There are some basic truths to life: Everybody will get blisters. Love is overrated.
No, this is better: Pimples are inevitable. Love hurts.
Or, how about this one: All will have bad hair days. Love sucks.
And then the ultimate: The blisters, the pimples and the bad hair days come and go, but love lasts forever.
Over the many years I have lived, I have loved much. I have loved pets and people the most. But I have also loved a knitted cardigan, a ragdoll with matted hair and a cozy corner of my living room.
Right now I love avocados, the dog we used to have, to run, and to feel the cold air playing on my face after ascending a mountain top. I love the smell of rosemary and of cinnamon. I love the sound of children giggling.
The avocado love is the kind of love that doesn’t hurt. Neither does the love of rosemary. It only enriches.
There is a love that transforms and turns us into better people. It is the kind of love that fills us with joy the way the espresso maker fills the coffee cup. The kind that makes us stretch our bodies towards the light, the way the seeds I planted recently are stretching their limber bodies towards the sun. Sometimes I have seen this in children loving their parents so much they want to become them (like my kids imitating my laugh or the way I yelled when I got mad.) More often I see it when two people care about each other very much. It is the kind of love Martin Heidegger described so beautifully:
“Why is love rich beyond all other possible human experiences and a sweet burden to those seized in its grasp? Because we become what we love and yet remain ourselves. Then we want to thank the beloved, but find nothing that suffices.
We can only thank with our selves. Love transforms gratitude into loyalty to ourselves and unconditional faith in the other. That is how love intensifies its innermost secret.”
So if it makes me better, then why does it also hurt? It is not very difficult to answer. The people we love, great as they may be, are not perfect. They will say things that sting, they will leave their messes on your floor, they will forget your birthday and not notice your haircut. They will do worse things. They will walk away from you, they may not return your calls, and they may not even put smiley faces on the SMSes they send you. They will get irritated with you and some will even choose other people over you.
The people I love are flawed, like I am flawed. It is simply not fair to think of them as the fulfilment of all my dreams, longings, desires and wildest adventures. No mortal can fill my expectations and need for a thousand million things. My satisfaction must be found in the assurance I have of my own value. My pleasure comes from being with people I love, of course. But I cannot always count on them being pleasurable. So when they are not, I must decide that that is OK. I can still choose happiness.
Needing to be loved is tiring. Loving, on the other hand is life-giving. We become what we love, but remain ourselves. And if I may be as bold as to add my own thoughts to the fine thoughts of Heidegger, I would add: Love gives. It can never take. Receive, yes, but not take.
So there you have it. Love. So easy to love, we think. Until we understand that love is a verb. Then it dawns on us that loving means cleaning the coffee cups, even though you did it yesterday too. It may mean sharing the last sandwich even though you are still hungry. It may mean getting off of Facebook to listen to a story as interesting as genealogy of the kings of France. It may mean sharing the blanket, even though you feel cold.