What is Love?

Me, in my Esther hairdo

I spent the weekend listening to country music singers sing about love. So many songs are about love … or the loss of it … or the want of it …. or the pain of it. Books are written about it. Unrequited love is as powerful … or I might even say more powerful … as the love that endures a thousand kisses. For something that is so powerful, and so much in the heart of every person alive, it can be so elusive. I did a google search to find out what is love? Psychology Today had this article of the same name which I think pretty much nails it. It’s an uncontrollable, unpredictable force.

According to Google, what is love was the most googled term in 2012. So, if we all do it, feel it, receive it and think about it all the time, why are we so curious about what it is? I mean, if I’m craving chocolate, I know what it looks like, feels like and tastes like. Even a nun knows that love is undefinable.

Love is more easily experienced than defined. As a theological virtue, by which we love God above all things and our neighbours as ourselves for his sake, it seems remote until we encounter it enfleshed, so to say, in the life of another – in acts of kindness, generosity and self-sacrifice. Love’s the one thing that can never hurt anyone, although it may cost dearly. The paradox of love is that it is supremely free yet attaches us with bonds stronger than death. It cannot be bought or sold; there is nothing it cannot face; love is life’s greatest blessing.            
~~Catherine Wybourne is a Benedictine nun

As a teenage girl, I daydreamed about love. I had no idea what it was other than what I saw in the movies, but I longed for it. The songs of my youth stirred up natural desire and expectations to the point that it became an obsession. Of course, the flooding of hormones coursing through my body heightened my arousal for it, and it was complicated with romantic love’s companion, the lusty desire for sex. I didn’t know what that was either, and when I finally tasted it as a teenager, it was so much less than I ever imagined. What a disappointment! But, I didn’t give up on love. In some ways, I thought sex was the ticket to love. I didn’t realize at such a young age that love is separate from sex. It has nothing to do with it unless I made that choice to combine the two.

What is love but acceptance of the other, whatever he is. ~~ Anais Nin

A Star is Born was one of my favorite movies growing up, and I was drawn to the love between Norman and Esther. They loved each other, but he was troubled. He was unavailable due to his obsessions and addictions and his eventual jealousy of his precious Ester’s success. Ironically, he had set her on that path to success. In the end, he took his own life because he couldn’t be who he wanted to be with her, and, I believe, he was tired of hurting her. There were plenty of other ways, but he couldn’t bring himself to see them. The movie never says he committed suicide. It looked like an accident. But, I believe that accident was intentional even if he wasn’t doing it intentionally. That is the power of love. Esther always loved him … even through the pain. That, too, is the power of love.

Love is like a fever which comes and goes quite independently of the will. … there are no age limits for love. ~~ Stendhal

I’ve loved a few men in my life. I’ve been infatuated with a few. It’s hard to tell the difference between love and infatuation in the initial stages. My sister introduced me to The Road Less Traveled when I was in my early 40s. This book defines love, in my opinion. Yes, it is a powerful feeling, and feelings can’t be controlled. But, Dr. Peck says true love is an action. It is allowing someone to be who they are and have their own growth path whether or not that includes you. It doesn’t have boundaries. It is a choice that we make to love somebody through it all, just like the romanticized version between Norman and Esther. I had this kind of love for my second husband. My friends kept asking me how I could love somebody that treated me so badly. I was set free when a friend of mine’s therapist gave her permission to love somebody that was abusive but not seek a relationship out of  it. I made a choice to love him from afar because I couldn’t love him up close. Making that choice freed me from some of the emotional pain of letting him go. I prayed for him for years twice a day, and I pray for him still. I do love him. It’s just not safe for us to be together. Does it hurt? Almost every day.

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves. ~~ Albert Einstein

When I was young, I thought love was for the young. In the movies, I saw young, sexy bodies laughing, running on the beach and making love. I was astounded in my 30s after my first divorce that the feeling of love was not exclusively for the young. At middle age. love is as heady and intoxicating as it is when hormones and energy combine in the teenage years. It can cause you to think about the costs to chase it, and the costs get more and more expensive as you get older. Other people are involved, lifestyles are impacted, and money and financial security become issues in the pursuit of it. I was talking with a friend this weekend about a scandalous affair in her family. She said she was really angry at first, but, now that she has been married for awhile, she gets it. Marriage, fidelity and love don’t always come together. In fact, often they do not. And, the costs multiply exponentially.

Every time our eyes meet
This feeling inside me
Is almost more than I can take
Baby when you touch me
I can feel how much you love me
And it just blows me away
I’ve never been this close to anyone or anything
I can hear your thoughts
I can see your dreams
~~ Lyrics from the song Amazed by Lonestar

When I think of love now, and when I hear love songs, I feel them from a different place than when I was young. When I was young, I was hopeful and expectant and enamored with the whole idea. Now, when I hear those songs, I feel a compassion for the lover singing the song for I also know there will be pain. Whether the relationship ends or not, there will be pain. Love is a cocktail of heady, lusty emotion and deep levels of longing and sadness. For, in reality, whether we are with our lover or not, we can never be one with them. Love seeks entwinement. That’s why sex is so evocative. It is the closest we ever get to being one with a lover. The older I get, the more I realize that I am blessed when I love. It is not something that happens everyday. I believe it is a spiritual connection with another spiritual being that lasts beyond the grave. I believe Norman and Esther are locked in love as spirits in movie heaven. And, there are no costs in heaven. There is just pure love. I can’t wait.

My favorite unrequited lover, Tim McGraw, and my favorite unrequited love song.

4 Comments on “What is Love?

  1. Love is like a diamond in that it is multi-faceted. Love of country, love of money, love of self, love of another, love of…and so the list goes on and on. As in life this emotion must be tempered with self-control and grounded in reality. Additionally, with each phase of our lives this “feeling” changes. In youth we tend to confuse sex with love, yet as we get older we move into the sharing phase of love–sharing hopes, dreams, and holding hands.How appropos your posting on Memorial Day, the day honoring those who love their country enough to make the ultimate sacrifice. To these great people I bow.
    Volumes have been written about all these forms of love. Among the many books one stands out to me: Love Poems from God. It is a collection of peoms from a variety of people well known in their various religions. To me it seems to reach the highs and lows of love itself.

    • I will check out that book. This is not the first recommendation I’ve heard for it. I keep trying to uncomplicated love, but it just gets ever more complicated for me.

      • I do not think love can be made uncomplicated, as it deals with emotions and is deeply personal. I can’t speak for you, but my mind is a dangerous place to wander alone, and, since I do not like talking to a “neutral” person about my deepest love(s), then I am left alone to try to make rational decisions with an irrational mind. Hence the complications.
        Only age improves us. In my youth I was blinded by sex, only to discover someone did not love me just because we had sex. The older I get the more I realize that holding hands and going on a long walk in the woods with someone I care about means more. So now I strive for intimacy, which ranks #1 with this old man. Sex is too brief and requires little from either partner, whereas intimacy opens you up to learning about someone else, makes you more vulnerable, and makes for a deeper meaning to the relationship and everything you do, sex included.

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