Birds do it; bees do it; even over educated fleas do it. Let’s do it. Let’s talk about Love.
Nothing in life is so maddening, so sought after, hidden from, frightening or desired. Nothing can alter your perceptions, blind you to the truth, or show you the light better than love. Sometimes it’s dirty and dark. Sometimes it’s skewed and maleficent. Sometimes it’s pure and unfettered. We all want it to some degree and we all fear losing it in equal measure.
Today I’m exploring the intention behind our affection and why it’s important for our health and happiness to love for the better reasons in our lives. (I shirk away from saying the ‘right’ reasons. The term ‘right’ connotes judgment on some level and that’s not what this little love-chat is about).
There are as many ways to experience love as there are individuals on the Earth and therefore finding the healthiest way to experience it can differ from person to person. However, we need a few constants in the equation for it to be the positive and pure gift it should be.
How do we love with honest intention?
One instructor I worked with at the School of Healing Arts in San Diego opened my eyes to the deeper complexities of love in one simple statement. He told us one evening in an Ethics class that love was not a real emotion, because all love is conditional. Everyone, he said, attaches caveats to the premise of love. We know this because people say things like, “I love him, but…” or “I love her, but…”
It’s the “but” that negates the trueness of love. The condition cancels out the purity and therefore true love cannot exist because we, as humans, cannot accept another human being’s failings enough to truly love them.
I thought about what he’d said for a long time. And, on the surface, he was right, especially when I think of my younger self. (You know that self, the just-barely-scraping-the-surface-of-knowledge person who doesn’t understand their power or purpose on any level.)
I did do that with love. I love them but they drive me crazy. I love her but she’s so dramatic. I heard other people do it all the time. Telling in one breath how much they cared and dismissing why they couldn’t care too much all at once.
So I began to wonder; how does a self-aware, big-hearted person change that? How do I shift my perspective to love more honestly, to love with my eyes open, to love people in my life as they are, with no conditions or limitations based on perceived imperfections?
The answer is simple, and equally complex. It begins by changing the but to and.
Example: I love you and you’re imperfect.
This simple change, even on the superficial level, helps to shift the mind into a self-reflective state wherein we can face our own doubts and limitations when it comes to love.
I love you and you are scatterbrained… I love you because you’re unbridled in your creativity. I love you because you embody the things I lack in myself. I love you and we don’t always get along.
Notice then, how the and or because can lead us to understand how we love, why we love, and if that love is something uplifting or damaging. It sometimes brings perspective to the details that are minute and charming, or highly damaging and deal breakers.
In an opposing example, look at these possible scenarios:
I love you and you have a temper. I love you and you are violent me. I love you and you are cruel. I love you and sometimes you make me feel so, so small…
Let us pause and appreciate that this is where the second and vital part of loving with honest intention begins.
Integral to the dynamic is learning to love ourselves. Falling in love with yourself seems silly (I like romantic walks, by myself…seriously, I never get enough alone time). It is easier and more socially acceptable (especially for women for some irrational reason) to hate ourselves for our failings and imperfections.
How much easier do our eyes roll every time we trip. How self-deprecatingly comforting to sigh and shake our heads at our editorial errors, or balk at the fine lines around our eyes. In our society narcissism is often frowned upon and too much vanity is the sign of someone who lacks empathy and compassion for others. But to be able to love others truthfully, we must begin from a true place inside of us. We learn to love others by first loving ourselves.
I will always maintain that you cannot have a fully functional relationship with someone else without first having a fully functional relationship with yourself. If you don’t know yourself, accept yourself, understand your failings and strengths and accept love without limitations for yourself (I love myself because I’m a humorously bad speller and a hell of a fine klutz) you cannot offer the same gift to another person.
Going back to the damaging ways love can manifest, this is the important path to avoiding situations that are unsafe and unhealthy. We must love ourselves and want to do right by ourselves. We cannot allow a dysfunctional relationship to trump the knowledge that we deserve better; that we deserve honest and real love.
Real love that keeps us safe. Real love that defends our humanity, protects our right to exist, and encourages us to pursue our passion and happiness.
To me, loving with honest intention means loving with arms and eyes open. It means setting boundaries against hurtful relationships and embracing those that encourage my true self to flourish. A love where I don’t have to pretend to be an ideal. A love where I don’t expect it from another person. A love that has the potential to enlighten and uplift the world with a multiplying force, radiating out into the dark places and encouraging goodness and light.
A lofty goal. But an honest one.