It’s complicated. It wears many faces. It is manifest in words and actions and not all of them are immediately obvious. I don’t claim to have the whole answer here. But for me, at least today, each of these captures some element of love.
Love is friendship. Its enjoying time spent together. Its joy at the sound of another’s laughter and a thrill at a proposal to go on an adventure, when even the grocery store is an adventure. It’s the anticipation of a reunion, even when you are separated only by a few miles, or a few hours, or a lunch break. It’s sharing the details of your lives together and knowing even as you are known.
Love is coming home to a hug. A hug if you had a good day and a hug if you’ve had a bad day. Love holds you when you cry and laughs with you when you are happy. It is the highs and the lows. Love is the exhilaration of standing atop a mountain peak. Its walking through the shadows of despair with a hand in yours. Love is also the quiet evenings reading by the fire. It’s the determined step beside you, that keeps you walking when you want to stop. It’s the two drops of water that cling together as they fall through the sky.
Love is forgiveness. Love is making mistakes and feeling so bad for hurting your love that you are desperate to heal the hurt. Love is tearful apologies, and vulnerable, open-hearted acceptance. Love is painful. Painful because you hurt each other through your weaknesses but this also makes it strong. Love is strong because it clings through pain.
Love is commitment. Love is rolling out of bed in the middle of the night and fighting off sleep and exhaustion to offer the needed hug or comfort. Love is turning down the attentions of others so you can be true to your commitment. Even when those attentions are flattering, desired, or tempting. Love is sticking to your decision even when you second guess it, even when you are lonely, or cold, or apart you don’t go back on your commitment.
Love is trust. Trust that comes from commitment. Trust that comes from being there, again and again, by building a body of evidence that your affection is constant and continuous. Love is confidence in one’s companion, that they will stay by you through good and bad. This trust leads to peace in the partnership, peace because of the confidence you have in each other.
Love is a choice. Cupid’s arrows are short-lived infatuations. Real love is choosing to prick yourself with the arrow. It’s choosing to ignore other options, even when they exist. Its letting yourself be wooed over and over again by the same person. Its choosing to drink the cool aid and dive in.
Love is driving hundreds of miles and not noting the distance. It’s in the splurging expenses which bring a smile to the other but also in the careful saving and pinched pennies that assure security in times of need. Love is in skipping work or class or entertainment for another person. But it is also in job hunting, and determined study so that you might care for that other person. Love is fantastic, wild, overpowering, exciting, soaring beyond and above but it’s also thoughtful, caring, considerate, slow and deliberate. Love is in smiles, laughter, kisses, hugs, AND in the exhaustion, mourning, weariness and tears.
Love is passionate, but passion is not love. Love is not about novelty it’s about familiarity. Love is more than a biological drive or a physical sensation. Its more than a bonding glue to tie spouse to children. It transcends biology. Love binds childless couples together. It binds the elderly together long after passion fades. Love lasts beyond physical attraction and curiosities to permeate your identity and soul.
Love is about the magical elusive connection between two souls, BUT it is also a history of shared experience and obstacles overcome BUT it is also promises made and kept BUT it is also an interweaving of lives and commitments, shared friendships, activities, triumphs and pains.
Love is not a single life. It is two lives shared together. It isn’t a melding of two individuals into a single soul although those two souls seem to create a shared self. It is two souls pushing each other into better versions of themselves. Two people sharing efforts so that they might become even better people. Love is making space in your life for someone else. Love is TIME.
Love survives change. How is this possible? How can love be unchanging if the person you love is a dynamic living thing? Clearly love must not depend on static characteristics. You can love someone even as they grow and develop. This means that love too must grow and develop as the object of its focus changes.
Love is wanting and supporting the best in others. It isn’t finding perfection. It’s loving someone enough to see their flaws and love them anyway. AND to be a positive force in helping them cope with their flaws. Sometimes that means overcoming, sometimes it just means adapting. But love offers the helping hand and encouraging smile and, when the moment is right, the pointed correction. Love makes both people change, for the better. It makes you want to change yourself, to make yourself a better person for the benefit of the one you love. Love doesn’t make you blind to imperfection, it makes you love the total being.
Love is a fairytale. A narrative of two people brought together through circumstance and conquering the obstacles between them. It’s an adventure story. An epic that crosses the boundaries of life. Sometimes a romance, sometimes a drama, sometimes a comedy.
Love is intimacy. The intimacy that is far less common than sex. It is the baring of souls in vulnerability. It’s about sharing the deepest parts of who you are, of your desires, your strengths, your weaknesses. The things that make you smile and the things that make you cringe. Love is as naked as Adam and Eve and yet unashamed. Exposed for full observation. Ready to see and be seen.
Love is why we live. It makes the journey beautiful just as it makes us beautiful.