It isn’t often that we learn the things we should before we learn that there’s a lesson to be learned. It is said that we live life forward and understand it backwards. That continuously proves to be true. We weren’t prepared for a lot of the things that we’ve experienced in life, hence the many times we fail before getting it anywhere close to right. Love is no exception.
I can’t count on the fingers and toes of old lovers combined the amount of times my heart has been collateral damage in a shootout of ego and immaturity of whichever equally naive boy I had objectifying my affections. Though it is a testament of my resilience, it’s also a shrine to my ignorance. I had no idea how to love let alone how to be loved. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. Worst yet, I didn’t know that these were things I needed to know.
The most important lesson love has taught me, to date, is what it (love) is. We all know the stereotypical, feet sweeping, abdominal fluttering, knee debilitating gist of what good love feels like. Love is also having your emotions yo-yoed and still praying for the healing of the man who strung you along. It’s forgiving the infidel and allowing him another chance to do right. It’s allowing yourself to be friends with a person you once wanted for yourself, watching them be to others what they couldn’t be for you. All of these are examples of genuine love, however foolish it might seem, though that doesn’t mean that those levels of self-sacrifice are necessary to constitute real love. Love doesn’t have to be a two way street. Though unrequited love is the splinter in the heart of the soul who thought the bed of wood chucks on the playground was safe just because it accompanied beautifully colored attractions - unrequited love is still love.
I’ve learned through loving and hating myself for loving more than I was ever loved that if you stop loving someone because they didn’t love you in the ways you wanted them to, it was never true to begin with. I never asked to be a martyr for love - taking arrows to the chest of my beautiful intentions just to be an example of a real lover. That’s what I found myself doing though. For years I’d find myself embarrassed for going through relationships that ended because I found myself overcompensating for the previous failed relationships — giving more of myself than my partner could accept. That in itself taught me a few more valuable lessons:
1. My brand of love isn’t meant for just anyone.
2. You can love someone without trying to be more to them than a gentle heart to confide in.
3. The storm that overwhelms the city isn’t the one who needs sympathy. It’s the city that could not withstand the storm that is deemed weak. Why should I feel shame for loving someone who my love was too much for?
Love has taught me who I am by showing me that I wasn’t who I thought I was. I thought I was small and helpless needing stronger arms to protect me from life when in fact what I thought to be my weaknesses was my strength. I am the strong arms that friends and lovers turn to for comfort, for understanding, for a soft smile and a kind word. I am the love that I sought for myself. Learning that empowered me to love myself the way that I wanted others to. It allowed me to set the standard for what I required from anyone seeking to offer their love to me and it helped me to accept less powerful love —without expecting them to measure up, without trying to promote them to positions in my life that they couldn’t handle and without setting myself up for disappointment. See, unrequited love is only feels unrequited when you expect it back. The love I give now isn’t contingent on reciprocity — that frees me from the pain of disappointment. That is how I secure my heart throughout the connections I find myself allowing. I do, however, have set expectations for whoever the man is that I’ll find myself vetting for a deeper, more intimate and long-term connection.
It’s vital to your emotional maintenance that you don’t try to force your love on anyone. Having people not accept your love doesn’t mean that it isn’t good. I have friends who shy away from getting too close to me in any capacity although I have cultivated my love to be shelter in a sandstorm, a well of fresh water in the heat and a bed of clouds through a tumultuous journey. Not everyone knows how to accept a good thing. Don’t allow the rejection you will inevitably find yourself receiving to water down your love. Be love and be loved. It’s difficult to stand against a stampede of numb, frightened and heartless individuals but it’s necessary. If we allow the hate and the fear to turn our love cold, we not only become a part of the same problem that we lament over but we also add to the extinction of hope.
Love is a force. Not so much a feeling. Feelings derive from situations where love is present but to reduce it to a feeling is a gross misrepresentation of its power. What we have come to call love; these relationships that start on a whim and end like a world war, these “I love you” today and “I wish I never met you” tomorrow entanglements of selfish intent, these trysts of surface attractions — they falsely advertise the beauty and the power that love really is.
So many people fear love because they have come to associate it with pain. Love can be painful but the pain in love doesn’t come from love itself, it comes from the disappointment of failed expectations in love. Knowing that doesn’t make the prospect of giving love any easier. Less frightening though is knowing that you can control who you allow yourself to love and expect love from. Get to know yourself, get to know love outside of pain and outside of what another soul can offer. Get to know love outside of expectations. I guarantee the shift in your perspective of who you are and what love is will help you to maneuver through it in the future. When it does, be love and be loved.
Kimolee Eryn is an artist and writer who believes in creating for a purpose beyond the purpose of creating. She believes that a life should be lived not just to sustain itself but to cultivate peace, love and growth in all adjacent beings and hopes to exemplify that in all she does. Check out Kimolee's personal genius, at KimoleeEryn.com.