Tuesday, February 3, 2015

On Love: Part 1

I spent a lot of time in 2014 thinking about myself, other people, and how we all relate to one another.  This ranges from thinking about my friends to thinking about family and chosen families, as well as sex, love, and relationships.

What is love? How do we express love to others, and who do we express it to? What does it mean to love yourself, and to love others? How do we use the love within us to connect with other human beings?

I spent so much time over the last however many years feeling so many unpleasant things - unseen, unworthy, and very unloved. Something huge and important that I've worked on this past year is feeling out how I relate to other people in terms of intimacy, love, and attachment. I have contemplated my expectations, society's expectations, and about what it means when people give love or have love for other people. About how we share ourselves with each other, or really how we DON'T share ourselves with each other and in that not sharing we limit our experience and joy in life.

Here's the thing, intimacy doesn't have to mean being in love, and I never understood that before.  Even opening your heart and offering what's inside doesn't necessarily mean being in love with someone, at least not in the widely accepted sense of 'in love.'

Though there have been many hardships, one thing that has happened to me this year is that I have really opened up.  I feel like my heart was closed tight, and in my explorations of myself and my interactions with other people, I have unlocked it.  Do you know what was inside?  Joy.  Amazement.  And, a whole lot of love.

I have had moments in the past of feeling like love was going to explode from my pores, and having it not be a specific love for a specific person, but just a really general sense of well being in the world.  I still have that sometimes, that warm feeling of happiness.  But I have found that it can also be focused.

Earlier last year, I had an experience that surprised me, but also taught me something wonderful.  (One of many!)  I was lounging around with someone in bed (we're all grownups here, right...?) and I looked at his face, and I felt love.  So much love.  You have to understand that at the time this was someone I had known for... maybe a month?  And yes, I know, hormones and oxytocin and whatever.  BUT.  I felt so full of love.  Love for life, for myself, for the ability to connect with another person, and for him.  I felt my heart was open and I was offering my loving energy to this person because I wanted to, and I because I love giving it.  I did not expect to get the same thing back, but I did get positive energy back.  I was a bit startled at what I was feeling, but at the same time, it wasn't scary.  It didn't feel weird, or wrong, or like too much.  It just felt like really good, positive energy.

This happened with someone I have gotten to know very well since.  But at the time, I only knew some things to be true.  I knew enough about him to know the struggles he had been facing recently.  I knew that he had opened himself up and shared himself with me.  I knew that he had taken care to treat me well, to have compassion for me, and to respect me.  And in those moments I believe that I did love him.  Just not in a way a large percentage of people would understand.

Now I am not talking about being in love with someone, or feeling like I wanted to spend the rest of my life with someone.  There are SO many different types of love and ways to love someone.  Part of finding myself has not only been opening my heart, but opening my mind.  Many people see the world as binary.  Gay or straight, male or female, married or single.  Oh, but in between those ends there are infinite variations of bisexual, pansexual, asexual, agendered, transgendered, genderflexible, polyamorous, non-monogamous, and on and on and on and on.  It's like getting glasses and finally being able to see that there are individual leaves on all the trees.

There is a big difference between being in love, and feeling lovingly towards someone.  You can feel lovingly towards a friend, or a family member.  However, in many instances, that loving energy gets confused, and it leads to one of two things - it either scares the person on the receiving end because it feels like "too much" and they think something is expected of them, or they are unable to see the distinction between being intimate/loving and being in love/committed/involved in a way that wasn't agreed upon.  What I have been so lucky to discover is that there are other people out there who can accept this energy I have to give, and they can appreciate it, and give back whatever they want to give back without feeling like there is pressure or that there are certain expectations for "where this is going."

Last year, I read the book The Ethical Slut.  I learned so much, and it was a part of my journey in discovering who I am and how I want to live, and how I want to treat the people in my life, there was so much of the book I related to. And lot of it just had to do with the basic idea of how we interact with other human beings. I guess for me, a lot of this goes back to my basic beliefs about life and values and what we are doing here and how we should act.

When I talked about this at one of my last therapy sessions, I kind of went off about all of this, but ended up explaining what I think God is. Why? Because it all comes back to love. I got baptized as a Presbyterian when I was 26 years old. I have written the story of my journey, but it all comes down to the fact that I suddenly realized that I did not have to believe the same way other people believed in order to be a Christian. In fact, 100 Christians could all be sitting in a room together and all believe something different, but still have the community of their church around them.

What do I think about God? I think that God is love. God is the love and compassion that every human being carries within himself for other people. What would happen if we all allowed ourselves to feel this love, to give it more freely to one another, and to accept it without condition? Sometimes it might look like friendship, sometimes it might look like sisterhood, sometimes it might look like intimacy, or even sex.  How amazing would the world be?  No more fear, just loving one another. If your actions are guided by love, you do not hate people for the choices they make. We realize that 1. we all make mistakes and 2. the same choices are not right for everyone. Different does not equal bad. Just because you wouldn't choose something doesn't mean it's not okay for someone else to choose it.

I think all the time that if people just had compassion for other PEOPLE instead of focusing on money or politics or business or whatever, it would make the world such a better place. I don't believe that God is some bearded deity up in the sky. I believe that we all have the ability to make God a reality. God may guide us by our actions, and show us goodness by our ability to let ourselves love and be loved. If not for love, what are we possibly even here for? If not to share our joys and our sorrows with other human beings, what could we possibly be doing on this earth?

We walk around and live in fear instead of love. Fear of what? Fear of getting hurt. This is something I feel like I have completely let go of in the last nine months. First of all, how could I possibly be hurt more than I already have and not be able to deal with it? I have been through so much, and it's sucked and been hard, but it has made me strong.

If I like someone more than they like me, and it hurts, I will get through it. If I get my heart broken, I will deal with it and have people to turn to who will comfort me and help me. If I fall in love and it doesn't work out, well, that's just part of relating to other people. It might be a cliche, but truly it is better to love and lose it than never to love at all. Walking around and deciding NOT to form connections with people because you MIGHT get hurt is ridiculous. It's like being so afraid of dying that you never leave your house and then end up living some sorry ass existence where you're a shut in and all you think about is how scared you are to move.

So I will take what the world has to offer me, and I will take it all.  I will find people who are worthy of my love and who desire it, and I will share my energy with them.  It may last one night, it may last a month, or a year.  It may work out or it may not.  I will no longer live in shadow, or in fear.  I will feel love, and I will remember always and forever that I am worthy of being loved, both by other people and by myself.  There will be heartache, and longing, and tears.  There will be times I will wonder if anyone will love me again.  There will be times where I will stumble and momentarily forget how to love myself.  But I will find my way.  And it will all be absolutely worth it.

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