At this moment, Ray LaMontagne is blaring through my speakers singing “Still don’t know what love is.” Do any of us? It seems like we all have these different ideas about love. Yet the theme of love is one of the most popular in our culture. We seek love in so many ways, whether it’s the love of our parents, the love of our children, the love of a partner, the love of friends. It’s always love. We’re so invested in the idea of love that we created a holiday specifically celebrating it. Even though most of us have this general concept of what love looks like, it seems most of us have our own ideas. Getting those to match up with others can be one of the biggest challenges we face in life.
: a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person
: attraction that includes sexual desire : the strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship
: a person you love in a romantic way
First let’s talk about unconditional love. This is supposed to be a very specific kind of love reserved for our children, pets, and perhaps greater beings we might believe in. In this idea, all other love is set to conditioning. I don’t care for this belief system. Do I love my kids unconditionally? Yes, but I love my husband unconditionally too. I love my parents unconditionally. I love my friends unconditionally. What I’m getting at here is that I don’t set conditions on love…period. No matter who it’s towards. This brings me to my next point.
LOVE IS AN EMOTION, NOT AN ACTION. This is where we’re so confused! Remember that definition above? “A feeling of strong or constant affection for a person.” Feelings are feelings. Actions are actions. That feeling can be an indicator in romantic love that we want to go to the next level. I’ll leave the chemical releases that happen when we feel love to the smarty pants scientists, but just know that you aren’t crazy for feeling all gooey and excited when someone is seriously floating your boat. We’re human beings evolved to share those chemical bonds so that we may procreate and keep the humans happening for a long time. While it really is just that simple on a cellular level, our very busy brains make it all so complicated. Why else would there be so many Jennifer Aniston Rom-Coms and Ryan Gosling memes?
Childhood conditioning and the relationships we have early in life can define our adult belief system about love. Perhaps that’s where we begin to put conditions on it and believe that love is only defined by action. Because of how we’re raised and what we see in movies and television, we have ideas about what love should look like in our culture. But what if we took love as an actionable item off the table and we allowed ourselves to just feel love? To just really truly feel it and have no attachment to any behaviors associated with it? Especially feeling it without needing others to return the feeling.
When I learned what love was, it wasn’t because I got married or gave birth to my daughters. It was when I learned to love myself. I don’t believe you have to love yourself to experience the feeling of love for someone else. However once I did start loving myself, my ability to feel love for others grew exponentially. I had a new awareness about how love felt. There are times when I feel love for multitudes of different people in a day. Besides feeling it for those closest to me in life, I might feel it for someone I’ve just met. Like the cashier at Trader Joe’s who finds me the gluten-free pizzas in the back for my daughter’s sleepover. Just like you might feel anger for the guy who cuts you off in traffic or fear towards the person you feel is following you too closely while you’re running or excitement towards the girl who gave you the eye at the gym. Why do we get so hung up on one emotion like love but feel so many other emotions rather freely? The reason is because we’ve attached action to love instead of just letting it be a feeling.
Perhaps we could take a step back from making this idea of love be an action. Imagine a world where we just feel love and we don’t have walls around us about that feeling. Forget that you’ve been hurt in past relationships. Stop protecting yourself by pushing that feeling away. Let go of the belief that you don’t deserve to feel love because of your behavior. Allow yourself to feel love. Let go of control, let it in, do nothing, and just feel it.