What is Love, My Version

Linda1How do we love? What makes our hearts sing, our skin tingle, our knees weak? What makes our hearts soar, how do we love?

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.

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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.

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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.

The famdamilySo 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.


  1. What a beautiful, loving family! Congratulations to your son and new wife on their recent vows! It is interesting how love can be new, mature, end, grow with someone else and… it’s always changing. Sometimes it’s tiring and yet other times invigorating!

  2. Love is … all that and then some, more than you can hold in your arms, more than you can let go.
    I love this! That familial love is oft-missed in our discussions about love, those feelings of love even when it isn’t romantic, those feelings that make our antennae stand up, that enlivens us again, reopens us to a broader love – community, intimacy, fellowship, laughter with those with love. Happy Thanksgiving (all late) and Merry Christmas and all that jazz.

    Glad to see you’re keeping well. You look great! Rock dem tattoos. I would love to get another sooner than later. (While I got it, I’ma paint it!) 😉

  3. Did I know that you had divorced? Dang, girl, I really was away for a long time. I’m glad you found love from those around you. It’s so scary to uncouple, especially after one has been together for so long. I give you a lot of kudos. You’re stronger than you know. Thank you for sharing all of this with me. My journey through hell has brought me back to home and family and friends’, too. And thank goodness for that.

  4. What a wonderful attitude you have about your expanding circle of love. We can never have enough.

  5. Val, what a beautiful family you have and you looked so happy and pretty as the mother of the groom. You are so right: No one can fully describe love, but we all would be lost without it. Mazol Tov!

    • One of the mothers of the groom, that my friend is one of the great things about my extended, dysfunctional and fully perfect family.

      Thanks, it was a joyous day.

  6. frigginloon says:

    OMG, the food…. I am so envious right now. Oooh, so love can be envious too 😉

  7. You’re struck many chords that resonate with me in this post, Val. The bottom line is that love is complicated. I do know that since my father died and now that my siblings and I are a 178 year old orphan, I feel closer to them than ever. I also feel very lucky that they’re both kind and caring.

    You look very happy with your family. I’m glad that you’re in a much better place today than a year ago.

    • Certainly getting there. It is up and down. Holidays are always odd, I desperately miss my father and step-mother during this time of year, they were the glue for so much of our family. Now I am finding new connections are forming. That is I think why I say love is selfish.

      • This is going to be an odd Christmas for my siblings, niece and me. I expect that Dad’s absence will be a presence. There will be a void, but at least we’ll get through it together as cliche as that sounds.

  8. I hadn’t thought of the selfish aspect of love, but now I see it. Good thought. But I know you love your family, and thanks for sharing a small part of them with me.

  9. Loved your posh wedding frock; you looked gorgeous

  10. Yes, love is complicated, but in its purest form, it holds no preconceptions.

  11. Yes, love is love! The traditional family hardly exists any more and we must accept the blending of families. Great photos! It is good to see you looking great and happy!

  12. “love has no boundaries and no timelines”—I love that. It’s so true. Families pick up where they left off, even if it’s been years since they’ve seen each other. Plus, we drop things at a moment’s notice when our loved ones need us, even if it means momentarily putting our own lives on hold. This is easier to do when it’s a loved one who’s been there for us in the past or one who has asked little of us over the years. In those situations, we want nothing more than to help.

    Congrats to your son and his new bride!

  13. Hell yeah!

  14. Jueseppi B. says:

    Reblogged this on MrMilitantNegro™.

  15. Great family photos. Lots more love to go around. If somebody’s not in a loving spirit, they can go to the next kin person. Above all, for me, love is peace. If it gets to be where love isn’t how I define it, I start to think maybe something else is mixed in that’s stirring it the wrong way. Sometimes, we simply need a break from loving other folk to love ourselves. Maybe that’s selfish but that’s the best way to give and receive it.

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