Friday, January 31, 2014

About Love

Look, I'm not even going to start this post with a snarky comment justifying why I'm taking on a cheesy subject.
I did not Instagram this.

I've been thinking about love a lot lately. And by "lately," I mean over the last several years. I had a lot of time to deconstruct BE's and my relationship. It's entirely possible he and I weren't even having the same relationship. That's not unusual, I think, in people's relationships.

Problems between  BE and I were going on well before I kicked him out. I talked to my parents a lot about it, because we talk about stuff like that and there were also practical considerations involved in the possibility of ending the relationship. We needed to brainstorm, especially after LE was born. One time my mom asked me if I was still in love with BE.

The length of my hesitation before answering was probably the real answer. I was thinking about a lot of stuff at once. I answered something like that I didn't dislike him and I knew we were still okay in a way because I still liked how he smelled.

Because part of love is that, isn't it? Liking a lot how someone smells. It's maybe more on the biological or hormonal side of things, but it's still part of it. I also didn't specifically wish any ill upon BE. That was a kind of love too, feeling loyal to someone.

It's not enough, but it's not nothing.

My mom and dad were also struggling at that time, as people do when confronted with massive life changes. If they were questioning whether or not they were in love with each other, they were keeping it from us. But I bet if you asked either one of them, even after the worst fight, whether they were in love with the other, I bet neither of them would have hesitated for a second.

And my parents aren't the sort of people who give knee-jerk answers with the thing they think we want to hear.

Love and in love and biology and hormones. All of this has been gone over so much in the course of human history that there's hardly any reason to go over it here. People really do like thinking about love a lot and finding extraordinary and mundane ways of expressing it. It's one of the good things about people, good enough that they can be forgiven for all the awful poetry and music.

I remember a scene from the Jimi Hendrix movie Rainbow Bridge where a couple of hippies are making out and the girl goes, "I want you to make love to me," and the guy answers, "You can't make love. Love is." That answer is so appallingly mundane and stupid and unnecessary it's actually one of the things that makes me not want to talk about love.

It's safe to say my love life is a shambles. Or kind of great. Or a hot mess. I've always sucked at romantic love. I'm really good at falling in love. And nursing unrequited love. And finding bad love.

Aren't there ever so many names for the different types of love?

But here's the thing. No matter what happens, I keep believing in love. You know why? It's because I know what love looks like because I grew up in a house where I saw what love looked like every day. I love my parents. My parents love me. They love each other. I love both my brothers and they both love me. They both love each other. They love our parents and our parents love them. All these loves have different faces, but they're all still the good kind.

This kind of thing is rare among expats. There is a small tribe of us who have the privilege of experiencing mutual good love with family, especially parents. We know that home is people that aren't going away no matter how gross or mean or screamy we are, or how far away they are, or how much people change. We are still loved despite our greatest efforts to push it away.

And I'm so lucky to have LE, someone I can shower with love every day. Loving your kids is easy. You don't really have to think about it. But sometimes I think parent love is all the kinds of love rolled into one. It can be in love, or unrequited, or bad love, or love-hate. It can be that weird, huge outside-power love that I'm uncomfortable admitting to feeling because religious people have pretty much taken over all the words about that kind. I'm more comfortable admitting to something like romantic love for my kid, even though people's minds may jump to some sort of creepy incest thing. Don't be an idiot, if that's what you're thinking. I think about LE all the time and imagine holding him and kissing his neck and squeezing his little feet and I fret a little when he's mad at me or when we're not getting along. I take pleasure in finding new things to love about LE, and finding new ways to show him I love him, and to make love an almost-palpable thing that he'll believe in too, no matter what.

Today is my parents' anniversary. Or maybe it was yesterday. I always fuck up the day, but they once told me not to worry about it because their anniversary is their thing, not ours. I expect my parents are often dismayed with my brothers' and my love lives, and they probably think it's their fault somehow because they're parents and that's the sort of thing you blame on yourself. Perhaps also it's easy to overlook all the other really excellent relationships my brothers and I have because there's this one kind of love we're not so good at that sticks out more.

But who knows? Maybe it is their fault for creating such a high standard of love, and for showing us every day how to love well. We believe in it because it is a thing they made and we make and we all know what it is. It's perhaps what love isn't that I'm not so astute at identifying. But I figure it out eventually, and then find new ways to love and be loved and not be loved.

43 years is a damn long time to be married and still sneak kisses and butt pats when they think we aren't looking. But we were always looking.


Melissa Denton said...

Well said. It would be hard to match up to your parents. But they are pretty great people. Btw that picture is adorable of them.

Claudia Turgut said...

What a sweet post - it is so true,Sarah: once a parent always a parent even when your children are almost 40! You love them absolutely whatever they do and wherever they are. It's a cliché but love is what it is all about xx

Stranger said...

That's the thing about cliché, isn't it? When you understand it, there are only a few ways to say it, and it's what people have been saying since the beginning of people and talking, probably.