There is no overarching, singular definition of love. And right now you’re thinking, obviously, you imbecile…is this going to be another article on how love is different for everyone and other lame clichés?
No. I mean, maybe. But no.
If everyone in the world wrote an article on what it felt like to be loved, and we compiled those articles and studied them for years, we might be closer to identifying love. Scientists everywhere would throw their goggles in the air and dance around in their little white lab coats and praise the science gods that because they will have defined the one thing in the world that refuses to be defined.
But why do we want to? Leaving it to the individual, letting it be this vague, subjective, ambiguous, misunderstood, bewildering, enigmatic, beautiful thing allows us to not only justify our own unique loves but to let those loves make us feel amazing. And boy, does it feel amazing.
It’s like when you would wake up on a school day with a scratchy throat and runny nose. And you knew that no matter what, you wouldn’t muster enough energy or feel-goodiness to go to school that day. But you also knew that your parents were the type of parents who valued attendance and hard work, the type who made you try your hardest to go to school despite your scratchy throat and runny nose, because someday you’d grow up and not have the choice to stay home. But then your mom would cave and convince your dad that you really should stay home today, and she would come into your room like the wonderful little fairy that she is and scoop you up and put you on her hip. You’d grab your blankie and rest your head in the warm nape of her neck and smell her body lotion that she put on after her shower, the smell of “mom in the morning getting ready for work.” She would set you down in the middle of the living room floor, whispering, “Wait here, honey” while she grabbed blankets and pillows from the corner cubby. In no less than a minute she would have made the most glorious sight: the nest. This nest signified ultimate sick laziness and endless amounts of cartoons and soup and cuddling with your pets. It signified not having to put your feet on the ground all day because today was your day, the Day of Sickness. Your mom would swoop you back up and lay you down amidst the puffy, soft, warm blankets and you’d melt into the center. You’d hear her pad out to the kitchen, type up an email, and return to you. She would sit on the edge of your blanket cloud and smile softly and ask if you were okay, if you needed anything right then. No, you’d say. This was all you wanted. To be loved so much that a scratchy throat and runny nose constituted your mom calling off work and treating you like a princess. To be loved so unconditionally that your mom would give you a look of sneaky happiness when she knew that she was just as excited about your Day of Sickness as you were; that the only thing the both of you really wanted to do was have a whole day to spend with each other.
Or, it’s like when you lose your 21-year-old brother to a freak snowboarding accident. And the only thing that gets you from one gut-wrenching moment to the next is looking into Mitchell’s green eyes. Because somehow they wrap you up in that same blanket cloud your mom made you as a child and steal the worries and tears for just one millisecond. And one millisecond away from the horror-stricken grief feels like minutes. And the minutes away from it are good, healthy even. Because Mitchell is your boyfriend. And he doesn’t do well with sad things. He’s never had anyone close to him die, not even a grandparent. He doesn’t even like to watch sad movies. He doesn’t like sad things. But he’s there, standing with you and your whole family after hearing the news, the saddest news anyone will ever have to hear in their whole lives of living, and if the cries could be heard around the world everyone would wilt away and never come back but he’s there. Holding you. Looking at you. Feeling for you. Crying for you. He’s there, at the private family viewing, standing in front of you while you sit on the couch as far away from the casket as possible. Because you can’t look at your brother’s corpse, because that’s not something that a 20-year-old girl should ever have to do and you cannot fathom doing it. You asked Mitchell to stand in front of you and shield your eyes from the casket, so he is. Because you asked him to. Even though he doesn’t do well with sad things. And he stands in his sleek black tux looking as handsome as ever, but this is no cause to look handsome. It is all wrong and we shouldn’t be here doing this but we are. And he’s there. Smiling down at you when all you want to do is collapse and break into a million tiny little pieces. And he whispers into your ear that you’re pretty and strong and he loves you so much, more than anything. Squeezes your hand, kisses your forehead. Kisses your cheek. At your brother’s funeral. Doing anything in his power to get you from moment to moment. So you look into his trusting green eyes and you trust them. You look into them because that’s all you know how to do, that’s all that is getting you from moment to moment. And it works.
In a condensed, non-definitional, individualistic way — that is what it feels like to be loved the way you’re supposed to.