August Journaling Day 11: Love

What is love? This thing I’ve been told, since thirteen years old, where you feel understood, undeniably good. A feeling apart when you’ve emptied your heart.

All These Engagements by Airborne Toxic Event

That lyric above is kind of what I thought about when sitting down to write this entry. What is love? Side note, the album that song is from, Hollywood Park, is incredible. Easily one of my favorite albums of the last five years. Ok back to love. It does have to be one of the trickier things to define. Is it more of a feeling than anything? Is it simply a word to encompass connection? Appreciation? Loyalty? Lust? It feels like such an all encompassing word for lots of different things.

My ultimate conclusion on what is love is that it’s a lot of different things. And has many different levels, intentions, and meanings. Because I do have the topic of dating slated for later this month, I wondered if I shouldn’t include anything about ‘romantic’ love in this blog. But I think they’re enough of a different topic that even though there might be some overlap, they’ll be two very different entries.

If you ask me what or who is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of love I’d say my mom. Then my more extended family. Then my friends. And so on. But to me mom represents one of the best forms of love. The mother/child bond is an entirely unique connection. I mean, she’s the only person who’s known me from the first breath I took on earth up til now. She fed me, clothed me, raised me. What more loving act is there than to raise your child and do all the things necessary to keep them safe and help them learn and grow? The reason I bring this particular example up is how longevity and experiences help manifest and maintain love. I talk to my mom a couple times a week. I don’t see her all that often because we live on different coasts. So many of my adventures in work and travel she’s not been to. There’s probably 20 people who I talk to more on a weekly basis than her. There’s certainly people I talk about hard or important things in my life to before her. Yet to me she’s still the first person I think about when I think about love. I suppose the ground we’ve covered together and the bond of mother and child will just always carry such weight. I mean if you asked me to cry immediately, I’d just think about how much I appreciate my mom and all the things she’s done for us, and bam, tears.

It’s funny because I think family and parental love is kind of just there. Like I’m born into the world and my mom loves me on day one. But the reality is it is a form of earned love, as really I think all love is. It is developed and reinforced over years and years and years. The reason I bring that up is to transition to talking about love of friends. That type of love is something I think comes over a great expanse of time. You never meet someone and the first day you hang out tell them you love them. Maybe you do, but you’re a psycho 🙂 But seriously, if you asked me what friends I ‘love’, it would be the ones who I’ve been through the most with. Who I’ve shared successes and failures with. Who I’ve watched them change and grow and evolve. It wouldn’t be someone I met two months ago. Friendship love is certainly a love that has to be earned and takes years in my opinion.

One funny thing about the word love, especially using it in the phrase “I love you”. I have said that phrase when I meant it and it is one of the most comfortable things for me to say. But I’ve also said it when I was unsure if I meant it, or I didn’t mean it, and it’s one of the most awkward and uncomfortable things to say. It’s a phrase that carries so much weight and it’s very interesting how different it feels to say it when you really mean it vs. when you don’t.

I often tell the story about how on a first date a woman asked me if I’d ever been in love and had my heart broken and I always answer “yes, when Smarty Jones lost the Belmont Stakes”. She looked at me like I was an alien and clearly didn’t appreciate how great Smarty was. I did love him! But I have wondered when it comes to love in a romantic sense, have I ever truly been in love? Like Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting level in love. Because I’ve certainly loved partners that I’ve had. I still love some of them, obviously just in a friendship kind of love at this point. But it is love. But was/is it the almighty “in love” we always hear about.

The real answer is I don’t know. I’ve absolutely had a broken heart before. A few times. That feeling in the pit of your stomach where all you think about is that person and the fact that it’s over. Or maybe worse yet, it never begun. Where just the thought of them leads to that dull warm blanket of sadness enveloping your whole body. I’ve had that. And that feeling breaks you down. It makes you question everything about yourself and what is wrong with you that it didn’t work out. But is that a result of being “in love”? I guess I feel that “in love”, like many of the other types of love, requires time. But maybe it’s different? I mean part of me thinks that two people together 20 years should be hurting worse upon a breakup than two people together for six months? Oddly enough I think my greatest heartbreak was someone I was never even technically with.

As I said above, I think love is a lot of things. I think we know it when we see it and experience it. But it can be confusing and beautiful at the same time. I mean love is the ultimate muse for most of the great art and music of our time right? Is it the greatest of human emotions and experiences? If Smarty would have won the Belmont I could probably answer that question.