Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores
Photographer Patricia Gulick

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

4-9-13 RMB Love
Dear Rita Mae Brown,
Love, have you ever noticed how everyone has a different definition of the word? I don’t like the word love. It is too vague. It means so many things that it means nothing specifically.
In the aftermath of my last relationship, the one that was supposed to last forever, she kept saying “I love you”.
I finally asked, “What exactly does that mean to you?” It couldn’t possibly mean the same thing it did to me, that you would do anything to protect, help and ensure the happiness of the loved one.
To her it meant, I love you no matter what, even that we had broke up. It was a never having to say you’re sorry kind of definition. Ah, that made everything she did make sense. Now I could see how I was expected to forgive and forget, that is what she thought I would do because of my own “I love you’s”. All the while, I thought she would never have hurt me to begin with…if her love fit my definition.
There were extremely few times that I said it, maybe three to five times in our years together, but I did say it. Dear Lord, why did I not think to ask her from the start what the word meant to her? Would it have made a difference? I don’t know, yet in the final train wreck of our relationship, it seemed like a vital piece of information; an important translation.
So I thought I’d mention it. I suppose the same is true for any other word, a chair can be an infinite number of types, colors, shapes and sizes of chairs. But a chair doesn’t hold your heart hostage like love does. It seems this one word should have a clearer meaning.
Life, humans, relationships, it is all so incredibly askew…seems like it to me anyway. Maybe the never having to say you’re sorry definition is how most people view the word. It sounds counter intuitive to me. “I love you, therefore I have free rein to hurt you, without consequence of losing the love; I love you therefore I can hurt you as much as your worst foe and you will still take me back.” What???
Although that definition makes some of my other relationships make more sense, with parents in particular. I was blessed with both a mother and father, as well as a stepmother and stepfather. Despite what I am about to write, they were all good people, loving parents in their own way. I know I am overly sensitive. Others might have jumped for joy to have the four parents I had. I, on the other hand, had to question everything in my own mind. I sought and seek to understand what no one really ever understands completely: life and love.
All four said “I love you.” I didn’t understand that because I heard “I love you, but I am leaving you” “I love you, but I don’t really want to have to take care of you.” Most upsetting was the demand that I reply in kind.
I didn’t know to ask “What exactly does that mean to you?” Not that they would have answered this smart aleck kid.  I had trouble saying it back because nothing I did made everything better. I could not help them, really help them on their journey. And I certainly could not protect them from themselves, nor each other.
How could I profess love empty of its essence, of what I thought its essence should be? I said the words anyway. It was what was expected of me. Don’t rock the boat.
From a different perspective, in the way I see people, there is an element that I suppose some would call love. I admire their strengths, seek to understand their shortfalls, and give my best to them, while praying their life brings them the best for whatever path they walk. I am thankful for those that cross my path and others that I will never meet.
This is not confined to mother and father, nor family and friends. It is for all people, sometimes it’s even easier with those I don’t know. Is this the definition of love that people keep professing to me? If so, I return the affection. Because it has been a constant in me, it never seemed special enough for the weight people place on the words “I love you”. As I get older, though, I see that it is rarer than I had realized.
Just as all do not extend their awareness to feel one another’s feeling, nor are they open to each other’s thoughts and energy, they don’t connect to the compassion where this type of love lives. If they could, would there be wars?
In the biographical video clip of you, you mention that love can’t be explained. You say “Enjoy it.” I wish I could see it as that simple. The type of love that grows in the heat of important relationships is, to me, like raging fire – burning bright -- with potential to light the way or to devastate. Most often, in my experience, it does both. Love, when it reaches the level of my definition, the one with all consuming importance to care for and protect one another, carries such intensity that it aches within me; sends me searching for answers, for the core of the pain. What hurts and why?
Perhaps it is a growing, a stretching of the heart. It feels like a wound being ripped apart. We love children and hurt as they grow up and move on. We love parents, yet their choices inflict such sweeping effects on our lives, not all good. We share love in relationships, enduring hardships -- painful ones sometimes -- to be together, often only to reach a crushing end, whether by a break up or the death of the one you love. Is it just me, or is love a double edged sword?
In my need to make everything better, maybe I want love to be all good, only good. Maybe it can’t be. But no one ever says love is bad. People revere it, praise it, search it out.
“I love you so much it hurts.” Now there is a phrase I can relate to.
Still seeking answers…always,

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