“What is love,” someone asked me.
“You mean being in love, or love itself?”
Well, let me ponder that.
“Being ‘in love’ is an infatuation. At least, it appears so. It’s used by the same sort of people, in my experience, as those who use phrases like ‘protect the relationship’ or ‘I give 100% in my relationship.’ What does that even mean? If it means anything at all, it means nothing consistent. Or, you see people use being ‘in love’ as an excuse to hurt someone, ‘I was in love, I wasn’t thinking clearly, I didn’t mean it.’ They are ‘in love,’ so they forget to take care of their friends, while they are lost in these so-called overwhelming feelings. It’s a phrase for which I’ve lost affection. I might use it on occasion, I’m not strongly opposed to hearing it, it just doesn’t really do much for me.”
“But love itself? Love is beautiful. If it’s not everything, it’s most of it. At least for me. I don’t know what love actually is— the Form of love, in the Platonic sense— but I know what surrounds love. Sometimes love runs deep. Their wants and needs are interwoven with yours. The Love that connects you, always, to that person. The kind of love that most people crave, that satisfies a need similar to hunger or thirst. The kind of love reserved for the “lucky and the strong.”
Sometimes love is superficial.
Does it mean much to say I love people? I don’t believe so. It’s nice. I might, due to that love, take better care of the world around me—indirectly benefitting them— but that’s all. Still, it’s something. It’s positive. It’s the kind of love where I, with the same ease, fall in and out of love.
Love can mean more than anything, or very little at all. Casual love.
Sometimes it’s me saying, “You are wonderful. Something in you spoke to me, and I felt warm because of it. I would like to get to know you better, or I have gotten to know you, and I want you to know that your efforts achieved a result.” I love you, no matter what you give back. That love isn’t really about you, after all. It’s about how I see you.
Sometimes love is given, without expectation.
The love I will almost certainly feel for my child, the moment I lay eyes upon them. A love I will give unconditionally, as I gave it to my parents and siblings. They did plenty to “earn” that love, for everything they have ever done— but I’d’ve loved them regardless. Do I love the children in my care? Of course, but that love developed over time, earned mutually between us. I hold affection for children in general, but I don’t love them. Not in any significant sense.
Love can take many forms.
Affection, empathy, romantic love. Affection is love’s distant cousin; represents something real, but it is not synonymous with love; does not cause heartbreak. When someone I love is in pain, I hurt. When someone I feel affection for is hurting, I feel pity. Distress. Love may turn into a bond between you and me— but the love I speak of now is a love I give to you freely with no expectations of a relationship or commitment. It’s the purest form of love that I can isolate into something almost tangible.
Sometimes love is a gift.
This love, for me, cannot be taken back. If you give someone a gift, it’s theirs to do with as they please. If you hurt me badly enough, I may never want to see you again. I may regret that I will never be able to act on that love. I may put it out of my mind. You can’t remember every gift you’ve ever given. But, it’s still your gift to use as you please.
Love is a gift I can give to anyone. That’s caused friction, in the past. “You can’t love this person.” They are married/too young/too old/too far away/a celebrity. Oh, well. I said I loved them. I didn’t say I wanted a relationship with them. You don’t give a present, because you want a present in return. You give it, because you want to give it.
I love you, because you are lovely.
You don’t have to accept it, or do anything with it. Take the gift, or don’t, but know that someone thinks you are worth loving. Sometimes I’ve rejected the gift, too. I appreciate it, but love doesn’t always require follow through. Sometimes it’s just love.
When love is a gift, take it or leave it. As you will.