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”

Labeled

I often think about all the labels I wear, or have worn, over the years. First there was “son,” a dubious one indeed because I had no control over it. Indeed, I didn’t even really know it existed on a conscious level until I had been one for quite some time. I remember my mother leaning over me to tuck me into bed one time, and thinking: I’m her son.

Then there was “brother,” which has been with me just as long as son. I don’t know my life in any kind of context when I wasn’t a brother, when I didn’t have someone else who shared my experience growing up in that house. And we were close at times, while not at others. We battled for space, for time, for pretty much whatever spoils could have existed. That was the life of being a brother.

Next I guess you could add “neighbor” to the list, though I was a poor one. We lived a pretty sheltered existence, but there were others on the block who I connected with from time to time (large expanses of time between the connections). These boys and girls always seemed alien to me, like some kind of extra-terrestrials who lived completely different lives even though we lived right next door. Continue reading “Labeled”

You Can’t Change Men

“Men don’t change. They just learn to disguise the lack of change.” ~David Gemmell

Ladies, remember when you first started dating your man? You thought, “he’s a pretty good man, but he could be a pretty GREAT man if…” and then you thought of all the (subtle) ways you could change him to make him into your perfect representation of MAN. If you tweaked a little, nipped a little, and tucked a little, he could get there, and be worthy of you.

Then, like a miracle, like turning water into wine, it happened. Little by little you noticed the changes that you had set in motion. Bit by bit you saw the shining specimen of a man who had come through the fire, forged like newly burnished steel. And you danced the Macarena with your girlfriends, believing that the almighty had blessed you with what you’d always wanted in a man.

But you celebrated too soon. As time went on you realized that all the “changes” your man went through weren’t really changes, that he had simply learned to hide those “rough spots” from you, dressing them up like wolves in sheep’s clothing, so that you would stop harping on him to change. If he pretended to change enough you would believe he had, and leave him to his own devices.

And you fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. It’s not because you’re dumb, either. It’s because you wanted to believe in it more than kids want to believe in Santa Claus. It’s because you thought if your intentions were pure and true enough that positive things were bound to happen. That was your first mistake, because, ladies, despite the best of intentions, you can’t change men. Continue reading “You Can’t Change Men”

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

The Love We Think We Deserve

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” ~The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Why does she stay? That’s a question I ask myself so often when I read stories of women who have been consistently abused by husbands, boyfriends, or other men in their lives. And I honestly don’t think there’s one answer that stands up to scrutiny any more than the others. Every woman is an individual, and she has her own reasons for staying, but I can’t help but pose the question inside my own head anyway.

I saw this quote a while ago, and it resonated with me, about accepting the love we think we deserve. On some level it struck me as being brutally honest, for several reasons, but on another level it was an attempt at answering the question that keeps haunting me. Why does she stay? It’s quite possible she stays because she’s accepting whatever she thinks is the love he offers her, that she believes this IS love, even when he hurts her both emotionally and physically.

And I use the term “she” with a caveat, with a disclaimer that not all victims are women, but I come into contact with more of these issues involving women than anyone else. So I use the term, but I understand it’s not all-encompassing as it is. Nothing could be, though in this society we try to make everything fit. Regardless, these emotional and physical scars are everywhere, and those who inflict them often get off scot-free when it comes to getting a proper comeuppance, living to torture their victims another day. To think that victims believe this is love is beyond me, but it happens all the time, and it has happened over and over again.

These patterns are honestly depressing to see, but there is no end in sight. “We accept the love we think we deserve,” says more about our own feelings of self-loathing and poor self-esteem than they say about the other person. These other people manipulate us because they know they can, because they see in us these signs of low self-esteem and they prey on that. Shame on them. They say they love us, but they don’t know what love is. They only know how to pretend well enough to reel us in, and then they lower the boom, in more ways than one. Once we are caught in the web, it’s so incredibly difficult to extricate ourselves from it, because we become believers.

At least that’s how I see it. I could be completely wrong, but it’s what I see from those of my friends and acquaintances who have stayed, who have put themselves secondary to someone who is literally not worth it. The quote, to me, means that we, as human beings, can’t quite wrap our brains around the fact that we’re worth so much more than a punching bag, either emotionally or physically. When we have been neglected and cast aside it becomes easier to accept that any sign of interest on the part of someone else might be the only interest we will ever get in our lives. It becomes easier to accept it all, despite the warning signs, and throughout the relationship, even when the hard times come.

Why does she stay? She stays because she thinks he will change, even though she knows he won’t. He says he will change. He sometimes gets emotional and cries on her shoulder, and she thinks that’s a sign things are looking up, not the manipulative move it really is. Or maybe he honestly thinks he will change, but when faced with a similar situation in the future he simply goes back to his previous ways because they are hardwired into his brain. She stays because she believes in the goodness in him, despite the fact that he often shows her his negative side. She stays because she thinks she cannot find anything better, and she believes what he is giving her is what love looks like.

This is the love she thinks she deserves, and it makes sense. But it also makes me so utterly sad for her, for me, and for mankind, that this is what we think we amount to in the grand scheme of things, that too often we are belittled and taught to think we aren’t worth very much. We deserve so much more, every single one of us out here just wanting to be loved, to be appreciated, to be seen for who we are and embraced for it in a way we haven’t been before. It’s never enough just to settle, to give up essential parts of ourselves for people who don’t care, who just want to control us in a way we wouldn’t accept if it was anyone but us. But we often have blind spots when it comes to those who we believe we love, when it comes to those who have already broken our will, our self-esteem, and our emotional capacity.

She stays because she thinks there’s nothing better for her in this wide world. And that’s an absolute travesty.

Sam

Easy Love

easyloveLove is easy… when it’s reciprocated. When it’s neither tied down nor coerced. When it’s head and heart entwined together. When it’s not long distance. When it’s two-way street. When… well, when a whole lot comes together in perfect alignment… then it’s easy.

I’ve had two loves, and neither one was easy, not when things counted anyway. Both were easy at the beginning, when everything was shiny and new, because we didn’t know any better. We basked in the warmth of an emergent love, secure in our notion that love was all we needed.

Which is the major issue, isn’t it? Love is never all we need. It’s never the salve for everything that ails us. It can never do the heavy lifting because love wasn’t built for that. It is the emotional component to our relationships. Necessary? Yes. Independent? No. Love can be a foundation, but it can’t be the only support for a relationship.

So yes, love can be easy when everything else is in place. When a relationship also has honesty, cooperation, trust, and a host of other supports firmly in place. Obviously, bracing your relationship with all of those supports takes time and effort, takes trial and error, takes hard work on both sides.

Unfortunately, that’s why so many relationships these days fail, because we live in a world where not many people are willing to work through the struggles, to talk out the issues, to be completely honest with each other, not just about their feelings, but also about what they need from their partner. So it’s not easy, and instead of working harder on it, they let it go. They let it drift away when they should be diagnosing the problems so they can get to the next step.

11743693133_c154198945So yes, real love is easy, because it’s surrounded by a scaffold of everything necessary to keep it alive and to help it flourish successfully. My first love was young love, which thought itself self-sustaining, but all the love in the world wouldn’t have saved it. Because we weren’t on the same page, both of us thinking that love would be enough, that we would be together forever because we wanted to be together forever. When the end came we were still scratching our heads, wondering what went wrong.

The second time around, though, from the start it was difficult because we were both older, and we both knew that love wasn’t enough. We both knew that it would be challenging, but it was a challenge we were ready to take. Because we knew that if we got through the tough times, the challenging decisions, the difficult confessions, we would emerge together at the end.

So yes, love is easy. When you know that it’s not enough.

Sam

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