For lack of time it has been several weeks since my last post, and for that I apologize. Today, however, I sit in my room with a blizzard whiting out the world on the other side of my window and find myself pondering three words: I love you. It may be fitting with Valentine’s Day on our doorstep – a holiday for which I, admittedly, grow a little more disdain for each year that I am forced to stay inside and examine my flaws.
I’m sure that I’m not the only one you can find who will say that these words have lost their meaning. I have always been a firm believer in telling someone that you love them, but only if you are speaking honestly and not hoping for the allowance of sex or money. This concept – loving someone honestly – seems to be a rare find anymore. People say “I love you” because they think they are supposed to, because they want something, to make someone happy, etc., and because of this the purest and most innocent definition of love has been somewhat lost to our generation. I have spent a lot of time the past several years trying to understand what love really means, and here is what I have come to believe:
There are two kinds of love. The first kind is one that I don’t actually think is lost on us, but I want to talk about it anyway. It is the unconditional affection you feel toward someone close to you: a parent, a sibling, a friend, the guy who brings you your morning coffee, whoever. This kind of love lacks desire, but it is just as important as the second kind of love that I will talk about later. This kind of love is a basic human right, one that I hope everyone has in their life. It is caring and being cared for, for no other reason than wanting to. Is is getting into a huge fight and knowing that at the end of it you will still be the same people you were before, and for better or worse you will always be there for each other.
This kind of love is one that I took for granted until I was 20 years old. I had believed in telling the people you loved that you love them at this point, but every time I tried to it felt forced and awkward even though I meant it because I wasn’t used to expressing myself in that way (I’m much more open with my emotions now than I used to be, there was a time that I was so stubborn I even annoyed myself). But there was one night, the night before my mother passed away. I went into the back room to sit with her for a few minutes before going to bed. I held her hand carefully, because it felt so frail and weak, and sat in silence as she rambled things I didn’t understand. Her mind was gone then. It had been a few weeks since she had said anything coherent and I wasn’t even sure that she could understand us. When my dad came back into the room I stood to leave, but not before quietly saying to my mom “I love you.” Without hesitation my mom replied, “I love you, too.” That was the moment I understood the strength of this kind of love. My mother was gone at that point, we all knew it, but she still had it in her to understand those words. The next morning I was woken up to my dad wrapping his arms around me in tears, apologizing and saying that mom had passed. My mind shut off, I was uncomprehending, and after he left I jumped out of bed and ran to my mom’s room to see for myself. I stood there lifeless and pale, not thinking or feeling anything, and only thanking God that the last words we had ever said to each other were those. My mother drove me crazy, as I’m sure I did to her. We argued and fought like any mother and daughter would, but when it came down to it she was still one of my best friends. I would give anything to talk to her one more time, but at the same time I don’t want to take away that last moment we had when I said “I love you” and I really meant it.
The second kind of love is the one we all dream of being able to share in – the intense passion that causes you to look at someone so flawed and human and see nothing but absolute perfection. Years ago I thought I understood this love, but now I know that it is something I am still discovering. I don’t know much about it, but I can tell you in its most innocent form it requires nothing more than the desire to be near the person. It is a kind of love that is terrifying, and at the same time completely wonderful. It is both debilitating and uplifting, greedy and unselfish, and confusing yet so very clear. All you want is the privilege of being a part of the person’s life. Not to change or shape them in any way, but to have them look on you every day with that smile that slows your heart. You crave their attention and desire to be their perfection as they are yours, but knowing it’s impossible because how could you live up to the standards of someone so amazing? This is the kind of love I fear our world is missing and is mistaken for infatuation. I’m not even sure if this definition of love is correct, since as I said I am still learning about it. I hope to one day understand what it is more completely.
Unfortunately I can’t go into much more detail about the second kind of love, because for the most part it is still a mystery to me. Instead I want to bring everything full circle and come back to the original point that I feel I may have strayed from a bit. Love, in any form, is the most important feeling you can experience. You grow and learn about yourself through love and through your love of others. Since it is so important, it is not something that you want to keep to yourself. If you love someone, honestly, tell them. I tell my family and my friends I love them and with my entire heart I mean it, because if today is my last day on Earth then I want to make sure they know.
Any and all feelings for the holiday aside, Happy Valentine’s Day. Make it a meaningful one this year 🙂