For most of us, the way we look at love is a mix of awe, reverence, fear and hope. We see it as a thing that happens without our knowing – something that finds us and something we fall into. Most of us see love as this grand and beautiful fairy-tale that we experience without effort. Art has contaminated the mythos of love in that way. We read the poems, see the movies, or hear the stories and we move to recreate these epic, transcendent romances, never looking behind the scenes at the effort and struggle that is required to create these tales. It is a great and destructive myth that love exists in this facile, Hollywood way. There is so much more to love than this destructive delusion.
I consider myself a pragmatic romantic. I am open and flourishing with my declarations of romance when my heart moves towards another. But I also pride myself on my ability to be sensible and realistic in the face of love’s many great joys and obstacles. I have learned that love requires passion and practicality in equal measures to be truly successful. Love is a many faceted gem and, though I honor and admire the myriad angles of artistic love, I also take the time to notice the many other ways that we should cherish and explore it and this is what I have found:
Love as orientation
Love is an attitude. It is a position we take in relation to all other things around us. Love is not something we fall into, it is something we move towards with varying speeds and varying degrees of interest. Sometimes love comes on hard and fast, because we sprinted towards that source with blind abandon and sometimes, love develops slow and secret, like a puzzle being carefully put together in our hearts. No matter how it comes on, it can only be possible if we set our direction of life towards the ability to love. We have to be open to the possibility and to extend our hand and heart in that direction so that we will be ready when it approaches. If we are facing love when it comes we have a better chance of seeing it.
Love as discipline
Love is an effort. It is something that must be manicured and cultivated and honed and sharpened through hard work and diligent intention. Just as habits can be gained or lost through hard work or a lack of effort, the truest and most honest of love can be equally gained or lost through the pursuit or negligence of our efforts. And just as a well entrenched habit becomes less and less of a chore and simply something we do the longer that we do it, love practiced with discipline becomes a habit that is easy to maintain and is a simple, natural expression of our very being. Sometimes maintaining the discipline of love is hard, but the more effort we put into it the easier it will become.
Love as faith
Love is trust in the unknown. It is a blind leaping of your heart towards the heart of another. There is no net. You cannot know if they will catch you. You cannot know where you will land and in that unknown exists the excitement, trepidation, and beauty of all the possibility that love offers. You must have the courage and confidence to trust the intentions of another, as well as the self-esteem and integrity to trust your own intentions. You must be bold in the face of the unknown and you must overcome the narcissism of conviction that you know what is next. You must be willing to risk your hearts safety and security for the million unknown possibilities of love. Because love is always a foggy sort of weather, where you can lose sight of things right in front of you, and you must learn to trust the promises and intentions of another, with nothing in the way of explanation, if you are to blindly traverse the winding roads of love.
Love as awareness
Love is a presence. It is the constant and unrestrained awareness of yourself and the other. It is being in the moments of joy and difficulty with equal ease and to equal benefit to you and your partner. It is dropping your judgement of how you want things to be with someone and instead being present in how they really are. Being truly aware when in the presence of your partner allows you to perceive and relate to their emotions and views. This builds a greater level of connection and understanding. Awareness compliments communication and without both, there is little hope for lasting connection. As poet Alexander Smith once said, “Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others, and a delight in the recognition.” That recognition and that delight can only come through awareness.
Love as decision
Love is a choice. It is an agreement reached with your mind and your heart that the person you are pursuing is the piece that completes your puzzle. We would like to think that love is something that envelops us and leaves us with no opportunity to choose, but everyday that we stay with someone, that we love someone, is a choice that we make. Sometimes, when in the throes of passion, we think that we are shackled to the love we have created, but we always have the choice to stay or go. The strength of love is in the choosing. The fact that it is always something we choose makes it valuable and wholly ours. It is not something thrust upon us, it is something we pursue, and the way we pursue it makes all the difference.
Love as action
Love is an activity. It is not something to be passively experienced, but something to be actively created. You are not a submissive observer watching an already written story unfold, you are the lead actor creating the show and your role in it. You have a chance to be the heroic protagonist or antagonistic villain in your own love stories. Act accordingly. Love is movement – a growth of two individual vines. You have the chance to intertwine and grow with great strength, tearing down walls you would never have had the strength to tear down alone, or you can grow apart and tangle on other less substantial things. How you love will determine how you grow. Pursue your love as doing. Saying is not enough.
There are so many ways to look at love and so many ways that it manifests itself in our lives. It is impossible to distill the experience of it down into a few salient vantage points that encapsulate the enormity and personal reality of that experience. What I hope you take away from this writing are the many ways that we can appreciate, experience, and strengthen our ability to love – the ways that we can look at love in order to find it deeper and wider than before – because love is a fluid, changing thing and if you don’t find a way to relate to it properly you risk losing it, or even worse, never finding it in the first place.