Who doesn’t love love?
It’s been awhile since I was “in love,” to be honest. But I’ve dabbled in falling in love–in catching those first heady feelings that show up after a few dates that don’t go sideways, or that aren’t spent intentionally ignoring the red flags that so often show up in the periphery.
And oh my gosh does it feel good!
This isn’t love, love, certainly, or at least not the kind that would have you make bold commitments or pronouncements. This isn’t the kind of love that you’d call up on your hardest day, or the kind that sits with you through an ugly cry. This isn’t love born of time, trust and certainty, and it’s not the kind of love that you’re even ready talk about; you know it’s probably fleeting and so this is the kind of love that doesn’t get a name. It’s the kind we whisper about only to ourselves; the kind we tuck in at night, and wake up smiling about in the morning.
Is there another word for this? We could call it a “crush” but we’re grown ups now. Is it OK to call this a kind of love, too?
Surely, we can’t call what this is “love,” not when I use that same word to describe how I feel about my children. The love I feel for them is endless and life altering. The love I feel for them is heart-making and heartbreaking and so intense it’s terrifying. It’s the kind that keeps me up at night, that makes me wring my hands; it’s the kind that grounds me, makes me who I am and keeps me striving to do better, be better and want more.
Surely what I’ve been dabbling in lately is not love. Not as defined by those terms. The kind of love that I’ve been courting is fun and light. It’s smooth and it sparkles. It gives me funny stories to tell my friends over lunch, it gives me new experiences and new perspectives. And it doesn’t take much in return.
While we use the word “love” to describe the thunder-crackling moment in a movie that confirms a deep romantic connection, we also use it liberally. I love cheese, for example. And fresh pineapple. I love the satisfying “pop” of pulling a carrot out of the garden, or the way it feels to sink your hands into a bucket of bird seed.
But I also love connection. I’m hardwired for it, as most of us are.
And even these small bits of love are terrifying.
They’re not scary because they might ruin you, but because they expose you. You’re out there. You’re living. You’re trying. You’re going to screw up and overthink and second guess. You’re going to be not enough for some folks and too much for others. You’re going to get passed over and passed by just like any brave adventurer.
But it’s addictive, this bravery. The more you risk, the more you want to keep risking. The more you introduce yourself to others, the more you learn about yourself–about who you are, what you want, what you like and what you have absolutely zero interest in: Nope. No sir. Hard pass.
Staying home and staying safe suddenly feels boring. Where’s the story in that?
Love. We reserve this word and gift it to those who have walked through hoops and jumped over obstacles with us and for us.
But I love the process of love and loving. I love the learning that comes with it. The knowing and the failing. I even love the short love stories; the places your imagination jumps to, the futures that will never take shape but are nice to think about for a brief fantastical moment all the same.
And what I love most about this love is when you step out and step forward onto a stone that’s unsteady due to distance or disconnection or just plain old bad timing, there are familiar loving hands that reach out to grab you before (and sometimes moments after) you fall in the muck and get all wet and weedy.
And what do we call that act? That act of saving you from a face plant, or from behaving like too much of an idiot?
We call that love, too.
It’s our word, and it’s free to use. Whether we tuck it in close, say it too soon or too loudly, give it away too early or hang on until it’s too late, it’s really just a string of four letters that together wouldn’t even make a Wordle.
Four terrifying, amazing, loaded letters.