Love. It is a a word that is going to take over our world today. Sentiments of love will fill the air and #love will liter our social media feeds.
Love is a topic I feel woefully inadequate to contemplate let alone write about. When I was 15 my foster mother asked me if I was in love. I asked her how I would know. She said I just would.
A month ago a few friends and I discussed love. We tried to distill it, to comprehend, to understand. It was interesting but I was no more enlightened when I walked away from that conversation than when I entered it.
What is love?
Is it that feeling in your chest when the cute person at the supermarket catches your eye? Or a crush on a neighbor? What about the person with a warm smile and welcoming eyes? Is that love? No, that can’t be love. That’s just a passing sensation, a fleeting moment. Love must be more.
So then, what is love?
With Hannah I experience the most pure form of love — the love of a mother for her daughter and the love of a daughter for her mother. Hannah has taught me more about what love is than anyone else ever has. She will always love me and I will always love her. But, if I am successful as a parent, we will not always be together. She will grow up and become her own woman with her own life. She will leave, as she should. What if I want a love that stays? Is that possible? What is love then?
Friendships offer another window from which to view my question. With friends I give and receive love (and all of the messiness that goes along with it). I have a friend that lives in the next city over. We were in the Marine Corps together. Semper Fidelis. She is one of the most bad-ass people I know. We have a deep love for one another that transcends everything. Then there’s my artistic friend with a heart of gold. We both had a fierce determination to follow our dreams despite the inherent risks. She is a beautifully kind and amazing woman whom I feel honored to just know, let alone call friend. And there are so many more — friends from high school and college, friends from church and the Marine Corps. These friendships, with their varying levels of intimacy, have stayed. Our friendships have persisted through so much together. Surely that is love.
But my friends also have their own lives in their own cities with their own jobs and their own families — just as I have mine. We do not share daily life together, just moments across time and space. Is that what love is? Snippets of moments spread across time and space? Surely it is a glimpse into love but still, there must be more. Right?
Sometimes to know what something is, it can be helpful to think about what it is not. Love is not selfish or arrogant. It is not rude or unkind. But, we are humans, aren’t we? We can all be selfish, arrogant, rude, or unkind. Does that mean that we are not capable or deserving of love? Surely that can’t be the answer. I see love all around me, everywhere I go.
Love is a hug from a friend. Not the shallow pat-on-your-back kind but the deep enthusiastic kind that says, “I am so very happy you are here.”
Love is laughter on a beach with sandy toes and sun-kissed skin.
Love is the galentine’s day card with a poem that makes your heart jump to your throat and tears spring from your eyes.
Love is a quiet moment on a bench watching couples as they walk by holding hands.
Love is autumn leaves falling from a bright orange tree on a crisp fall day.
Love is an unexpected message or call just to say hello.
Love is the warm tear that rolls off your cheek in the cold rain.
Love is the top of a mountain with a spectacular view and the wind in your hair.
Love is fingers intertwined with another as you stroll down the street.
Love is the cheesy poem in a Hallmark card and the extra special something on Valentine’s Day.
Love is baking cookies and Saturday morning pancakes.
Love is a deep look into the eyes of another and the feeling of being seen, being known but also the gift of seeing and knowing.
Love is a smile or a kind word to a stranger.
Love is the little moments that make up everyday — breakfast and coffee and walks and chores and errands and homework.
Love is the smell of lilacs in the spring air after a long winter.
Love is a pen, a journal, these words.
Love is all of this and none of this. Love is so much more and so much less. All of these loves are fleeting and last only a moment. If you add them up they come together gloriously and make up the life of a person that has a lot of love. I hope that you are able to give and receive an abundant amount of love today and everyday.
Happy Valentine’s Day.