The big love holiday is approaching and I thought it might be interesting to look at some ideas of what love is all about in order to honor Valentine’s Day.
First I read an article about a woman with a new book out describing love. Her name is Barbara Fredrickson, and she has posited that love isn’t a life long commitment kind of thing, instead it is a series of positively charged micro-moments in which couples get a surge of oxytocin, and their faces match each other nerve for nerve, and their brains light up similarly.
This in my view is more science working at deconstructing rainbows. I will accept that science can tell us what it looks like physically to be in the throes of love, but can it tell us what long term love looks like? I don’t think it can, thus I refuse to see love as simply the result of miscellaneous cell firings in our bodies?
Personally, I think the mechanistic view of love is way too simplistic. I’m not a specialist by any means, but I feel that there are different conceptions of “love”. And to suggest that they are all made manifest in humans under the same conditions, with the same inputs and that the same results must follow is a little silly. Love afterall is a “many splendored” thing, and as such I think it’s impossible to describe it as a single response of the vagal nerve, or an instantaneously shared impulse in two brains.
Love is more than that.
So what is love?
Well, it isn’t what Hollywood sells us. Love isn’t roses and chocolate. It isn’t wanting to hop into bed with someone else. It isn’t a feverish anticipation of another’s presence. There is more to love than that!
Love is when something or someone is etched into your mind and heart. Love makes you think about another person, or persons. Love takes you outside of your own body and allows you to feel another person’s energy. Love is a strong connection between people. It doesn’t require that two people be in the same environment! It doesn’t require certain gestures, or certain verbiage. You don’t have to “deserve it”. You don’t have to “work at it”. You have to live it.
I’ve had my own fights with myself over my own perception of love. I’ve achingly wondered at times why I wasn’t loveable. I’ve cried over feeling forlorn. I’ve felt wounded and lonely. I know what it feels like to want to feel love. That lack of love creates an incredible void inside. I know how it is to feel unloved. I’ve been there, done that! And I don’t mean to be flippant, but that struggle enabled me to sort of get a grip on what I now understand about love.
I now think of love like I think of wisdom, or knowledge. I think that it is something that we are all capable of feeling, or experiencing, or living with, but it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to feel. It develops, and as it does, it changes. A child knows the love of parents, or favorite objects. An adult understands the idea of romantic love. Parents understand what it is to love children. Seniors often show a greater love for their communities than younger people do.
Love isn’t something that you can wrap up in fancy bows and give to someone. It isn’t going to be found in a card shop. You aren’t going to catch up with it on a dating web site. If you think love is outside of yourself, think again!
I think I’m going to continue to struggle with what love is. And I think that is because there are a lot of mixed messages in society about what it is. I do sometimes hold myself up to other people and ask dumb questions like ” how come they have it so easy?” or “how come they are loved when they act so repulsively?” or ” how come love is easy for some folks, but not for me?” And I think the next time I ask one of those whiny questions I’m going to have to be a little more loving to myself and I’ll gently chide myself. And I’ll try to remember ” love isn’t love till you give it away.” If I can’t love myself…then what is the point in looking for someone else to fill me up?
So there, that is my two cents on what love is. It isn’t something you can capture in a fMRI. It’s something illusive, and yet substantive. It’s impossible to define. Like a fire, if you feed it it grows, and if you smother it, it dies.
Approaching fifty has some perks though, because after chasing this thing called love for number of decades, I can now say I’ve sometimes caught it’s warmth quite literally. I get a feel of a warm glow that radiates along my spine. It doesn’t happen all the time, and I don’t think that that feeling is the absolute height of loving feelings, but it’s a pretty cool perk. It is something I never would have imagined feeling. No one ever told me what it might be like. I just get it when I am with the people I love. I get it when I’m engaged in doing things that make me feel connected. I now know my body can do it, and I know that I tend only to experience it in situations I’d call “loving”.
So there, I’m not trying to talk in magical, mystical ways. I just don’t know how to explain what it is I feel.
I wonder what love feels like to you?
Thanks for spending some time reading and thinking with me.