Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Could I Love?

I've always been baffled by poetry and prose that tries to explain what love is.

I have no clue what the song "The Rose" is talking about.

Love is a river?

Love is a razor?

Love is a flower?

What?

Further complicating matters, the English language only has one word for every kind of love - romantic, brotherly, platonic, courtly, and so on. Some other languages were smart enough to distinguish them.

But if there's ever any question, let's just establish that usually literature and music are addressing romantic love. Unless you're accidentally listening to the Christian music station on the car stereo and you realize they're singing about God's love. Or their love for God. I'm still not sure.

And usually when I write about love, it's about romantic love. Despite all of my lifelong struggles with lack of parental love - and trying to accept it when it's given to me by people who have taken on the task of trying to be my parents - romantic love still remains the biggest mystery of all to me.

As a child, I was desperate for (romantic) love. A child's capacity for empathy is truly incredible, as evidenced by the innumerable YouTube videos of kids singing along to love songs with relatively adult themes - "Paparazzi" and the like - that they couldn't possibly have ever experienced, or really understand. But children are able to project themselves into this adult emotional world, and become entangled in the mythology of romance and heartbreak, swept away by longing and desperation and heart-pounding infatuation. It's a fantasy, but to them, it at least feels really real.

Unfortunately, I never grew out of that fantasy mode. I never actually experienced anything that taught me what real love is.

I've mistaken many other things for love...

Dependence
Gratitude
Admiration
Intoxication
Lust

But was any of it real? Real love?

Can it be real even if the other person doesn't love you back?

Does love have to break your heart?

Do you love the person you are desperate to be close to?

Is love wanting to make them happy?

Is it love when they make you happy just by simply being themselves?

My lifelong, nagging question has been, Could I be loved? But lately, I've been wondering, Could I love?

And I think, maybe, at least, I suspect, yes, I could love.  I could love someone who doesn't return my love, as long as they accept my love, and just let me love them.  But I hope to someday love, really love, and have the feeling returned.

I think love must be real when you don't have a choice. You cannot decide not to love. It is insistent, all-encompassing, joyful, scary, selfless and selfish. It asks to be acknowledged. It demands to be spoken. It will not be denied.

Then again...

...how would I know?

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