How We Love

14 Feb

Today is Valentines day, and the point of Valentine’s day is love. I feel loved today, and it makes me think of what it means to love.

Before we went off to highschool, we had a  Theology class (I think we called it “Religion” then) which we spent entirely on discussing the differences between crushes, lust, and love. Love was a lot of things according to the paper we got. I was like that bible verse (1 Corinthians 13:4) “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud…” So I thought to myself  “Have I ever loved?” and I figured probably not. I was not patient, I was not kind. I was not all of these things. I wanted to be these things, but I was not. Yet people made me happy. They filled my days with hope and joy, and when they were sick I was worried and wanted to make them soup so that they would not be sick anymore. So maybe I was some of these things. And did I love them? Of course I did.

It’s funny the way I held unto that word like I was in charge of it. I thought there were all kinds of things I had to do before I could say love. But now I realize that love is not something that is limited, and only to be handed out to a very few people in your whole life. Now I realize that the number of people who I have loved is not only the (maybe seven) people who make me feel wonderful or terrible or who made me a radically different person. The number of people who I have loved is innumerable, upward of maybe hundreds.

I loved my mom, my dad, my brother. I loved my first cat and the neighbor who gave me a little porcelain box to put all my jewelry in. I loved my best friend in preschool, and my best friend in third grade, and I love my best friend now. I love the boy in my math class who fixes my calculator and is extra nice about it even though he doesn’t have to be. I love my history teacher and my Algebra teacher, and all the people in theater who were nice to me and made me feel like I belonged. I love chocolate, grapefruit, The Arcade Fire, and going for runs on Tuesday afternoon. I love the little girl I babysit across the street, and I know because I want her to be safe and I want her to be happy, but I also know because she makes me happy. I love all these things because they make me glad to wake up every morning, because the give life meaning, because they’re a warm light in the middle of winter.

It’s not that 1 Corinthians is wrong at all. It’s a beautiful instruction on how to love the ‘right way’, so to speak. I want very badly to be able to love like that. It would make me happy to give love to anybody in that way. And yet when I can’t love like that, it doesn’t mean that I don’t love. That’s why I get frustrated when people tease  middle schoolers or high schoolers for saying that they love their boyfriends/girlfriends. So maybe they are immature, and selfish, and blablabla. And of course there’s no excuse for being obnoxious on social media sites. But if that person makes them happy, let them say they love each other! We can only hope that they’re learning about how to love each other in an honorable way.

I used to think that using the word ‘love’ for silly inconsequential things would make it lose its meaning. I thought it ought to be reserved for the time when you just want to do what’s best for another person, and you need a way to tell them this. But now I realize that there are so many way to tell them this. You can choose to do what’s best for them, or listen when they need you or (like Liz Lemon) buy them Thai food. There are always ways to show how deeply you love someone; how fully and how selflessly. But now I realize that it’s important also to understand your love for the people who aren’t quite this. The people who (despite the fact that you only answer about half of the lust/love questions on the love side) make you happy. Love doesn’t need to be a tiny water bottle with only a few people who can take a sip. Love can be a fountain.

So today is Valentines day. Maybe you were feeling sad because you didn’t think you had anyone to love. Only you do. The people to love are all around you. They brighten your day, and make you smile. So many people are sad on Valentines day, and now I only wonder; why? On a day devoted to flowers, candy and love, why would you be sad?

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