If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Saturday, July 12, 2008

On Love

I've been reading Insane Mama's and Tentcamper's story of how they met and fell in love. [BTW I'm a total story-whore and these two do stories right. They not only include cliffhangers but often each tell their version of the same story, something I love. Now if only one of their 6 children would start a blog, they could have a whole Rashoman thing going--but I digress). I've also been missing my love, b, and (as you well know) preparing to miss Boy, who I love too much to be good for either of us. So I've been thinking a lot about love.

Now let me get all academic on you and start off with a definition and some references. I started studying love at an early age. I think I was 12 or 13 when I first read The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm. I enjoyed it and learned a bit but couldn't completely comprehend the topic at that point in my life. Later I read bell hook's All About Love. In search for an understanding of love, she felt it important to find a suitable definition and she found it in M. Scott Peck's book, A Road Less Traveled (which is similar to Erich Fromm's definition - proving we end up in the same place no matter where we start). According to Peck, love is "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." hooks goes on to discuss the importance of not confusing affection and/or cathexis (investment of feeling and emotion in another) with love. Instead she claims "to truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients--care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication."

Now I grew up in a family that is probably far too normal in its dysfunction but I was not deprived of affection. I certainly felt that I loved my family. And as I grew, I felt I loved a few very close friends and then I thought I had fallen madly in love with my soul-mate, my ex-husband. (There was a ton of cathexis going on in that relationship.) But it was when Boy showed up that I learned how to love--as defined by Peck and hooks. Now I know all new mothers have their world's rocked by the birth of their child and their entry into the role of motherhood. However, for those of us who have never loved before it is both beautiful and upsetting. For me it was scary and overwhelming and I had no idea what to do with it. So I did what I always do, read and studied and researched the phenomenon while I was living it until I could name it and know it as true for me.

Unfortunately learning to truly love makes you look at your other relationships and realize--no not so much. And so began my long long long road to divorce. Post divorce I met b. Now learning to love through Boy did not teach me how to be loved. The child-parent relationship is inherently an imbalance of power and children need to love their parents. So I could accept his love but not learn from it. b taught me how to be loved, which is ironic since for the first year of our relationship he was beating himself up over his inability to love me. But, as hooks points out, love is actions and b's actions have always been loving.

I think I realized I was in love with him on our first vacation together. During a walk on a beach the beginnings of poem got stuck in my head. When we headed back to the car I asked for a few minutes to jot them down in my notebook and explained that I often thought of poems but never seemed to have the space in my life to actually write them. b just looked at me and said "we'll have to make that space." It was a moment I'm sure he doesn't remember but up until that point I had always felt it was my job to make space for others and find my space in what was leftover. It never occurred to me that someone else would help me make my own space.

So b will be home on Monday and next month Boy will be off to college. Together we'll give Boy the space he needs to leave and we'll re-create our own space as a couple. It is the cathexis that makes love both exquisite and painful but it is the "will to nurture one's own and another's spiritual growth" that makes it endure.

Who taught you how to love? to be loved?


Nit said...

Awww....this story made me smile!

I think that my parents taught me how to be loved...they have always done it unconditionally. And of course my husband followed up with a few lesssons of his own.

I thought I knew how to love a long time ago, but don't think I really 'got it' until three years ago. Sad, I wasted 29 years of my life 'fronting'!

I can't wait to experience the love of a child though...I am sure it will be mind-blowing!

And Boy is going to miss you just as much as you miss him already!

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder said...

This is an awesome topic. I used to think my parents taught me how to love "with strings." And my grandmother taught me how to love unconditionally. But now I think it's just the child/parent relationship that biased me to think that way. I always felt deep love from my parents, but it was different. I felt like I was a disappointment to them. (Not now, thankfully).

I've heard that it's easier to be a grandmother, but I don't know. Maybe it was easier for her to think I was perfect and beautiful, because she didn't have to put up with my silly crap every day.

Deb said...

wow brig - that was poignant.
i'm not really sure i can say who taught me to love without some long and in depth thought, but i will think on it. i can say i had a very tumultuous (sp?) relationship with my mom when growing up and i don't feel that i learned love from her. that was hard to say, but i just dont think i did. she was not nurturing (she was an alcoholic). i had to have learned it somewhere though cause I am a nurturer and i do love. hmmmm. its definitely something to ponder.

glad b is home and i promise that although it will be hard when Boy leaves, it does get better. cross my heart promise. :)