The topic of love is much discussed.  Musicians have written entire albums on the emotion.  Poets have mused on it for endless years.  But what do I think of love?  What does it mean to me?

In an earlier blog post, I spoke of the difference between “love” and “Love” – between saying, “I love this coat,” and saying, “I Love you,” and I think many of us understand that distinction.

But do we love our parents the same way we love our children?  Do we love them both with a patience that tolerates their outbursts, a strength that stands fast in the face of their tears, and a kindness that –  Perhaps we do.

We love our parents, our children, our friends, and all those people who make up our lives and our families.  We defend them in times of need.  We support them in times of grief.  Love is kith and kin, friends and family – those with blood ties, and those who are a surrogate family.

And we love our lovers, not merely because their bodies cause our pulse to race, but also because their laughter and their smiles warm our heart in a way no one else’s does.  And while many would say that lust and love are mutually exclusive, I believe they are well aware of each other.  Do you doubt me?  That’s fine.

But I know where children come from, and I’m don’t believe in the exclusivity.

Love is passion and desire.  It is a wellspring of emotion that bubbles up from the deepest fathoms of our souls to nourish another with the core of our being.  Love is a heart skipping a beat, and “true love” is that same heart making your own skip for a lifetime – every morning when you wake to see them, every evening you return home to them, and every night you spend in their company doing your very best to prove to them that you are not just “in it for the nookie.”  But love is also those nights when you show them just how goddamn much you love their nookie.

But what about one-sided affections?  What about those we love or like or lust with whom we have not shared our feelings?  What about those with whom we have, but who have rejected us?  What about those we cannot expunge from our hearts and our minds, those who haunt our sleepless nights and harry our caffeinated days?  What about that person we see across the bus or the coffeeshop or the mall or wherever that makes our heart skip a beat before we lose them to the crowd, or hear them mention a spouse or lover?  Is that love?

I imagine most people would say no.  I would agree, that is not love – because love is not just a feeling.  Love is something you do.  So what do you do with that one-sided affection?

Do you hide it for fear of being rejected?  Do you bear a grudge for rejection?  Do you stare at that person across the way and treat them like a sex toy in your heart of hearts?  Do you approach them romantically despite the mention or presence of a partner?  No, that is not love.

Do you confess your feelings despite the fear of rejection?  Do you do your best to let go of those who cannot, will not, or just do not love you?  Do you stop staring at their ass, because they are a person and not an object?  That could be love.

Do you respect them?  Or do you try to stuff them into a cage that is a prison no matter how much you try to gild it?  Do you use literal or figurative chains to bind them your side?  Do you see them as a whole person, or as a thing to serve your own desires?  Do you care what they think?  That is what I believe decides whether or not it is love.

So I think you can love someone who does not know of our feelings.  You can love someone who rejects you, if and when you let them go gracefully.  And if you can’t let them go in your head or your heart, can you step back from their lives to allow them to discover happiness in a world without you?  Are you staring at their ass, or have they just taken your breath away for a few moments before you realize you’re being rude and turn away?

If so, then I think that is love as well.

There’s a quote I’m fond of that I found somewhere across the internet, which I (of course) cannot find again for this post.  It spoke about whether or not men and women can be friends without falling in love, without attraction ruin a friendship.  And while I will admit that this is a strange source, I like the quote, and I will not ignore it because of it’s origin.  It goes something like this:

Everyone falls in love.  Some fall in love too early, some too late, but everyone falls in love.

And I like that:  “Everyone falls in love.”  I imagine that people all around me are falling in love every single day.  I imagine a world where love does not require reciprocation, but respect.  And I think that is beautiful.

So, have I been in love?

I have had three physical lovers, and I had periods with each when I loved and did not love them.  But to this day, I wish them all happiness, and I call that wish love.

I once asked a coworker out with such frequency that she had to bluntly and directly tell me that she was not merely busy, but that she did not like me that way.  And while she haunted my dreams for some time after that, I eventually realized that I wanted her to be happy more than I wanted her to be with me.  And I call that love.

I met a woman whose words followed me hours later and made me think and feel, “She’s awesome and amazing.  I want someone like that in my life.  I need to step up my game, in order to deserve having someone like that in my life.”  She inspired me, and I doubt I will ever see her again.  But I still work hard to do the things I told her that I was trying to do with my life, because if I ever do see her again, I want to be able to show her, tell her, “I did it!”  And I call that feeling love.

I know a woman with a warm smile, a bubbling laugh, and a dancer’s grace.  She used chalk to write the words, “I am a miracle made up of particles”, on the side of a building, and I smile every time I see those words and think of her.  I told her I liked her, but not that I meant it both romantically and as a friend.  And when she did not inquire further about what I meant by “like”, I did not press the issue.  Not because I do not want her, but because I love her.

I know a woman with a quietness that intrigues me.  I want to talk with her, and find out more about her.  I want her to talk with me, and discover if what she finds intrigues her as well.  I have not had a chance to spend time with her yet, nor have I told her my feelings, but I think I love her too.  If she rejects my advances and I let her go, I will know that I love her.

I see women around me all the time, both familiar faces and strangers, whose forms and figures take my breath away.  And I have to chastise myself to pick my jaw up off the floor, and I have to push on my chin so that I stop staring.  But I still think I love them.

I am a clerk at a store that sells alcohol, and I see addicts every day.  It breaks my heart every time I see them at the store for the second or third time in a single day, and I just want to help them.  I want to shout and shake them and do everything I can to save them.  But I can’t save them.  Only they can save themselves.  My heart weeps for them, and I call those tears love as well.

I fall in love every day, with friends and strangers.  I love them fiercely enough to burn me, and deeply enough to feel the resonance of those feelings hours later.  My concept of family is not limited or narrow.  Every person I met could be a friend, a member of my family whom I’ve lost touch with as we both traveled the world.  Every person could be a lover, as hungry for my touch as I am for theirs.  I try to see the best in as many people as I can, because I’m looking for something to love.

Everyone falls in love, and I fall in love all the time.  Sometimes loving hurts, and sometimes those I love hurt me.  Sometimes they reject me, or they don’t understand.  And that’s OK.

Because I love them, and I want them to be happy more than I want them to understand what I’m thinking or feeling.  I love them, and I don’t need to tell them that in order for it to be real.  I don’t need to hear it in return for it to be real.

I just need to love them, and be patient.  I just need to love them, and be strong enough to not expect anything in return.  I just need to love them, and be kind.  I just need to love them, and smile.

Because I love them, and what other reason do I need to smile?

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