Saturday, October 9, 2010

Long Term Love

A while back, when my friend Jordan, twenty-five today, was in the throes of a torturous relationship, we discussed the subject of love. What it was, what it wasn’t, what it looked like, what it didn’t.

“What do you think long-term love really means?” asked Jordan in one of those conversations.

For me, it was like wading into the middle of an ocean and remembering how to dog-paddle to offer perspective on this; you know that love is something you do and may do well, but can’t say why. You don’t remember learning how to love, and you can’t tell someone else how to do it. Trying to describe love is like telling someone over the phone how to walk.  He asked me to write about it Someday.

Well, my friend. It’s still only a dog-paddle, but here goes:

Love – real love – can’t be anything but long term in my humble opinion, because unlike lust, which is a function of attraction, love is a function of time – it can’t happen without it. Love isn’t born. It steeps. It becomes. The way we transition into who we are, so does love transition away from what it was in its younger period – lust, dependence, need, possessiveness, validation, passion – into what can be likened to a relationship with life itself.

Yes, even I had to read that again but it makes sense. Love is not a way of being with someone. Love is a way of enriching your own life, by enriching someone else’s. Love is wanting to know what makes someone who they are, finding out, and then believing in it with all your heart, because your own heart is who pointed them out to begin with. People find each other, fall in pre-love and make plans for you-know-what, while their hearts circle each other and say “not so fast.”

First, as I’ve already pointed out, before it is love it is the conditional, highly circumstantial, frequently confused, but never interchangeable experience of attraction when you are drawn – sometimes so powerfully and irresistibly that your respiratory system has to bang on the ceiling with a broom handle– to the outer Everythingness of someone; the look of them, or the way they walk into a room or make eye contact with others, or act around the elderly, or whatever. It is an experience you can see, smell, hear, touch, feel, and respond to for so long, you feel betrayed when it turns to you, thanks you for the party, and disappears, leaving only a void. If it’s love that keeps you enjoined, it’s barely noticeable when age and time change something about who you care for, much less is it a dealbreaker. Love doesn’t go off in a huff. Love turns a page of the newpaper and says, “I could really go for Lobster Thermidor tonight, doesn’t that sound good?”

Love isn’t conditional and it takes a long time for that to be true of even the deepest unions. It doesn’t vanish when looks fade, or when scales climb, or when jobs get lost because love is about your heightened respect for another person’s individuality without being forced to give up your own. Life can be crappy, can seem hopeless and endless and disappointing for one of you and sometimes the other must leave to remain whole . A good, strong pre-love may sigh and be willing to wait it out. But love helps you find your raincoat so you can walk into the storm at the side of your "other." You know you might both get wet, but you also know you'll dry out in time. Love does not create voids, love fills them.

Love doesn’t happen overnight, it doesn’t happen temporarily, and it doesn’t happen because we ask it to. But there are signs you’re dealing with someone whose heart talks the language of your own; someone who views life as you do, who understands who they are and doesn’t need you to complete them, who treats others with the respect, kindness and gentleness that you do. Cultivating love, celebrating it with such a person are both a matter of choice. But love is as determined as it is deliberate. If you try to make it leave, it says “You and what army?”

But the most wonderful thing about love, and because it’s your birthday Jordan, I’ll call it long-term love, is that as it transitions from the could-go-either-way period, to the place in your heart where it puts its bags down, it fills you not with worry, or fear, but with trust. For a little while, you may be aware that you’ve begun this slow, occasionally mystifying, sometimes painful, often joyful trip into your own heart. But then, with some surprise you’ll realize you’re far from where you started. You will look around, you will not see how you got there, you will not see the way back. But you’ll realize that only from there can you have the best view of someone else's heart.  Dear Jordan, when that happens, you will never want to leave.

With wishes for your happiest of birthdays, and with long term love,

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