Love: Stop It
I hate the word love. God I hate it. Ask anyone who hangs with me for more than a few hours...I almost never say it, and if I do, consider yourself part of my actual soul. I just hate that word.
I hate that I can say that I love pizza and that I love my nieces.
That's a bad example. My love for DeFazio's knows no bounds, whereas Zoie ate my cookie today, so she's on thin ice.
The way we throw around the word love is just laziness, in my humble(brag) opinion.
And look it, I know what you're thinking. I know I'm dead inside, and I'm single, and you think I'm just Scrooging it up in the love department. You're not wrong. And I'm fine with that.
I don't have a problem with love as a concept, I'm just sick of the word and how we fling it around. Stop telling me you love me because I said something funny, and please, for the baby Jesus' sake, stop texting "I WUV U!" as an awkward response to, "Hey want something from Starbucks?" I don't want your wuv. I want your $3.50.
The way I'm looking at it, we treat love as a feeling, and that's really screwing with us. You can't feel love. You feel infatuation. You feel butterflies. You feel a punch in the face. Love, however, is a choice. It's an action. It's a verb. It's sustained because we do it. When we practice it, we get better at it. Just saying I played the piano is the reason I'm not an accomplished pianist today. I never practiced. Ever.
I happened to be on the phone with one of my oldest friends last night talking about boobs...because that's what Baby Broads do. She asked how writing was going, and after I finished moaning in agony, I asked her how she felt about the word "love". She said, "I hate it because it's mushy and gross and it sounds like the word moist." Good point.
Ok, let's just agree with me because it'll be easier for all of us: as a word, love means nothing. But as a practice, what is it? Krista Tippet (journalist, author, host of NPR's OnBeing - awesome podcast, btw) talks about love in her book Becoming Wise. She found as a newlywed that there was such pressure on a couple to pull themselves away from their other loves, like family, and to be everything to each other. She makes the point that love shouldn't be carried out in isolation. That we need to practice love in every possible aspect of our lives, because that's what enriches us. She says that after her divorce, she thought she was out of love, and that she had lost her chance to have it. That's when depression set in. The reality was that she had been grossly misusing the word, and had a "poverty of imagination."
I so dig this. We fetishize love songs and romantic movies and make that kind of "love" the ultimate brass ring that will signify our completion. I'm over it. I don't want to live that kind of life any more. That kind of crap is the exact reason we get stuck in a self-loathing loop. At minimum, when we decide that we're not "in love", and that must mean something is wrong with us, we sit home and eat too much Chinese food...at worst, we numb our pain with risky sex or risky drugs or both. Some of us out there think the kind of love we want isn't ok, and our lives aren't worth living. This breaks my tiny Grinch heart. In this new age of healing ourselves, we're ripping out the stitches by telling ourselves we're not whole. We keep reopening our wounds, then try to hid them in our secret double lives.
We're a mess and we're scared. We're scared that we're supposed to have something, and when we don't have it, we aren't good enough. Then we hide our fear of being doomed to become the local cat lady, and things get destructive.
Here's the deal though: that fear chokes love to death, and isolation equals our destruction. If we live that life of fear, we don't have room for the actual love starting right at us. We all have it. We're designed to connect. It's actually in our hardware. We are very intricately programed to love and be loved, but not necessarily in the way we're told to.
I wonder what we could change the word 'love' to? Or how we could redefine what we mean? Could we practice getting a little more specific with the people in our lives? Maybe stop just saying "OMG I wuv you," and maybe say, "Wow. What you just did made me feel loved. You made me feel safe and wanted and thought of." Ok, maybe not all the time, that's sort of a mouthful. But what about some of the time?
While we're at it, can we give ourselves a break about the way we love? Can we just look ourselves in the mirror once a week and say that it's ok that we've loved imperfectly? And that imperfect is actually the only way to do it? Sometimes we're clingy, and sometimes we're distant, and sometimes we want to cuddle with our best friend, and sometimes we want to delete everyone out of our phones and start over.
Ok man. So what?
You're not alone, and you're not some diseased monster that needs a lobotomy. You're just figuring out how to love and be loved. No biggie. Keep practicing.
I'm practicing love through pulling the e-break on looking for being loved in a way defined by anyone else but me. I am done telling myself that there is a hole in my life or a piece missing to the puzzle, and that the love I practice is a placeholder until Real Love finds me. I have so much love in my life I'm practically doing the backstroke in it. (I never practiced the backstroke either, which is why I haven't been in the Olympics recently).
Yes, I deserve to be kissed with my face in someone's hands and have my heart feel it. I've had that, and it's awesome, and sometimes (read: Sunday through Saturday), I crave that. I also crave laughing so hard with friends that tears run down my legs. I also crave a really deep talk someone about all the weird stuff in our brains. I also crave cooking for friends. I also crave meeting someone new and feeling attractive. I also crave sitting on the couch with someone not-so-new and being boring.
Seeing real love, deep and meaningful love from all kinds of people and places is what has changed me. That kind of love is like lava, and keeps moving, cracking my crust and keeping me flowing from the inside out.
I hate the word, but I love the action. I love to love. No matter what I say about my black calloused soul, I have it. It's in there, and I have to look for it, and I have to practice it. But I have it.
Let me help you practice by letting you buy me dinner. I'd love that.