For the past couple of weeks I have been thinking about the question of love, is there really different kinds of love, different types of love? I have written about love before here and here, mostly I took a rather pragmatic view, even while talking about what I wanted from love and from life. I have had some time to consider love, some time to watch love at work in my family and elsewhere in the world. I have also watched what it means when we extract love from our world, when we fail at love, when we fail to include love in our lives on a daily basis and it is heartbreaking.
Love is incredibly selfish, this is my first conclusion; yes, I said it Love is an incredibly selfish emotion. Even while we expand our heart to include others, even while we open our arms, our homes, our circle of trust it remains a selfish emotion. Let me explain what I mean by this statement. When we love, we want, not just for the other person but also for ourselves. When we love, whether it is an individual or something other, something more amorphous something intangible that simply opens our heart and defines us as human and with compassion and empathy, we still want something, some recognition of self. No matter what love is for us, it is at least in part, selfish.
This year saw many changes, blossoming of new love, maturing of loves already in progress, coming to peace with love lost and finding new family members to embrace and celebrate.
This month I was privileged to see love at work in my extended family, more than once I spent time in the presence of love and was uplifted. This made me consider what love was when we simply wish for good things, when we are simply part of a larger circle and we aren’t trying to make it about ourselves. There is something wonderful, when we are simply there and part of it. This month, my youngest son married for the second time, this time it truly was a celebration of love, a coming together of families and friends and it was joyous. I watched my son and new daughter take their vows and my heart expanded, not just to include her but to include her children, her parents, her siblings also. I realized with this marriage, my circle to love had grown and my heart simply stretched to include them all.
Holiday time is always interesting in my world. For many the holidays can be stressful, it is no different for me and mine. Last year, of course saw my marriage fall apart and at that point, I thought I could never look at this time of year without sadness again. Indeed, last year was difficult but with the love and kindness of many people I got through it and realized just what family really is, what it means to be cocooned in warmth for no other reason than for being me. I wrote about last year here, I learned a great deal about compassion and love and it stuck.
Family gatherings mean extended family with in-laws, multiple generations and of course with us all the ‘by marriage’ and ‘step’ relationships. We are the classic blended family; marriage has expanded our families with steps, in-laws, new grandbabies and all sorts of other people to love. My oldest son married a young woman with a boisterous and loving family that exudes warmth and has taken me in, embraced me as if I was one of their own. When I was most in need of a place to land, somewhere to feel safe her family gave it to me and continue to open their homes, hearts and arms. This Thanksgiving my oldest son and his wife hosted family Thanksgiving for the first time, great food, great wine and lots of laughter. Again, I was reminded why love lifts us up, love has no boundaries and no timelines. We can not see each other for months, yet pick up where we left off; laughter and hugs without stinting and whispered, ‘how are you?’ with an arm wrapped around shoulders letting me know I am both welcome and cared for. I must admit, I needed that moment of quite affirmation.
Finally, the latest addition to my personal extended family; a new half-sister. Discovered a couple months ago, she is only a couple of years younger than I am and like me had been given up for adoption. I think she is the only one of my first father’s children he was unaware of. I won’t tell the entire story here, today; suffice to say she is a delight and I am so pleased to find another sibling. I think with all my full, halves, adopted and steps this takes me to twenty-four. What an amazing and strange mix we are what a fascinating world we live in that siblings can find each other through a random DNA test.
So what is love? What I am discovering, it is impossible to define. Love is selfish and selfless all in a single breath. Love is the greatest expression of compassion any of us can show to another. Love is our greatest gift, it is the one thing we have that is entirely ours to give and entirely free if we choose. Love fills our silent spaces while at the same time allows our silences safely. Love lifts us up, beyond ourselves and above ourselves. Love encourages us to do better and be better than we believe is possible. Love heals us and allows us to reach out and heal others.
What is love? The Hell if I know, but I know I would be lost without it.