The Ineffable Quality of Love

ineffable: too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words. 

The other day I ran into someone who uses the L word a lot. In the course of regular conversation, she expressed it no fewer than 10 times, to encompass everything, from the latte she was drinking, to her new bag, to the latest episode of some vapid TV show she watches but I’m glad to say I’ve never seen.

I nodded along, but inside I was counting, and thinking to myself, “You can’t possibly love all of these things.” I realized one of two things in that moment. Either she honestly believes she loves all of these things, or she hasn’t really taken the time to analyze her feelings for each one, and love is simply a placeholder until she decides she wants to dig a little deeper. If she ever decides she wants to dig a little deeper.

Too often people don’t. Too often they grab a word, put it in their pocket, and pull it out whenever the mood strikes, whenever they can’t think of anything that fits the situation they’re in. That’s why we often say we love others too soon, when all we can possibly feel is attraction, or companionship, or relief, or any number of a million other feelings that often masquerade as love.

We see others living the lives we want, having the love we wish we had…

Continue reading “The Ineffable Quality of Love”

Love Lessons

“This old heart of mine, been broke a thousand times. Each time you break away, seems like you’ve gone to stay.” ~The Isley Brothers

I am no love expert. I feel like I should qualify that first. Love is not always sunshine and roses. I feel the need to qualify that second. Because, while love can be the most beautiful feeling in the world, it can also be the most confounding, the most frustrating, the most devastating at the same time.

For me, love has been several roller coasters, going everywhere but never really stopping. And it’s taught me a lot, in its various incarnations.

  1. Unrequited love is the worst. Having feelings for someone who doesn’t share those feelings can drive you insane. Keep in mind, though, that unrequited means they know of your love for them but do not reciprocate. If you love someone but keep it to yourself, it doesn’t qualify in this category. I’ve learned that it’s best to be honest, to get it out there, because keeping it in doesn’t help.
  2. Love has expectations. It’s interesting to me when people say that love doesn’t expect anything from you but to be yourself. This isn’t true, specifically because most relationships are doomed by a lack of communication. When you love someone you should stretch outside of your comfort zone at times so you can understand each other.
  3. You can’t force love. No matter how “great” someone looks on paper, no matter how many of your friends think you’d be perfect together, it’s not about paper, and it’s not about friends. It’s about how you feel inside, and you can’t make yourself love someone you don’t love. Yes, you can cover over your true feelings, but eventually they will come out, and regret will set in.
  4. We don’t stop loving people. If it’s real love, it doesn’t just go away. Sometimes it can morph into a different level, or it can be put on the back burner because of the actions of the individual. Often, love isn’t enough to keep people together because there are so many other factors that influence that, but the excuse that “love died” is not true. If you feel that way, then you never loved in the first place.
  5. Don’t mistake lust for love. In true Romeo & Juliet fashion, too often we are struck by the newness of a situation, we are overcome with emotions that are attached more to our libidos than to anything else. It’s easy to think this is love, but it’s really love-adjacent. It’s really one facet of a multi-faceted emotion, and often times we can have lust without love. Beware.
  6. Love needs cultivation. Just like with anything else, if love stagnates it can be detrimental to you overall as a person, and to your relationship. Taking love for granted, settling into routines where you aren’t receptive to the other person’s needs, is easy to do. It’s one of the reasons love isn’t enough by and of itself. You need to show that love instead of letting it settle.
  7. Love can be harsh. Because we can’t choose who we love we can get ourselves into situations that are detrimental to our overall mental, physical, and emotional health. I’ve seen it time and again, people who are in dysfunctional relationships because they love that person even though they’re being mentally, physically, or emotionally abused by that same person.

Love is so powerful because it tugs at our heart strings. It’s the kitty in the shelter we just have to bring home with us. It’s the book we can’t stop reading even though it’s 4 in the morning. It’s the twisted sheets, the notes under windshield wipers, the pop-ins just to say hi, the shared tacos, the phone calls that never end. It’s everything. Except that it isn’t. At least, that’s what I’ve learned so far.

Forgive or Forget?

“I’ve forgotten all the reasons I loved you, ’till someone tells me that you rang. The memories are hazy now. I don’t recall at all. There’s nothing. There’s nothing there, just me. And I don’t understand why.” ~Phil Collins

I’ve forgotten so many things over the course of my 41 years of life on this earth, some that I wanted desperately to forget, and others that I wanted desperately to save from extinction. But they all went just the same — in time. Because time is the ultimate equalizer in all things, isn’t it?

It’s always been interesting to me when people say they never forget. That means they just hang on like a dog with a bone, struggling to keep grip while everything around them disintegrates. In fact, it often means that whatever they are hanging onto cut so bone deep that they feel they can’t let it go.

Now forgiveness — that’s another animal altogether. It means we aren’t forgetting, but we are moving on. It’s the world of second chances that exists specifically because we will it to be. It’s where the saying that “It happens twice, shame on me” happens to live. Some people just aren’t hardwired to forgive, though. They like to say whatever happened was “unforgivable,” but what they really mean to say is that they don’t want to forgive. Continue reading “Forgive or Forget?”

15 is Crystal

wedding-like-pictures-002.jpgHas it really been 15 years already? I don’t believe it. Well, the mirror believes it for me though. When I look back at pictures from our honeymoon I see this youngster, svelte (some would have said painfully skinny), ready to take on the world. It’s been 15 years, and a lot of change later, and I still feel like that youngster ready to take on the world. Well, I feel like that inside. The aches and pains of my body on a daily basis beg to differ with me that the feeling is overall.

But my bride? She’s how she’s always been. I remember when we met, some sixteen and a half years ago, online, getting that first picture she sent my way, and wanting to see more. Then when we met in person, knowing that that wry smile was for me, because she saw something in me. She’s always seen something in me, often things I haven’t seen myself. She still sees something in me. She’s really everything I could have ever wanted or needed in another person.

And 15 years ago… we knit our lives together, not as one, but as two individuals who knew the bond was strong enough to last. Thank god we were right. At least here we are, standing shoulder to hip (that’s not a short joke, I promise) all these years later. I think of all the trials and tribulations we’ve had over the course of these 15 years, but I also think of how we overcame each and every one. Not that they were easy — far from it — but that we were able to assault them and put them in our rear view mirrors after a fashion. That’s startling to me.

But time hasn’t mellowed us. It’s sharpened and blurred our edges at the same time…

My previous record for longest relationship before I met Heidi was three and a half years. I think we got that beat. I know before I met her I couldn’t even imagine what 15 years would look like. Heck, I couldn’t imagine what five would look like, to be honest. But to be equally as honest, sometimes these 15 years don’t feel like they’ve taken all that long to pass. The only times I really fathom how long it’s been is when I look at our children — 12 and 9 respectively — and I am humbled.

Time has no challengers.

But time hasn’t mellowed us. It’s sharpened and blurred our edges at the same time, making us more ourselves, helping us retain our individual selves while becoming more of a cohesive couple. Because that’s where it all began after all. First it was us, individually. Then it was us together. Then it was us, together, being parents. And 15 years passed, but it still is what it was. We are still individuals struggling together through this thing called life. We are still a couple that works hard on making sure we keep the connection strong.

51iVqbfIW+L._US500_

So when it was time to figure out what I wanted to get my wife of 15 years it should have been easy, right? Well, not quite. You see, 15 years means 15 anniversaries, and 15 birthdays, and numerous Mother’s Days — you see where I’m going. I’ve been really original some years, and really cliche during others, but I’ve always had some ideas. This year, though, as our anniversary approached, I had one big gift and no more thoughts in my head. Everything else I could think of I’ve already done for her, and I’ve never been one to recycle.

What do I do when I am out of ideas? Luckily for me, wedding anniversaries come with a guide. Each year has a special connection. Like year 1 was paper. That was pretty cheap, I must say. But year 15, when I looked it up, proved to be crystal. Yikes. And it doesn’t go back from here. But when I thought about it, really thought about it, crystal makes absolute sense when it comes to Heidi. She is as tough as they come, but she often also wears her heart on her sleeve. Crystal is tougher than it seems, but it’s see through, which makes it look fragile.

My wife is the single strongest person I know, and after all this time I’m still working hard to show her just how much I appreciate her every single day, not just on our anniversary. Yet, here it is, the special day, and I’m ready for it. Because 15 is crystal, and I will not disappoint. Now, if I could just get up from this chair.

Sam

We Don’t Choose Love

“Love is a choice. It is the expectation of reciprocity. It is the possibility of a future, with a house, a picket fence, well-spoken kids, and a little dog. Love is the hope that it will be enough to build a life on, in the absence of anything else. Even when we know it can never be enough.” ~Anonymous

LOVE Bulb Sign

A friend and I had a conversation yesterday about love, how it can be the most devastating emotion in the startlingly long list of emotions that human beings can feel. She believes love is a choice, that we decide who we will love, when we will love, and how we will love. She thinks that when love leaves it is also a choice, that someone at some point decided to no longer love, to leave the space open that used to be filled.

I simply can’t get on board with that. For me, we don’t choose love. It chooses us. Think about all the times when a couple seemed perfect on the outside. They checked all the boxes that each other had down on paper. Yes, I also curl up on Friday nights in front of the fire with a good puzzle. Yes, I enjoy talking about long walks on the beach, but I would never in a million years actually do it. You too? Cool. We are meant to be together. This is love.

But we can’t just say “This is love,” and expect it to be so. We can’t think that just because someone fits our paradigm of what we think love should be, that we can make ourselves fall in love with them. It just doesn’t work that way, no more than saying that the best swimmer will win all of her races. It’s because emotion cannot be neatly put into boxes, and for every person who is drawn to someone similar to themselves, there is another one, equally pulled toward someone opposite. That’s the glory of love, but the devastating nature of the beast as well.

Because we don’t choose love. It chooses us. Love is not always neat and clean. It doesn’t always make things nice and tidy for us. It destroys as much as it builds and connects. Love is not something we can convince ourselves of just because everything else seems to work out perfectly. We either feel it or we don’t. Of course many of us have convinced ourselves that, with time, we can grow to love someone. But it doesn’t work that way. Love decides when, and where, and why. Only love. Never us.

That’s why love isn’t always reciprocated, because it isn’t something that can suddenly dawn on us. “Oh yes, I love you now, after you’ve chased me across several states.” Sure, we can convince ourselves it’s love, but real love doesn’t take convincing. Real love just is, and it is never a choice. We choose to give ourselves over to it or to pretend it doesn’t exist, but we don’t choose to either feel it or not. That’s not something even the most emotionally strong people can accomplish. Because love is more powerful than anything we can possibly imagine.

Yet love can’t keep us together. Because there are so many other reasons for people to be together and to stay together. Because there are so many other extenuating factors that determine the longevity of relationships. We are all human, and we make mistakes. We all have other defining factors to us than just loving another person. If it were as simple as “Love conquers all,” we would be living in a perfect world, a delusional world, but still a perfect world. And we all know that’s not possible.

So, no, we don’t choose love, but we do choose whether or not to let it guide us. We do choose whether or not we want to cultivate that love, whether or not we want to give it a seat at the table. And once we agree to its terms we can’t just let it sit there. Because love is fungible, malleable, able to be shaped or crafted to our needs, but also able to change with time, just like everything else. So when love chooses us, we have to first accept it for what it is, then we must commit to it, no matter what. As we all know, time is stronger than love, so we need to ride both like a tandem bike, to give our attention to growing that love over time.

And I understand where my friend is coming from. It’s a wonderful sentiment, that we can choose who we love, that we can choose when we love, and how we love. But it’s just not very realistic, in my opinion. It seems like a fairy tale to me, because I’ve seen so much that dissuades me from that notion. I just know that when love chose me, I let it wrap me up in its warm embrace, and then I went to work making sure that it would last for all time.

Sam

First Comes Love…

“I thought I knew what love was. What did I know?” ~Don Henley

01_Robert-Indiana_LoveI first told a girl I loved her in 4th grade, when she stabbed me with a pencil and decided to go out with my enemy. These three things were unrelated. Or at least I think they were. I never really asked her to explain. I was too busy drowning in my tears, in the relative safety of my room, trying to forget her. Trying to forget love.

Love means many different things to many different people, but to me it means being always appreciative. That girl who I said I loved, she didn’t appreciate my love. To her I might as well have told her I was an albino for all she cared, but it was 4th grade, and I gave her a mulligan for it. She never came back to take me up on the idea of a second chance, which was just as well.

To me, when you love someone you show it. Not by flowers and candy, because anyone can get flowers and candy, but by being there, by letting them know you’re there, whether they admit to needing you there. Love means coming through for someone else even if they don’t realize that’s what they needed. It’s doing the little things because there really are no little things when it comes to love.

I’ve learned that love needs to be patient…

I realize now that I didn’t really love that girl in 4th grade. It was never really love because I had no idea what love was back then. What I felt for her was sheer infatuation, that kind of Romeo and Juliet feeling that would have petered out had they not been in a volatile situation that pushed them toward each other… and toward the abyss. That girl was lucky she didn’t reciprocate my infatuation because I’ve always been prone to exaggeration of emotion. Thank god she looked the other way.

But I’ve learned a lot over the years, because of heartache and a plethora of other issues and mistakes, on both sides. I’ve learned that love needs to be patient, that it isn’t about the physical, that the physical comes along for the ride when it is indeed requited, that it’s better to have loved and lost than… well, not quite. It’s better to love and keep loving, because love can shift. It can change, not precisely with the wind but sometimes it is buffeted. I’ve learned that love is complicit, if just because it makes you more vulnerable than anything else ever could.

Love is revolutionary, no matter how often it occurs…

I’ve been sparing with the word itself. Even with my closest of friends it took a while before I felt comfortable enough telling them how I felt. Even with my closest of relationships I haven’t been the first one to say it, not usually, not because I’ve been afraid but because I’ve been resistant. I’ve been resistant to the way saying those words changes things. It doesn’t change things for me. I already know how I feel long before those words escape my lips. But it changes the relationship in subtle ways that only I can tell.

Or maybe they can tell too. Love is revolutionary, no matter how often it occurs, no matter how many people know the feeling. It acts. It doesn’t react. But love is worth it, even when it’s not returned, because without that feeling life is just not as good. And I don’t mean the romantic love. I mean all the many forms of love that can shift and change, that can undulate around you like a snake, but that can keep you safe and warm, secure in its comfort.

But what do I know?

Sam

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