I am sure I speak on behalf of many when I say that I was nourished on a steady diet of Love. Every medium big or small professed this emotion on blaring speakers. My parents spoke of love in the family; similarly, teachers spoke of love among friends. My country taught me love among fellow citizens and our universe taught me to love everything in it.
I was seriously impressed by this emotion, especially because Art spoke of it in a scintillating fashion. Cinema, books, drama, you name it and I have consumed it with a lot of pleasure. Naturally, I started to imagine it as a reality of life in exactly those ways. I had an ideal notion of love. I compared not just romantic but every relationship of mine against this definition.
I expected everyone to act according to my definition, but of course, nobody did. Consequently, I lashed out at them with words like – You are not a good mother, or, you are an awful friend; and even worse, you are a miserable lover. Ahhhh… It still hurts when I say it. Gentle Reader, I am deeply ashamed.
I felt miserable myself because you can’t clap with one hand so I am just as guilty. But it is difficult to admit your own fault, hence I blamed them instead. This consumed several years of my life. I lost friends and even family on account of this.
As I grew up, I finally questioned my own part in my misery. It was extensive gentle Reader, I had made several mistakes; in some situations, it was totally my fault. Yet, I refused to admit that I could be such an awful human being.
So I began my research through the leaves of my diary and I noticed that I had thoroughly misunderstood the movies I watched and the songs I heard. I watched them all again and saw that they never spoke of a love not deserved. The songs were written for people who were indeed exceptional.
So why did I expect others to change?
When I watched a movie or read a book about love – I always fell in love with the lover, not the loved. I was obsessed with the lover’s character and failed to see that if someone of value in my eyes loves somebody with a passion I desire, then I should instead be more fascinated by the object of this character’s love.
I didn’t change myself, but I did expect someone to love me like that.
What a hypocrite! I know!
I completely ignored the fact that the unconditional love was professed to a virtuous character; someone with admirable traits. So why did I not evolve myself? Why did I expect someone to love me like that even though I was definitely not perfect?
I recently found out that I am not the only victim to this human characteristic. We are psychologically wired to deflect blame as an instinctual response. So all I need to do is think a bit harder about this emotion that I so desperately desire.
The first few things I found out about Love totally shifted my definition of it. I had parsed that syllable incorrectly. Love, as defined by the dictionary, is – (as a noun) a strong feeling of affection/ a great interest and pleasure in something, and (as a verb) feel deep affection or sexual love for (someone).
So you see?
It is a feeling in all the definitions, which means I can experience love only when I feel it. If someone loves me but I don’t feel love for them, it isn’t love to me but it is love to them. So now I came to terms with all the people who failed to love me back and I also forgave myself for not loving those who loved me.
With that burden unloaded,
I had time to develop my own definition of love and this time it was the definition I would live by, not expect for someone else to embody.
I read books about friendship, romantic love, filial affection, camaraderie, etc. and learnt that the more wonderful the character, the more I liked them, the more they commanded my respect and the more attached I felt to them.
If I could feel this emotion for a person long dead then, of course, they had values I admired. I started to look at the people around me with this same affection and I noticed that almost everyone envelops at least one value I find worthy of love. Some are polite, some are rebellious, some are kind, and some are clever.
I saw that everyone has something admirable. The choice was which kind of admirable do I desire most.
My mother once advised me, “Beta, the one kind to everyone is the one you must marry.”
What she meant by this is – someone who is kind to everyone will likely not be unkind to you. If they are kind to only a few, then they are more likely to someday be unkind to you.
Obviously, I had to try this out because my Mother also warned, “Don’t believe anything that someone tells you to, accept only what you have learnt on your own.”
So began My Experiment of Love.
I worked on myself alongside my search for the perfect one. I consciously practised every virtue that I admired and desired in someone else – in the spirit of like attracts like.
I had moderate success and guess what? – I finally experienced what it means to be loved for who I am.
Then the relationships began to mature and I realized that unconditional love means to love under any conditions, LOL. How wrong had I been! I had imagined that I was meant to love even if they were assholes but it actually means that I would love them when we are having a tough time, not when they are giving me a tough time.
I still giggle when I read the younger me go on and on about unconditional love. This girl was really silly.
Anyway, so yeah, now I was looking for what my Mom told me to look for. She is my Mother after all, who could know me better than the person I came out of?
And she is right, there is some wisdom in the old adage, ‘Mother knows best’.
My criteria for a partner was extrinsic, this time I was looking for a human being with a cultivated soul, one whose first instinct is kindness. It is not easy to be kind, as we all know. Petulant outbursts in a queue are indeed almost as common as queues.
So I was looking for the Zen dude. And he did appear. I married him. And we both realize every day that we are different, and the more different we are the more similar we become.
I learnt that he is a fabulous person and like all fabulous people he has his quirks. I now admire him for his flaws, they are integral to him. The flaws that bother me, we work on by communicating. Sometimes I find out that the reason for the quirk is adorable and I don’t hate them anymore. Other times he realizes that it is difficult for me to deal with and he makes amends.
There is a reason why our brain evolved to have a language centre that comprises 76% of the entire organ.
We depend on our communication skills for our very survival. History explains that every disaster was a consequence of miscommunication/misunderstanding.
With all this new information about love, it was difficult to put this emotion in so small a bracket as romantic love. I felt love for everyone I admired because you love what you admire – whether it is a task or an object or another entity. You feel affection for something or someone and that is the actual syntactic meaning of the word.
Maria Popova compiled Erich Fromm’s very rational interpretation of love on her blog. I relate to it word for word.