Love, I always thought, was something that just happened to you. You didn’t have much of a say in it. You weren’t the boss of it. When love spoke, you listened and you didn’t ask questions. Or you could, if you were ready to receive silence in return for your curiosity. Love, it just was.
And then I was met with the concept of ‘allowing’ yourself to be loved. I was just a couple of months out of high school and nobody was doing much. There was this boy. He was funny and I liked to be around him. But everything within me rejected the idea of him, of love from him; I was afraid. There are many things to fear in this world and one of them is a broken heart. They say love can kill you, so I was on the defensive.
The way we love is through building walls and allowing someone to tear them down. Like the walls of Jericho. If your love is loud enough, the walls come down.
My friends said, ‘Allow yourself to be loved; you deserve it’. Such a radical concept. That I could have my way with love, with the idea of it; that I could command love rather than the other way around. I hadn’t known that I could decide whether or not I would allow myself to be loved.
There are times when you feel so far away. Loneliness. Loneliness. Loneliness. My heart is full of all the feelings I have ever had for you, and then some. Because you give me the whole spectrum, end to end. And I have never lived by halves, moderation is my enemy, so I wrap my arms around it all, from end to end, to feel the extremes burning me on each arm. You are here, holding me, warming me, thawing out what everybody insists is an ice-cold heart. You expose me, leave me tender, make me hold my palms open, waiting for you to drop another dream into them.
The way I love is like waking up when night is fully night and finding yourself naked, in the middle of an open field, curled up on the grass. Though no one sees you, you are unable to hide yourself away and all of you is out there, exposed.
When you love, you fight. They say that when you fight it means that you still care, and that when you stop fighting it means that you are done. I can see what they mean. Still, isn’t it odd how far removed that is from ‘Love is patient, love is kind…’. The way we love is through violence. Through aggression. Through fighting. You fight for what you love and what you love you fight. There is always damage.
The more we love, the more we fight, the more we damage. Paul was talking about an idealized form of love. Neat, structured, disciplined. A love that is not messy.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
The way we love is individualistic, self-preserving. When love is threatened, it does not stop to reflect, to think about the other person first, to remember promises, to remember patience and kindness. Everything we are told it doesn’t do, it does. Sometimes, many times, it fails. Sometimes, many times, love is not enough.
That’s the thing—our love is first for us, then for the ones we love. We love to keep ourselves safe. To validate ourselves. To give meaning to our lives. To be loved in return. Here’s a thought: Loving for loving’s sake. Pure? Yes. Realistic? Perhaps not.
There is a quote— one of those ones that romanticize everything— that says that you should find someone who make it seem like it is easy to love you. Question: How? How can love, with all its mess, with the way it covers a multitude of sins, be clean, prim, proper, appropriate. Sure, it may dress up; you clean it up for others to find it presentable, the way you clean your house when guests are coming over. But in its true form, love is tired, broken, sometimes ugly. Like everything else it has two sides to it, what it is and what it really is.
The way we love is conditional. We don’t know shit about unconditional love: the human condition is full of conditions. When you ask for a love that is real, you ask for the love that comes as it is, not the pure, polished kind. You ask for love that is sometimes wrong, that is not self-sustaining, that needs other things to hold it up for it to stand. When it walks with a limp that’s worse on some days, that’s how you know it’s the real thing. Because real love reflects what we really are. Imperfect.
Love cleans us up. Makes us better, so other people don’t see us and take off. But it is the street cleaner, the dish rag. It takes our ugliness so that we can become more beautiful. The amazing thing: Even in our humanness, our ugliness, it remains worth more than anything we ever were.
You come at me broken, kneeling, hugging my waist, sobbing into my thighs. Save me, you say. You don’t know how to be better, deserving. Can love change a man? My father used to say that sometimes you must love with your head. That sometimes love is the enemy. That when you walk into love, like a person who sees where they are going, you can see it for what it is, and you don’t fall.
But here you are, on your knees, fallen.