“What is love,” someone asked me.
“You mean being in love, or love itself?”
Well, let me ponder that.
“Being ‘in love’ is an infatuation. At least, that’s what it seems to mean. It’s used by the same sort of people, in my experience, as those who use phrases like ‘protect the relationship’ or ‘I give 100% in my relationship.’ What does that even mean? If it means anything at all, it means nothing consistent. Or you see people use being ‘in love’ as an excuse. An excuse to hurt someone, ‘I was in love, I wasn’t thinking clearly, I didn’t mean it.’ They are ‘in love,’ so they forget to take care of their friends, while they are lost in these so-called overwhelming feelings. It’s a phrase for which I’ve lost affection. I might use it on occasion, I’m not strongly opposed to hearing it, it just doesn’t really do much for me.”
“But love itself? Love is beautiful. If it’s not everything, it’s most of it. At least for me. I don’t actually know what love actually is— the Form of love, in the Platonic sense— but I know what surrounds love. Sometimes that love runs deep. The kind of love in which that person’s needs and wants are interwoven with your own. The Love that connects you, always, to that person. The kind of love that most people crave, that satisfies a need similar to hunger or thirst. The kind of love reserved for the “lucky and the strong.”
Sometimes love is superficial.
Does it mean much, to say, “I love people”? I don’t believe so. It’s nice. I might, due to that love, take better care of the world around me—indirectly benefitting them— but that’s all. Still, it’s something. It’s positive. If I meet someone, I might love easily…and stop loving with the same ease. A light, carefree love disguised, as the case may be, by infatuation.
Love can mean more than anything, or very little at all. You know, casual love.
Sometimes it’s me saying, “You are wonderful. Something in you spoke to me, and I felt warm because of it. I would like to get to know you better, or I have gotten to know you, and I want you to know that your efforts achieved a result.” I hope you return the favor, but if you don’t, so be it. I still love you.
Sometimes love is given, without expectation.
I am sure I will love my child placed in my hands, from that very first second. A love I will give unconditionally, as I gave it to my parents and siblings. My manifestation of that love might change, if their behavior were severe enough– but it may not. I don’t know. I’ve never had it tested in that manner. But, for now, I love them without reason or cause, but simply for being themselves. They did plenty to “earn” that love, for everything they have ever done— but I would have loved them regardless. Do I love the children under my care, my munchkins? I do now, but that love developed over time, earned mutually between us. At first, I held only affection for them, as I would for any child. But it changed, evolved.
Sometimes love is a tendril that twists and sneaks its way between hearts.
…and slowly strengthens and grows into the sturdy roots of towering redwoods. That lasts a lifetime and beyond. That makes itself a part of one’s life, as a tree is part of a forest. Or whichever particular imagery works for you.
Love takes many forms.
Affection, empathy, romantic love. Affection is love’s distant cousin, as I view it. Affection represents something real, but it is not synonymous with love. Affection does not cause heartbreak. When someone I love is in pain, I hurt. When someone I feel affection for is hurting, I feel pity. Distress. Love may turn into a bond between you and me— but the love I speak of now is a love I give to you freely with no expectations of a relationship or commitment. It’s the purest form of love that I can isolate into something almost tangible.
But, when I act on that love, it becomes my gift to you.
When I love someone, I give them that love as a gift. It cannot be taken back. I may no longer keep giving them that gift, which must be given over and over again, to create a loving relationship. But I cannot take back that which I have already given. If you give someone a gift, it’s theirs to do with as they please. If you hurt me badly enough, I may never want to see you again. I may regret that I will never be able to act on that love. I may put it out of my mind, pretend it never happened. You can’t remember every gift you’ve ever given, of course, even if you tried. But it’s still no longer yours, once it changes hands (or hearts, in this case).
Love is a gift I can give to anyone. That’s caused friction, in the past. “You can’t love this person.” They are married/too young/too old/too far away/a celebrity. Oh, well. I said I loved them. I didn’t say I wanted a relationship with them. You don’t give a present, because you want a present in return. You give it, because you want to give it.
I love you, because you are lovely.
You don’t have to accept it, or do anything with it. It is a gift. Take the gift, or don’t, but know that someone, that I, think you are worth loving. Reject it as you please. Sometimes I’ve rejected the gift, too. I appreciate it, but love doesn’t always require follow through. Sometimes, it’s just love.
When love is a gift, take it or leave it. As you will.