Love. Four little letters that seem to make up the entire world. It’s in the movies we watch, the books we read, it’s in the way we define ourselves everyday (single, married, divorced, widowed, “it’s complicated”) from what seems to be a younger and younger age love becomes the very fabric of our being. Each of us feels the innate draw to find that one other individual that will accept us no matter our flaws and will not have too many flaws of their own that would make day to day life with them unbearable. For a long time love could be used interchangeably with another four letter word- fear.
While in college, I had a class where I had to do an activity. We were given a huge stack of index cards. These index cards had all kind of values written on them; things like financial security, independence, interdependence, altruism, etc. We were told to separate the cards into three piles: important, not important, and kind of important. When finished we were then asked to separate the pile of important values and throw away the remaining piles. Then the professor asked us to take the important pile and get the values down to 15 important ones, then ten, and finally just five. These five were supposed to be representative of what we thought were the most important things in life. My five ended up being Hope, Humor, Courage, Happiness, and Love. We were then assigned to make a presentation about our values as our major project for the semester.
I went home and I started working away at my project… okay fine, I waited until the last week it was due and then start freaking out about it. The night before it was due I was attempting several different ways to tackle this project with little success so I left it alone and went to bed. The next day I woke up, sat down for twenty minutes and just- wrote. From start to finish in twenty minutes… Here’s what I wrote:
Love – What is it about love that makes it so powerful to me that I could get down to just one value card? I thought long and hard about how difficult it was to get down to just five values (especially for some of my classmates). I had done this activity once before at a different university and my results were so much different then. If I recall my values then were: independence, financial security, education, wisdom, and family. That’s a far cry from ending up with just love.
It makes sense though, when you consider how I grew up. The only thing I knew was that the only person you could count on was yourself. I knew I needed to be able to stand on my own two feet (independence) and for that I needed financial security, to attain that I needed an education, I needed the wisdom to be able to traverse school, and in the end when times are tough you can always count on your family to listen to you gripe! Education was the key for me though. Education meant making choices for myself out of wants instead of needs. It meant I could be the master of my own destiny and that I would never have to be scared again. I would never have to be afraid of not having food to eat, or a place to live, or of not having clothes on my back.
Fear. Fear is a powerful motivator. Except there’s a problem: when I get scared, I don’t get motivated – I freeze. There is little to nothing that can be done about it, so using fear to push me to my goals only works for so long before the fear overtakes me and I become one of those phones that you want to toss against the wall because it refuses to do anything. If fear can’t get the job done how is something as fickle as love going to do it? What happens when love fades? Well, to answer that you have to understand what love means to me and how I define it because love for me is likely much different than it is for other people. To help with understanding and for the sake of simplicity I have tried my hand at an acronym.
L – Limitless. My love is limitless. There is always more to spread around and I believe that no one can ever have enough. I have yet to hear of anyone dying from a love overdose but I am attempting to be the first. Give. Give to your neighbors, cousins, brothers, sisters, and friends. Give them all you have, no matter if that’s your last dollar to the person standing on the street corner holding the sign that asks for help, or if it is just a hug. Give it all and instead of counting who returns the favor- just have faith that although someone may not repay you right now, you may have changed that person’s life forever. They might spend the rest of their lives repaying that debt a million times over to other people they meet. So give. Give it all. Be limitless in your love.
O – Omnipresent. For some people this is God, for me this is just a piece of what it means to be loved. My love is with you whether I am there or not. My love will hunt you down if you try to hide from it. My love will smack you in the face when you feel like you don’t deserve to be loved. My love is there no matter if we haven’t talked in 10 minutes/hours/days/weeks/years. My love is there. I think of one of my favorite quotes when I think of my omnipresent love: “If you are at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on!” My love is the knot at the end of your rope- maybe you’ll never need but it’s still there just in case… omnipresent.
V – Voracious. My love is voracious. It is given everything that I have. I believe in miracles because I believe that love has karma and that miracles might actually just be karma for love given out. The more you love the more you get love in return. The more voraciously you pour into your love, the more you can get back. Think of love like a swimming pool filling with water. The more water/love you have the better off you are. It is hard to float in an inch or two of water but the more you add the easier it becomes, and much like floating- love requires trust. You can’t love voraciously if you are afraid; just like you can’t float if you are focus on sinking. As Peter Pan says: “All you need if faith and trust, and a little bit of Pixie Dust.” I’m running low on pixie dust so I just double up on faith and trust- it seems to suit me just fine.
E – Eternal. My love is eternal. Alive/dead/married/divorced/widowed/in school/out of school- it doesn’t matter. I have been betrayed in some the most horrendous ways possible by some of the very people who were trusted to keep me safe, but I still love these people. I cant stop myself from doing it because love isn’t about what you deserve, if so there’s no way I would be married today. I didn’t deserve the love my husband gave me but I needed it and my love is the same; eternal whether you deserve it or not and whether you want it or not. I get to love you even if you don’t want me to because only I get to decide my own feelings. Now, I don’t get to push my love on you or make you feel uncomfortable, but I do get to love you all the same.
So, after all of this perhaps it is still unclear as to how or why I gotten my core values and really my entire world view down to just one card. For a while it was really confusing for me too. I mean, here are these values that I picked: Humor, Hope, Courage, Happiness, and Love- and as I am trying to describe their importance in my life, I am getting all worked up and keep trying to jump around and talk about other parts. So, when I am describing humor, I am talking about my husband intentionally making me laugh when I am angry, and I have to stop and remind myself that that falls under love and that I can talk about that later.
When I describe hope and talk about being in the bleakest of days, laying in a heaping mess in my husbands arms while he tells me that everything is going to be alright and tells me stories about what our lives are going to be like someday- and again I have to stop and remind myself that this too falls under love and I can talk about that later as well. Then I talk about courage and having the strength to make it through the trials that I have faced- and I realize that the shoulder I always cried on and the person who always had my back was all about love as well, and happiness- well that is basically a concept that he constructed for me. He showed me it is possible to trust and count on people because up until I met him all I knew was that good things always fell apart and that people can’t be trusted- so all of that is filed under love as well…
Pretty soon I was weeping at my computer while I was writing this, because it forced me to realize that I have become exactly who I was afraid of being- the girl that puts it all on red and turns the roulette wheel. Trusting someone the way that I have to trust my husband is a big gamble and you can get burned pretty badly if it doesn’t play out just right. He took this girl who was a totally mess and let me have the space to become whoever I wanted to be. He picked me up when I fell down and dusted me off so I could try again. He took these dreams that I had of a huge wedding, trips to Europe, and a house and pushed me on the path to make those things come true. He never handed anything to me, but he fought side by side with me to help me find my way towards the things I wanted.
A lot of times the man had to walk with big distances between us because I was not going to let some guy be the center of my world! I was independent. I didn’t need anyone. I certainly wasn’t going to be one of those girls who lived a white picket life and counted on her man for everything. I was a modern woman, I didn’t need a man for anything… except killing spiders. He took all of that away. He made me want to trust him, to count on him, to turn to him when I needed to vent, or when I needed advice, or when I just needed someone to hold me and tell me things were going to be alright.
I am petrified at the thought of how much I count on him. My husband has been with me for eleven years now, and only recently did he become not just the center of my universe, but my gravity and my oxygen. I am not stupid. I know what the divorce rates are and that does scare the daylights out of me, especially because he opened me up to this place where I have let him become so important to me. If we do divorce, I don’t know what will happen, maybe I won’t know what the universe is made up of anymore. Maybe it will change my values instantly- I can’t say for sure, but it is something that I think about. It’s something that keeps me up at night- but that’s back to my good ole friend fear.
Fear and I have been good buddies long before love ever came to exist for me. Fear likes to keep me on my toes and make me second guess myself and my love. Here’s the thing however, fear never picked me up when I fell. Fear never believed in me when I was too weak to do so myself. Fear never comforted me. Love did, and love is my husband Noah. I love him and my love for him is limitless, omnipresent, voracious, and eternal. That’s a lot of stock to put into one person, but here’s the truth that fear doesn’t want to me tell: my husband is the center of my universe but that was not a position that he demanded, asked for, or was just given to him- that position was earned. That position was hard fought with love every step of the way and endured a decade of me telling him that I didn’t need him, didn’t want him, couldn’t trust him… This love was baptized by fire time and time again just to be sure that I could trust it because fear kept telling me that my love was fragile and temporary. So, I pushed it to it’s limits and then far beyond just to see what it would take to break it… but nothing ever did.
That’s the thing about love: it endures.
“Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preserves. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues they will be stilled; where there is knowledge it will pass away.” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8
My philosophy of life boils down to one thing – one value card: love. Love limitless, omnipresent, voraciously, and eternally because love’s all we’ve got and like the Beatles said: “All you need is love, love is all you need.”