Recently I’ve been thinking a great deal about love. What it means, what it is, how to know if what you feel is indeed love or infatuation. Then, suddenly it occurred to me…What I think love is may not be what everyone else thinks love is. Maybe this thing known as ‘love’ isn’t some universal oneness I’ve always perceived it to be. There is no standard setting, no set guidelines to inform you that, yes, this is love, or no, this isn’t.
After carefully considering all the possibilities, complexities and simplicities of love, I came across a realization. Perhaps it is only true to myself, or perhaps I’ll find one person that this article resonates with, either way, I feel it must be said.
Since childhood I’ve been exposed to love in a thousand different ways. It started with the love I have for my mother and the love she has for me. She was my first example of what love is, how it feels, how it sounds and what it looks like. Then, in my childlike brain it was translated into holding hands as you crossed the street and kisses on my fallen knees. I needed things from her, and she gave them to me to the best of her abilities, food, shelter, water, etc., even if it meant her not having them herself. Initially we learn by example, from our parents, from our siblings, friends, teachers, strangers. We take in what we see and process it, sometimes it takes years, others just a moment. On the occasion we don’t think about them whatsoever. Love meant kissing in the rain, holding hands on the bus, whispering sweetly and love meant being rescued.
To love is to be saved. I’ve always thought this, without even consciously thinking about it. I was taught this through fairy tales, watching movies and reading books. I was shown that love was something you had to earn, you had to gain. It wasn’t something to be given without a price, it was taken, fought for. The more one person did, the more you loved them, by show of action. A handsome prince had to find you, a beautiful, helpless maiden, and he had to rescue you, even if you didn’t particularly like him, you’d love him in the end. Perhaps it was from your evil stepmother, witches, a dragon even. Lives had to be risked, hardship and heartbreak had to be felt for your love to be wholly validated. It broke all the rules, love did. It was unworldly, sacrificial, frightening and wonderful! And you had to obtain it. You had to need each other. It lasts forever if it’s real and most of all, it’s sealed with a kiss.
These feelings were so engraved and burned into my mind that it’s taken me 19 years to process, sort out and come to terms with. Is love really something you have to kill or die for? Would I kill or die for love myself? Well, the answer to that is yes. But do I really have to fight these inner and outer demons to reach the end goal of mutual affection? Because of this skewed idea of love, I felt guilt if it came too easily. The idea that someone could love me without having to pull me from some pit or rescue me from myself was incredible and ridiculous, even if I didn’t realize it. If I didn’t earn it, I wasn’t allowed to receive it because I didn’t deserve love.
What I didn’t know up until now, was that I wanted to be rescued. I wanted to be saved from myself and from the world, to be happily taken by my lover and run off into the sunset without a second thought, willing to leave all I care for behind me – for the sake of love.
It took a recent encounter with someone who I felt affection for to have all these realizations sort of…Jump out at me. I wanted to seem broken to him, I wanted to seem so human, so vulnerable and tired, that he’d fix me. He’d leave his comfort zone to slay all my dragons and evil stepmothers in the forest of me. I wanted him so badly to pull me from my pit and save me, so that we could love. Amazing thing is…He didn’t. He wasn’t my prince or knight in shining armor.
The more I spoke to him, let him speak, got to know him as a person and not an idea or a savior, the less I wanted that prince. Because he wasn’t a prince, he was him, he was himself and I could accept that. Slowly I began to feel as though love may be something…Else.
It was a like a brick in the face, finding this out, this moment of love enlightenment. I didn’t need him. I wanted him, yes, absolutely, but I didn’t need him. Sure, it would have been nice to get a comforting gesture or glance, but I didn’t want him to fight my battles for me. I didn’t want to fight his either! I wanted to fight them alongside him. I didn’t want him to give me anything in return for my loving him. I didn’t even feel as though he needed to love me back. I wanted him to love who he pleased. I wanted him to be happy and satisfied, if even not with me. I loved him in a way that was outside of my being, that was outside of myself. I loved the fact that he is human, that he exists, and his mind and skin and smile and all that. So sunsets. So great white stallions. No dragons.
If that isn’t love, then perhaps I’m just-too-young like everyone tells me. Maybe I’m too inexperienced or maybe I’m just over thinking it all. That happens a lot. But now, sitting here, writing this, I know I deserve love. Why shouldn’t I? I don’t think that deserving love and receiving love have anything to do with one another anymore. I may not be able to define love in a specific, general or all inclusive kind of way, but I know what love means to me. I know what it is to me, and I like it! I may have to work to get the fairy tale kind of love from my mind, but I’d say that currently I prefer this definition. It may not be a passionate kind of love or a stab-yourself-in-the-chest-if-you-can’t-have-it kind of affection, instead it’s kind of…Slow and warm and patient. Love is not to be rescued, it’s to love! Whatever that means to you.