I love love. I love the word and I use it a lot. I love the idea of love; I truly, madly, deeply mostly love the vastness of the permeations of love and the many epithets and subtleties of the human condition that are encompassed both in the noun, verb and the feeling states. Love, love, love and love to love.
How colourful and titanic, nuanced and intricate this Godfather of human emotion which sits dominant on the landscape of so much of what we as human beings hold as clear, important and true. We love our partners, our homes, our families, our recreation, our pets, our work, children, friends and music, the list is endless. What is it to truly love? Is love and loving a universal concept? Is it acceptable to love more than one thing, or person at a time? How is showing our love of what we love acceptable to us, and to those around us? Is doing things in the name of love comprehensively acceptable? My love questions are infinite, so I will start with what is here……
In my view of the world and the ways that we interact as human beings love is constant and endless and it permeates every aspect of who we are and what we say and do. If you read that and wonder if the Christmas induced food/sugar coma has finally reduced my brain to utter mush let’s look at it thus; the media has created this huge manufactured image of ‘love’ – romantic, all encompassing, mushy, gushing, heart stopping, grand gestured, sacrificial, glamorous, sexual and non-sexually passionate and if I were to imbibe and digest this presentation of the most universally identifiable of emotions, I could quite easily convince myself of the total lack of love in my life and experience, I would be left feeling utterly bereft and overlooked by theemotional Gods not be exposed to such feeling glories. However, we all know that as much as love is romanticised, idealised and wrapped up in red roses, the truth, the essence and the reality are a shade more mundane, pedestrian and somewhat ordinary which paradoxically makes love the more magical.
I love my children fiercely and uncompromisingly and from time to time this displays itself as an angry love (at being tested and having to relentlessly be there, provide and uphold when I barely have enough and I just don’t want to toady!) challenged by the harsh day to day realties and trials but always encased fully and completely in love. My love for them is the most unglamorous and thankless, insistent and laborious call on my emotional reserves regardless of the onslaught of tenacious testing that accompanies their role on my psyche with the unending trail of lessons they delicately lay for me to saviour; this is magic. Imagine if I had a friend who constantly called into question and tugged at the strength of our emotional tie in the way my children do, would I allow let alone endure it? Definitely not, for my friendships tolerate an entirely different face of love. The love of my friendships is an exclusively altered mystic manifestation, they uphold, uplift, challenge, support nurture and grow me in an entirely different way. In a way that works different heart muscles, that engages different feeling states and that allows me to drop some of the burden, the tension, the responsibility of motherly love and let me be who I am, whoever I want to be whilst being safely cocooned in the knowledge that sometimes if that who I want to be is not the best look I will be firmly and discretely called to task if it is for my own betterment – what kind of rare gift is this?
Romantic love is again an utterly unique animal, although there are definite echoes and reflections of the qualities of the love I show my children, an element of uncompromisingness delicately balanced on condition because although I would love (see there I go again) in essence to say I would commit to unconditional love, why would I do so at the expense of forgoing my wellbeing if it came to that? So, the underlying condition remains delicately pitted against the uncompromising vastness and potential contained therein. With a partner, I get to flex some friend love; playful, supportive, experimental, foolish and indulgent infused with passion, glamour and other things………. The best version of this may not be all hearts and flowers in soft focus with misty eyes, but the real nitty gritty of life, the monotonous, sublime and the ridiculous all knitted together and presented by someone who I am really into and enjoy being around. One of my teachers said that being in love with a partner was a reflection of the love we actually feel for ourselves; so, that giddy sensation of being captivated by the other person is us allowing ourselves to reconnect with those aspects we enjoy in ourselves and REALLY ENJOYING them via our intended. Whatever the case, this love is spellbinding!
Self-love, now isn’t that an interesting one? Self-love is a love that is passed over yet is the very cornerstone for any other type of love to exist. If we cannot love ourselves how on earth do we begin to even fathom how to connect and love anything or one else? If we are not able to find and feel our way through what is and is not acceptable for ourselves in the way we look after and treat ourselves and in turn the way we will accept being looked after and treated by others, setting boundaries and navigating our sense of self-worth how can we in any meaningful sense connect with another on any terms? Culturally exploration of the idea of self-love seems far too self-indulgent perhaps even selfish, just not a very British ideal; maybe something that is for happy clappy hippys, well guess what, I am a happy clappy hippy J and self-love is something we all need to be more open to and investing in in spite of the cringe factor. When I began to be open to and understand more of what it meant to love myself it had a very positive and knock on effect on every aspect of my life. When I began to see that loving myself meant that I was able to determine a standard of interaction that felt good to me from those people immediately around me in the form of my family and friends then I was able to start saying no to the things that didn’t sit right and had me going against the feeling in the pit of my stomach that was guiding me in a different direction. My ability to say no and feel ok with it gave me a freedom to begin to extend my needs to the environment that I took on as being a place of work. Being able to do this probably had the most positive influence on my sense of health and wellbeing. We spend most of our lives at work, being locked into a working life that drains and depletes resources instead of nourishing and inspiring them will no doubt erode any remedy employed to try and ease malaise when not at work. In the words of Buddha ‘Success is not the key to happiness, happiness is the key to success’. My greatest victory was giving myself permission to love myself enough to say no to the job that was ravaging the joy and wellbeing from me, saying no to the trappings of a steady income and knowing exactly what would be landing in my account every month, saying no to the sense that this was somehow living even though it had replaced my love of being happy, available to my family and friends and most of all being able to show up for myself……..what a beautiful lesson!
My ability to love myself also sustains an extension of love to my fellow human beings, the beautiful souls that I inhabit the earth with, the people that I know nothing of or about directly, the woman I passed in the queue or the man who crossed the road at the lights, if I love me, I can love and have compassion for you. As a human being I can relate to human behaviour and experience, I may not have directly lived through every experience personally but you are a reflection of me, and I you, this is the seat for my love for you, the people I have not met yet and do not know. If we could all find a little more space in our hearts for ourselves who knows where the ripple of this could end and how magnificently this could impact our beloved earth.