Love isn’t Disney’s fairy tale, Prince Charming, white knight, happily ever after omg forever and ever and ever. It isn’t roses, chocolates, wine, fancy dates and trips, fun, excitement, and romance.
Love is more like three crying kids in the back of the car after a bad week at work, when you’ve barely slept for days and you’ve been fighting with your beloved about the same damn thing for the last two weeks, and you have an overwhelming urge to just drop it all and run away because my God this can’t be what the rest of my life will look like, will it?
Yet despite it all, you still come home, and you do what needs to be done to get through it right now, because you choose to. Because you choose to continue to love despite the fact that you are not happy right now, because you remember that right now is not forever, and in fact your lifetime is not forever. And if you love as best as you can, you will outlast right now, because life is a series of ever-changing moments of trials and joys.
Sometimes love is grand, and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it isn’t fun, but that doesn’t make it any less important. In fact, during the most difficult, and trying of times, to love, and to continue to love, is actually the most important thing you can, and have to do.
Love, real love, is not about you. It has never been, and will never be, about you. The purpose of love is not your happiness and pleasure and continuous, immediate self-gratification. That is not love. Love is not about having someone there to make you feel good and make you happy; that is enjoyment, that is affection, that is conditional, unstable, unsustainable; that is you loving yourself, loving what someone does for you, but that is not you loving someone else. That is not the purpose of love.
No, the purpose of love is itself: the act of loving, the art of loving, to learn to love more, to love better, to fail and try again, over and over and over. That is the whole damn point; what else is there in life but love, really? Love is choosing somebody, choosing something, and choosing them, over everything else, over your ego, over yourself, unfailingly, every day.
The choice to love another doesn’t only happen when you start dating, or when you move in together, or get engaged, or get married, or have a child; and neither does it become perfect or easy or even easier at all after any of that, oh no, not on your life. You have to make a choice, every single day, to care about others, and to care about others more than you care about yourself.
This is what love is: Love is a willful rising above our own base, natural instinct for selfishness and self-preservation, into a supernatural act of selflessness and self-sacrifice. Do you understand that? It is not natural for us to love, especially in all our Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest-every-man-for-himself-kill-or-be-killed-predator-or-prey-dog-eat-dog-win-or-lose-zero-sum-game glory.
No, it is not our nature to love, but neither is it against our nature. Rather, it is above our nature; it is something we reach for, strive for, because it is aspirational, inspirational, because it is a noble ideal.
And it is not easy. To truly love another human being will likely be the most difficult, and rewarding, and difficult, thing you will ever have to do in your life. It is an overcoming of oneself, in order to truly reach, and connect with, another. What is meaningful won’t always make you happy, just as how feeling good is not always the same as feeling right. Because you cannot ever build a meaningful life if you see and treat the world and other people as existing to simply serve your own needs. Because the truth is, in order to have a meaningful life, you have to do just the opposite.
Love is truly seeing, and caring, about another human being’s existence and welfare. It is wanting to be there for someone, to support them and help them grow; to make a difference in someone’s life; to share in and care about someone else’s happiness and struggles other than your own. Even when it’s hard.
Even, and especially, when you don’t really want to. Because when everything in life is transient, love becomes the only thing that endures. Indeed, it is the only thing that can endure life. Because regardless of how successful you are, how well-traveled, well-educated, well-heeled, well-fed; regardless of all your accomplishments and accolades and accoutrements, a life without love, without the love of others, without loving others — this life, it will always feel empty.
For in the face of our inescapable mortality and certain death, everything that is trivial falls away, melts away, and all we are left with is: Love. At the end of the day, at the end of it all, all we have is love. All we have is each other. To miss that, to not realize it and act on it, is to miss the fullness, the richness, the flesh of your entire existence.
To have never loved is simply to have never lived.
And we are here to live.
So live. Be vulnerable. Take chances, risks. Even when you’re afraid. Especially then. Get hurt trying, because all that means is you are living, you are alive. Learn from your mistakes. Get better at loving. Tell people how you feel, really feel, about them. Tell people you love them. Show people you love them. Love yourself. Let people love you. Care. And then, just when you think you can’t anymore, care some more.
Give a fuck about someone, something, anything. Give many, many fucks. Give all the fucks you can.
Because ultimately, the things that are the hardest for us to endure and accomplish usually end up becoming the things we are most proud about in life, and in ourselves. Because they are the things that teach us the most about ourselves, that grow us, expand us, show us what we are capable of, remind us that we can always do more, than what we think we can. And that we should always try to do more, than what we think we can.
For life, and love, is about reaching: reaching up, above ourselves, for our highest selves; reaching down, within, for strength and depth and meaning; and reaching out, outside of ourselves, to touch other people’s lives and allow their lives to touch and affect our own. When you love, you sink into something that is larger than yourself, and become part of something greater, something that surpasses and encompasses your one, single, solitary blink of an existence.
To have done that, felt that, known that, even just for a second, I think — to have lived a life well-loved, and to have loved well, is to have a life well-lived. And I think, at the root of it all, the heart of it all, a life well-lived…is about all we can ever really ask for.
And in my heart, it is all that I ask for, for you.
All my love,