I have been in relationships where the only thing I was in love with was love.
I used to think that made me a romantic. And I am, you know – a romantic. It may seem antithetical to my daily behaviour, but I believe in love. I have faith in it.
As I get older; as I meet more people living traditionally ‘unconventional’ lives, my certainty that love contains an element of forever has wavered, but my hope that it does has not.
Old-fashioned love is my blind faith; my invisible sky lizard with magical powers of magicalness.
We all have our strange religions.
But I’ve realised as I’ve gotten older, that being in love with being in love is not a romantic gesture. As an idea, it has a certain sweet naivete, but there is nothing romantic about putting it into practice. Because I have stayed in relationships where the only thing I was in love with, was love.
It took me a long time to realise what that meant. I have struggled to separate the feeling of love from the act of being in love. Or perhaps not being in love, but being in a relationship - that’s where the difference lies. It took me a long time to realise that I can be in love without being in a relationship, and being in a relationship does not necessarily mean I am in love.
When I look back now, I see it.
It seems strange to me, so imbued as I am with critical reasoning, that I would fall into such a pattern. But my analytical self has always been at war with my romantic heart, and I suppose this is one more facet I will learn to embrace. Certainly the nature of love is nothing if not paradoxical.
I have fallen into love like a car crash; I have fallen into love like a bag of hammers. I have fallen into love like a baby bird, tentative and uncertain until gravity forgave my clumsy feathers and let me fly.
The hard part has been learning the difference.
I have often loved because it seemed like the right thing to do. Sometimes it was the first grind and fumble that dragged me to it. Sometimes it was the gaping need of her eyes. Fulfilment can be so addictive. I have attracted broken souls because I am adept at being the glue that holds the pieces together. But love isn’t peer pressure. At least, it shouldn’t be.
Eventually you’ll drown.
Being a person who has fallen in love with love is also strange to me because I am not a person who is fond of people. I do not instinctively like them. I have great faith in humanity; I have great faith in the collective species, but little in the human animal. I truly believe that a decent, intelligent, beautiful individual is rare in this world. There is so much life in living that the average person can’t help but be bent and blunted, or sharpened and collapsed by its weight; its sheer enormity.
I do not like people, and yet I have fallen into many who I might never have called ‘friends’.
A part of me understands the statistical probability of this. In being who and what I am; in being just a small percentage of the population, with such a small percentage available to me, it is understandable that I would be more prone to grasping whatever woman I could find.
But then, statistically speaking, I have also been very lucky. I have loved women who were electricity; spun sugar; the sharp taste of morning on my heart. This is an exploration of love and the choices I’ve made but it is by no means a bleak window. My love was often blind, but there were times I hit the mark so precisely, the very Earth stood up and cheered.
No, this is about something else entirely. Because I don’t believe in regrets. I truly do not regret a single thing I’ve done in my life. The human experience is, to me, indescribable; every beautiful flaw, each cutting ache; the glorious victories and humiliating defeats - I would not change a minute of it. Every breath I have taken has shaped me and I am awed by the person I am.
No, this is about learning from experience; learning from every step along the way. This is about learning love.
Somewhere, I have learned a thing or two about love. Somewhere along the way, it has become for me an exploration of the unconditional. I don’t know how, I don’t know why - but I’ve learned to embrace it.
We talk a lot about unconditional love; as a species, we talk about it. And it’s funny because when we talk about it, it’s in one of two contexts: puppies and Hitler. Puppies and Hitler - those are our conduits. Our explanations for unconditional love.
What a cosmic joke.
Unconditional love is a place of extremes; it is the domain of the mindless animal and the naive human - six of one, half-a-dozen of the other. It is the dog that licks the hand that beats him bloody and raw; it is the proclamation of the passivist who believes every tyrant should be forgiven. Unconditional love is an idea deserving of distrust and derision.
Until it’s not.
I’m not the sort of person who chases balls and I would bite off the hand that beats me before I would lick it. Hitler wasn’t my kind of guy. But I’ve come to a point in my life where ‘unconditional’ warrants re-evaluation.
But as we grow, our notion of unconditional love changes.
I want to acknowledge that the human experience is wild and varied, and the loss of expectation of unconditional love can happen to us equally. But I will make the generalisation that the ‘queerer’ of us are more likely to experience an absence of unconditional love. Even if that expectation is unwarranted; even if we regain the feeling later – many of us reach a defining moment where we realise love may not be unconditional - even from family.
When you realise that; when you realise unconditional love is ethereal – it changes you. It breeds the cynicism that gives way to puppies and Hitler.
I believe the term ‘unconditional love’ needs reclamation. I believe linguistic forensics can reinstate it to its rightful place of acceptability.
See, the thing about unconditional love is that it isn’t unseeing. It isn’t blind. In fact, it requires brutally clear vision to exist. To love unconditionally, you need to see and acknowledge every facet and flaw of a person and you need to accept that person not in spite of those things, but because of them. You need to embrace the things about a person that make you crazy because that person makes you crazy - in the best of ways.
Unconditional love isn’t about blindness; it’s about the absence of strings.
Every string you attach to a person makes them a puppet.
For me, the predictability of the human animal is one of the more abhorrent things I encounter.
But I am not a passive person. There are elements of me that are controlling. I gain comfort from knowing what happens next; I find stability in uniformity.
But I also find boredom.
It has only been in understanding the architecture of my heart that I have learned how to build love.
I have romantic ideals. They are strong foundations. But you cannot live in foundations. You need to build a space on top. And it is that area of uncertainty that I yearn to construct.
The thing about unconditional love, for me, is that it isn’t dependent on the person I love. Unlike the follies of my past, love for me no longer relies on whether I have a ‘chance’ with a person. In fact, it has nothing at all to do with reciprocity. In that way, it is almost selfish. When I say that I love someone unconditionally, it is with purity - and absolutely without condition. It is without account for relative beliefs or feelings.
Love is a gift, not charity. It is a thing given, not because someone is desperately in need but because the gifter finds joy in it - the joy of the recipient is a fantastic addition, but totally unnecessary.
Why has it taken me so long to acknowledge and embrace this?
Relationships where the only thing I was in love with, was love, were not romantic gestures. Being in love with love is purely conditional love.
And so I reach another plane in the sphere of human experience.
I have my fears - I won’t deny it. Like any other step, this might be another Brave New World in the driest sense of it. Unconditional love exists for me, but I am human enough to occasionally feel the selfish need for reciprocity. Without a string, every kite would float into an atmosphere harsh and unliveable and I do not want that. But I am somewhere intriguing, and fascinated by the warm yet awkward embrace of it.
And you? Do you have insights or experiences of love for the sharing?
Let me know.