It’s [love] a human emotion.
No, it’s a word. What matters is the connection the word implies.
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
Maybe there’s a God above
And all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light
It’s a cold and its a broken Hallelujah
~Rufus Wainwright, Hallelujah
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.
Love is just another four letter word,
But that never stopped nobody.
~Hey Violet, Like Lovers Do
What does it mean to love? To love another. To love yourself. Romantic love. Platonic love. Parental love.
How do we define the ideas of mature love and immature love?
How do our attachment wounds and trauma come into play?
How do we not have expectations, demands and assumptions and still have our boundaries, wants, and needs met?
How do we know when we are in love? How do we know it’s actually love and not simply a repeat of a well known (and ultimately harmful) pattern or cycle?
How do we know when our relationships are helpful and not harmful?
What is passion? Is it a repeat of harmful patterns? Does it really boil down to chemical reactions (dopamine, serotonin, ocytocin)?
When we love a person, be that our Self or another, how do we treat them? How do we want to treat them? Are we willing to do the work of love to make the shift?
I deeply believe the work of breaking our inter-generational patterns and cycles is an act of love.
But what does that mean?
Love is caring.
Love is boundaries.
Love is connection.
Love is being seen and heard, exactly as we are.
Love is seeing and hearing another, exactly as they are.
Love is being accountable. To ourselves. To others.
Love is holding others accountable.
Love is encouraging growth, expansion.
Love is beginnings and endings. Love is allowing the beginnings and endings.
Love is not forced, however, love is work.
Love is a verb. An action.
Love is freedom, liberation.
Love is change.
Love is release. Letting go.
Love is not flowery words or poetry.
Love is not forever and ever if the cost is stagnation.
Love is not promises we can never keep simply because we are human and we cannot foresee what the future holds. However, love is commitment.
Love is not ownership.
Love is not confinement.
Love is not punishment or retribution
Love is not lies or dishonesty to “save someone’s feelings”. With our Self or with others.
Love is not safe, in that love is a risk, love is vulnerable and vulnerability.
Love is not comfortable. In fact, love encourages discomfort. Because discomfort is a sign of growth and change.
Love is not pain. (There is a distinct difference between pain and discomfort).
Love is not isolation.
Love is not about winning or getting rewards.
These are some of the ways I’m finding myself defining love at the moment as I look at my relationships, with others and with myself. As I consider my own wants and needs. As I consider my own attachment wounds and tender spots. As I open and acknowledge some of the places I could focus some processing and healing. As I open and acknowledge many of the patterns and cycles I have broken and disrupted.
Love is an emotion, sure. Love is a feeling, absolutely. And in so many ways, love is non-verbal and indescribable.
Love is not an excuse for breaking boundaries. Love is not an excuse for harm (i.e. I’m doing this because I love you or for your own good). Love is not hierarchies or striving or needing to prove our worth.
Love is a willingness, and the ability, to do the challenging, uncomfortable, work of breaking the patterns and cycles that have been passed down to us and of healing our own wounds and processing our own traumatic experiences.
Love is not easy, but the choice to love can be.
This essay was originally shared in my weekly newsletter on April 19, 2020. It has been edited for publication here. To receive my most recent essays, you can subscribe here.