I was watching a video of Maya Angelou, a literary inspiration, her words like streams of gold freckled with soil mother earth herself put down on the ground for us to feast upon and take from. Dr. Angelou described her views on love and the thread it creates between people as they connect to something bigger than themselves. And it changed me.
We as human beings, ruled by the flashy and ever-present ego, have always seen love as a romanticized, ‘grand gesture’ type concept that is felt in very definite terms. Movies have been made about it, books have portrayed its various parts and many have their own interpretations of it, but the truest definition I have found, and have never let go of, can be summarized in two words: love liberates. Love does not speak loudly and it doesn’t have the concrete dimensions to fit nicely in a box. It is not in a bouquet of roses or a card on my birthday or even in the words, ‘I love you’.
It isn’t something that holds people together despite their instincts to let go and it is not the glue that holds a mother to her rebellious daughter or a husband balled and chained to his wife. It is not a magic potion that when ingested, creates heart-shaped eyeballs and racing pulses, that is lust and an ever fleeting feeling that can change as often as the seasons. Love is the foundation, the connection and the common denominator that frees us, allows us to think about what brings us together naturally rather than what keeps us uncomfortably stuck.
When I heard this definition, tears gathered in the corners of my eyes and my cheeks felt flushed. My body shook and goosebumps appeared on the back of my neck and elbows. I decided that to love someone, anyone, is an experience that allows all parties involved to feel a sense of ‘I am home.’ To have someone hold their hand to their chest, breathe a sigh of relief and feel like they have just entered a safe place that was built to accept and grow them. Smells of their favourite foods, the pages of their favourite books and the sounds of their favourite music is what I think love is. And it isn’t glamourous or something that’s tangible, it’s felt, like a comfortable, old chair that’s been there all along, waiting for us to notice. We can be in love, laugh and cry in love but true love, allows us to be anything and feel all of it.
On the flip side, we have the ego, which wants to capture, hold and lock. When we are with someone and we feel like we are losing them, the ego jumps in to try to ‘save’ the situation, spare our heart the ache and urges us to hold on for dear life. Our knuckles turn white, our knees start to buckle, we are filled with desperation and feel like if we do certain things or turn into another person, we will somehow keep something that is clearly not meant for us.
To fight for something we believe in is different from this egotistical and self harming behaviour. Fighting a battle is painful and not easy but we fight because it frees us to do so, to pick up the sword and fight against a lower version of ourselves and come out the other side stronger and in a better place is a war worth fighting. But hanging on to someone or something because we have lost ourselves and are hoping that other thing can bring back our definition is a battle already lost no matter how tight our grip.
Today, I’ve taken the day to not go out or do anything except feed myself. Nourish the person I’ve neglected for so long, give myself the attention and love that I have been hungry for thus far. Giving away my power and sense of self has been second nature to me, depleting what little resources I have left is something I’ve grown accustomed to. It’s what I’ve grown up doing and up until very recently, has been a silent cry for love and acceptance and respect from anything and anyone other than myself. I’ve been a slave, shackled to my own fears and feelings of unworthiness, my soul twisted up so tight, my vision blurred, judgement broken and my way, lost.
My problem? I’ve allowed my ‘love-like’ feelings to hold me down instead of embracing actual love to free me. I’d lost all concept of what love should and needs to feel like and took what I thought was love but was really the broken pieces of everyone I thought I could fix. Everytime, drawing blood and letting a little part of my love go in the process. I didn’t know how empty I was and how hungry I became for love until I looked at myself and couldn’t recognize who I was anymore. And what good was my ego? Did it save me from anything that it was ‘supposed’ to? Was I somehow immune to any heartache after the damage was done? No I wasn’t.
So I slowly get up from the fire, from which the ashes I am choking up, and take my love back, one solitary step at a time. I start to reconstruct what love is and what it needs to feel like and I finally make the choice to free myself.