A couple of years ago, I fell in love. Wild, crazy, hairy love, the sort of which has made ages of legend and literature. I had loved before many times. And yet I had never loved quite like this. He was, indeed, another slice of my soul returned to me and it came home with all the fanfare of Rome.
Early on in the relationship, I remember sitting at breakfast with a dear friend. She was having some questions about her own relationship and wanted a sounding board as she sorted through her feelings. I asked her if she loved him, and she affirmed. I asked her if the love felt like mine, cosmic and large and brilliant. She said no. She told me that she loved him, and she enjoyed being with him, and he supported her and made her feel comfortable with herself. But it wasn’t fireworks and rainbows. For her, it was a warm pillow at the end of the day and someone with whom to share a meal, or a story, or a problem.
On that day I told her that she should leave because she deserved the type of love that I knew. The type of love we learned about from legend and literature. It was real and I had felt it. In that space, I knew that that was what love was.
They did not serve crow at that restaurant. But I am enjoying a healthy slice of it today. My legendary love was, in fact, the worst and most awful relationship I have ever been involved in. It was in no way nurturing and caused us both volumes of harm. My friend? She and her man are still marching merrily along, growing together in an environment of mutual respect and admiration.
Recently, I was liberated from a relationship under the phrasing, “I don’t feel the love you deserve. We both know what love can be.” When I hung up the phone, in that soft sadness I pondered those words. It took a while to reconcile it all, and when it settled I came to a simple clarity. That dismissal was a healthy bit of horseshit dished up on a little cracker of denial. The rejection itself was a demonstration of love, reconciled with an unwillingness to act through it.
Love isn’t a ‘be’. Love is a ‘do’. Yes, we feel love. But in the end, truly loving someone is a result of what you do. It is not a comet slashing through the sky, but rather the sun that gets up every day to shine. Even behind the clouds. Even in doubt. There is a reason that love comes coupled with commitment. The act of being committed allows for the ebb and tide of feeling to flow, while maintaining a steady framework of loving action. In this manner, love grows deeper and more true. It strengthens and becomes the chariot that carries the lovers through.
I don’t think that most of us ever consider how we want to love and be loved, or the amount of effort that it takes to sustain that. We want love; we want to feel love. But we never take it further along and qualify the loving behaviours that support that feeling. The first flash of feeling love is strictly chemical, but when that fades it is the action of love that sustains relationship. And if you don’t understand how your partner wishes to have love expressed, then you haven’t really found love. You have found addiction, and good luck with that.
Everybody wants to be loved differently. Some people do want to have grand drama and gesture. Others find that tiresome. Some people want gentle words; others find that uncomfortable. Some people like gifts; others like gestures. The act of loving is the act of learning what your partner needs to understand your love. You cannot rely on the big feeling alone to carry the day. And you cannot trust one day to be like the next. Loving is a constant state of attention, both subtle and gross.
Furthermore, you must understand what it is that you need to feel loved. You must be able to express that clearly, and then you must stand in the position of receiving. How easy to give love; how hard to receive it. Receiving love is indeed a most healing position that asks us to let go of some of our deepest held fears and beliefs. To receive love is to feel what separates us, what has damaged us, and to release it all into acceptance of self within other. If we can’t do that, then no amount of ‘feeling’ is going to create relationship. If we can, then even a lack of ‘feeling’ can lead to a great love.
Loving is so unbelievably basic. I’m astounded with myself that it took so long to figure it out. Yes, it is a feeling. But it isn’t what we have been led to believe. (And if you stop and think about it, all the really great “love stories” are tragedies) Show love every day, big or small and directed towards their style of receiving love. Receive love every day, big or small and in the way you can assimilate it. Stay committed to growing love every day and show the fuck up. Regardless of how you “feel” at the moment.
I’ve let go of the great romances as a model and taken on the sage position of a simple man. “I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is.” And he surely did. Love. Love simply. Love greatly. Love without affirmation. Love without expectation. Love because you must love and your other needs to be loved.
It’s really that easy.