"...and I will tell you who you are."
That is the rest of the quote to the title of this entry. You can tell a lot about who a person is in looking at who and what they treasure deeply and think highly of. However, that isn't the topic of this post. The focus of this entry is on love. I know. Several of you just rolled your eyes cynically and thought, ugh, I am all set. With Valentines Day just around the corner, I am trying to escape this puke worthy invasion of all things heart-and-romance-related. Not read more about it. Have I shocked you with my mind reading abilities? Hold on just a second though. I am not talking solely of romantic love (though yes, that will be part of this article). There is much more to this article than that. If you invest the seven to ten minutes in reading this, you will likely be glad you did.
If you are willing to open up the context in how you view and define "loves of your life," you may see that in fact, your path thus far has been far richer than you thought. Lets go for a wander down the lane of love memories and life snapshots, shall we? I will show you what I mean.
Your first best friend. An important relationship to be sure. A defining one. The boy or girl with whom you first felt that immediate recognition and click. You went forward to build a deep bond between the two of you, playing together for hours every chance you got. The two of you might have jump roped for hours, or played cowboys and indians out in the woods until realizing hours had passed when the feeling of your empty stomach finally rumbled for dinner. You snuck junk food from the pantry in their their house or yours, devouring it together, gleeful grins. You looked forward to seeing each other every day in school and probably on weekends as well. You never imagined your life without this friend in it, your partner in crime. You likely got into mischief together. In fact, I know you did. I bet these are some of your favorite stories to retell nowadays. Silly arguments broke out between the two of you sometimes, which at the time felt serious and huge. You admired and looked up to them, all while they annoyed the crap out of you equally as often.
What you longed to be when you grew up. A veterinarian. A painter. An author. A magician. A Japanese sous chef (yes, little sister, that is a nod to you). This was one of the first honest and true wishes of your life. Before society told you there were "better" jobs which would garner you a heftier stack of dough (which you were told was of top priority) or earn you more respect from the masses.
Both of these are first loves of a different sort. But they are love just the same.
How about the activities and passions that, as a child, resulted in you forgetting to eat or use the bathroom. Youd begin in the early afternoon and look up with shock to see that the light outside your bedroom windows had gone dark. Evening had fallen, the hours having slipped past as you lost yourself. What was this activity or topic of interest for you? We all had one, if not a handful of these cherished activities. (For me, it was writing- surprise, surprise). And chances are, it was not something you imagined would impress others or someday increase your social standing. I am willing to bet that instead, this was something which made your heart alight purely for the sake that you loved it.
This is first passion, which is closely connected with love.
How about your first kiss. A frequently romanticitzed and touched upon milestone of life, idolized in literature, music, movies, etc. There is good reason for that idolization though. Because the first kiss is memorable, purely on the basis of it being the first. Its likely that part of you thought maybe you loved him or her, within the hold of your puppy love crush. So sweet, wasnt it?
Or, the first boy or girl you had a genuine, knee shaking crush on. The day your eyes scanned the playground to discover that suddenly, not all kids of the opposite gender were "disgusting." That instead, there was one who caught and held your attention, though for reasons you couldn't possibly begin to explain. That boy with the smattering of freckles across his nose, the perfect sprinkling of constellation across his face. His hair a shaggy mess of curls that seemed newly appealing. The girl with a slight gap between her two front teeth, her smile causing your insides to tickle ever so slightly whenever she looked your way. The way she always wore the same necklace and carried a different book in her hand, making her seem mysterious and worldly to your young mind as you watched from afar. What did the necklace mean to her? Had she read every book in the universe?
And then comes the big first love. This is the game changer. The one that breaks you open inside and shakes you up entirely. This is the love that changes the trajectory of your emotional life forever. After having a relationship with this person, you will never be the same again. They induce growth inside of you that you hadn't known possible prior to this relationship. They caused feelings to stir inside of you which you hadn't known existed until you felt them.
There will also be one person that, for everyone, they never fully get over. For many people, this is that same person. The big first love. For others, it isnt. Its a subsequent love. Either way though, the one you never fully get over? Yes, you move forward and fall in love with others. You will be happy and fulfilled in other relationships, absolutely. By "never fully getting over," I dont mean to say that this is something that holds you back from happiness or other healthy relationships. It can be a hinderance, but it doesnt have to be. And if handled in the right way, it shouldnt be. Most of the time, we move forward quite happily. However, the person you never fully get over is the one that, when stumbling across old photos of them, still has the power to short circuit your heart for a moment. This is the person that, when you receive a phone call or email from, your breath grows shallow and a flood of memories ushers itself in. They are the one that, if you choose to fall back into the memories for a few moments, you can still remember the strength of how you felt for them because you can feel a semblance of it shimmering on the edge of your heart as you reminisce. Many people wish to demonize this experience, saying its a betrayal to your current partner or that it holds you back. We are taught to erase and eradicate all traces of any prior loves. I dont agree with this, nor do I think its possible. When you truly loved someone, a part of your heart always will. That is what real love is. You can still feel love and nostalgia for someone who was of paramount importance in your life (because how could you not? People like this dont come along very often), while allowing yourself to move forward and create love and new relationships with others.
Now, the loves that come after this one are equally as important. These are the loves that continue to shape you. The ones that continue the molding of which the first love started. The ones that, hopefully you chose more mindfully than the first (which was all lust, passion, inexperience and youthful impulsiveness. But oh, wasn't it wonderful?). These are the loves that will continue to induce further growth within you, which the first love hopefully set in motion. Each love is important. Each love is different. All loves deserve to be remembered, both for the lessons they offered, for the mistakes we made and learned from, and finally, just for the romance and joy we experienced with that person. These are all some of the most awe inspiring and beautiful aspects of life.
And what about the friendships that surprise you and go deeper than you ever fathomed? These are usually the ones you least expected. They may even be people that at first, you wrote off or assumed they were not your type. But the friends with whom you grow especially close, the ones to whom you feel comfortable revealing your soul, the ones who you can trust and the ones with whom you can laugh hysterically with and talk to for hours, these are deep loves. And they are just as life changing and important as the big romantic loves. The only difference is minus the romance. Romance aside, the other emotions and weight of these relationships are the same.
How about the cat, dog or horse you love(d)? Or maybe for some, it was/is a guinea pig, hamster or lizard. People who have never had pets might scoff. "Its just an animal," they might say dismissively. It isn't just an animal though. For those who have owned and loved a pet, they know the truth of these words. You can love your pet just as much as you can love a friend or family member. Its a different kind of love, but is similar in strength. Beloved pets are companions, family members, silent supports and comforts when we need them. They can be a source of great laughter and joy, providing us with tons of silly stories to regal our likely bored friends with over and over again ;-)
What about the accomplishing of huge goals and the surmounting of feats that you didn't think were possible? Running a marathon? Picking up and moving to a brand new state or country in which you knew no one? Changing careers smack dab in the middle of your life? Embarking on the adventure of having a child? Making a huge, life changing sacrifice for someone you love?
All of these...you guessed it...circle back around to love. Self love and bravery. Deep, resounding love for someone else. This can be romantic, but just as often, it isnt.
The first awe-inspiring experience (and subsequent ones) you had (and have had). Seeing a particular city or famous site in person of which you had long imagined and yearned to see. Maybe the hulking Colosseum or the sky over Tuscany painted in smokey pinks, navy and amber as the sun sets behind the Ponte Vecchio bridge. Or the time you first sampled crepes from a street vendor in Paris, the City of Light which you had dreamed of visiting all through your teens, and now you are finally standing amidst the city bustle. Succeeding in accesnding the top of a particularly high mountain, the top shrouded in mist, the world laid out in miniature below you. Snorkling the carribeann blue waters of somewhere tropical, fish in vivid arrays darting past you in the otherwise silent world of underneath the water.
All of these moments spark something in your heart which, if you allow it to, can then fill and overflow. While this isnt "love" so to speak, its an emotional similar in intensity and importance.
Consider the gestures that maybe you do not reflect on as much as you could...
-the friend who brings you back a small token from their time away on vacation
-the friend/family member/loved one who texts or emails you, just to say they are thinking of you
-the surprise hand written card or card package you receive in the mail
-come moving day, the friend(s) or loved ones who sacrifice their own time to help you move
-the people close to you who take time out of their life to read or look over your work
-the loved ones who organize a surprise party in your honor
-the travel adventures (and resulting memories) you take with close friends or loved ones
-Getting back in touch with someone to whom you fell out of touch with, but which you always regretted losing the connection with
-the friends who are always there when they say theyll be
-the friend or loved one who actually takes the time and effort to listen, riveted, with genuine attention and full interest (no smart phone in sight)
-the people you care about who show, via their actions, that you matter to them
All of these, and more (the list can go on and on and on) are expressions of love.
So for those of you on this Valentines Day who are wallowing in self pity and saying to yourself, "I am single so I hate Valentines Day. I am totally alone. This sucks." Ask yourself the question again but from a different vantage point. "What are all the forms of love I have in my life?" And even more importantly, "how do I give my love to others, in search of nothing in return."
I am willing to bet your answer(s) with regards to you life (and its supposed lack of love) might look quite different.
Some additional questions for your own insight and reflection:
1. Who are five people in your life whom you love deeply? Why are they important to you?
2. Name three friends in your life whom cannot imagine not knowing, who have affected your life in important and deep ways.
3. What are two hobbies or interests that fill you with joy, that make time fall away, that you look forward to with excitement and anticipation.
4. Think back on your romantic loves. A vast majority of romantic relationships will end. This doesn't invalidate what they were while we were in them. Instead, we can choose to reflect on the good we took from them with joy, wonder and thankfulness, while moving forward into growth and better fitting relationships. So, with that said, reflect on the special, romantic experiences of your life thus far. I imagine you have at least a handful of these moments, maybe all with the same person or with different people.
5. Knowing what you know now about love, friendship and relationships, consider what you might do differently going forward in order to make your relationships more the type that you would consider even deeper, closely connected and healthier. What might be three important lessons you have learned and can implement going forward to make your relationships, both romantic and not, more successful?
6. What places have you visited and thus, experiences you had within those places, that remain with you? That bring a rush of joy and awe to your mind whenever you conjure up these memories.