wouldn’t mind being Love.
That sounds a damn fine thing to be able to say in this world. “Hi, I am Love.”
The question then arose: how could I be Love? Which again gave rise to the previous question: what is Love?
The answer I have found is that Love is not that rise in temperature when someone you are attracted to is in your space or thoughts. It’s not the loss of appetite or the excitement of an encounter. It’s not a short skirt and heels or a rippling bicep and how we may react to them.
Those are feelings alright, but they are not Love. It is certainly not that feeling of need we have for the other. I have given myself over to many relationships and in hindsight I learned that I stayed too long, or I took abuse I should not have taken, or I was co-dependant or needy, or lots of other not-too-healthy stuff.
At the time I was telling myself I loved the other actively, and this was why I stayed.
I realise now that what I was doing was avoiding myself. I was avoiding being alone, I was avoiding the deep inner work that I needed, and even desired, to allow me to evolve and learn and find my place on this planet.
I was actively not loving myself while trying to love the other. There in was my answer, or part of it.
Love is an action. Love is not something we feel, it’s something we do.
Like all actions Love requires a decision. We don’t fall hopelessly in love. We make a decision to jump and sacrifice our power and our logic and our decision-making processes. We abandon ourselves and jump into the other.
It’s often why people become unsatisfied in relationships because what they are searching for in the other, or demanding in the other, they are not giving to themselves. These unhealthy relationships only last so long before becoming destructive.
I am now a single man. I am consciously trying to love myself daily. I try to de-program the expectations of society. I have plenty of love to give. Which would imply that love is something more than action and decision and so my conclusion is this.
When I love you, I make a decision to accept you as I find you. I make a decision to create space for you in my universe. I create an invitation for you to step in and stay here for however long is comfortable. I celebrate you actively. When you step away, I continue to look after myself and I appreciate the moment for what it was and look forward to the next one.
I will not lose sight of myself or my path, for I truly believe the best way I can love you, is by loving myself and tending to my garden. So that when you come it’s a beautiful place that you might want to linger in a little longer each time.
Love is the clear, strong, decisive action of giving and caring based in a deep respect for both persons involved in the relationship no matter how intense or light, or long or brief that relationship may be.
That doesn’t really describe an emotion now does it?
What Love Isn’t.
Author: Colm Maguire
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Image: Igor Menezes/ Flickr
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