No matter where you find yourself this time of year, you cannot help being bombarded by a plethora of red hearts, chocolate candies and sentimental cards, one mushier than the next. When you think you have finally ingested it all, you are barraged by another onslaught of hanging cupids all poised with an arrow for the next unwilling customer. Even though the holiday fare seems to be celestially orchestrated, the intentions of the stores remain purely terrestrial. After all, business is business. But, for the romantics in us, it is pure joy. And speaking as a real idealist, the holiday does indeed celebrate love. It somehow reminds us that aside from the poetic stories and romance, there is an unfeigned force in the universe much smarter than our smart phones, which can reach others more effectively than even Skype.
Love defines who we are and everything in life. It is the glue that holds our universe together or tears it apart. Being the strongest emotional force we know as human beings, it is important we put aside one day each year to recognize and celebrate its existence. However, of course, there are as many types of love as there are people.
Beyond the "universal" communal love, the one that most of us all relate to and the one this holiday is honoring, is a very personal love. Personalized love to me is an intimate love with which two people are willing to share the most inner part of them and expose their souls. Together, they celebrate the best in life. And no matter what life throws at them, at the very least they can muddle through it together and get by. Together, they are able to make it to shore.
There are also those who swim alone and no matter where they look cannot find a life saver and often times feel as though they are drowning. Many people in this life have never experienced the intimacy of having a loving partner. Whether life dealt them a difficult hand or they just chose to be by themselves, they will never know what sharing a loving relationship is. These are the ones who I call the lost loves.
My friend Anna sits on her couch moving a feather connected to a string from one side of the couch to the other, giving her cat the illusion that it is a mouse. Hattie chases it back and forth, hoping for once to catch it in its paws and claim victory. This is just one cat of several Anna has rescued. Between playing with the string, changing the kitty litter and feeding the cats, Anna has no clue what it would be like to share intimacies with another human. To her, cats give her all the love she would ever need, and she has resigned herself to that fact. When I asked her why she did not want to go out and meet others, she replied in a very matter-of-fact voice, "Why would I want to subject myself to that? I am content with the life I have. I have my cats, and that is all I need."
Kevin finds himself in a similar situation. He is a gay man and has been looking for Mr. Right for more than 20 years. Kevin puts himself out there occasionally, attending dance parties and socials, and he has even resorted to social media, being registered on all of the gay meeting sites. When I asked him why he hasn't dated someone in a while, he looks over to the side and says: "I don't think I am made to have a loving relationship."
I found Kevin's response sad and began to argue with him, saying, "Everyone has the birthright to love and be loved. I think we are all capable of that and if we are just open, it might find us. Sometimes, you just have to trust, get out there and be vulnerable." Kevin told me I was being unrealistic, because he was just not made that way. Knowing this had to have originated from somewhere, I asked him to share a little about his childhood. He told me that his parents divorced when he was 5 years old.
He was raised in a way that made him associate love with arguing, fighting and loud voices. He never understood what a true loving relationship was and told me he thought that most people put on airs of romance and happiness, when deep down he thought they all fight and argue.
As he continued, I began to open my mind up a little more and see things from his point of view. All relationships have difficult times, and personalities may sometimes fight each other, but deep down I do believe in an undying love. As Kevin continued, we discussed how his childhood colored his view of love, and he told me that the possibility of a loving relationship is something he will make an effort to believe is possible in his own realm.
Another person I met through my work is Katie. She suffered a different type of lost love. Her husband of 22 years died suddenly from a drunk driver whose car went out of control. Katie's husband, Bob, a good looking and fun guy, always went out of his way to make sure everyone surrounding him was enjoying themselves. As a patrol officer, he took his job and life pretty seriously. He made sure to protect his wife and two sons, Dexter and Markie, from life's harms and fortified them however possible. He never wanted them to see the ugly side of life. Unfortunately, on a warm Saturday night in July, the ugly side crept in. I would often talk with Katie about her situation, and I never forget how she would say: "Bob always worked hard at protecting me... little did he know, he could not protect my heart!" She would tell me how difficult it was to sip a glass of wine, see a sunset, go to the store, or listen to a song. Birthdays,
holidays and even get togethers had lost their specialty.
When Bob died, all the fun died with him. And Katie would remind me how difficult it was to live life without her life's partner. She described it "as if all the color had been taken out of life." She said she was now merely existing and that was only because of her boys. It was during one of our conversations that her husband came through to me in my thoughts and clearly stated that "the love of his life would experience love again!" He was going to make sure of it. Love is vast in its make up. When we think about it, we were born from love and we are made of love. It is not until we grow up into this world that we learn the opposite of love is fear. We can choose how we want to live our lives. A life propelled by love or condemned by fear. You and only you can make the choice. And whether from our upbringing, our heredity or just our belief systems, for someone to believe that they are destined not to experience love while walking on this planet is beyond comprehension.
I believe that with each new day there is another opportunity in which to find love. But I also firmly believe that we can never find love in our lives if we don't start with loving ourselves. We first must appreciate who we are, what we are made of and where we stand in the world. If we have no basic relationship with ourselves, then our hope for finding love in someone else is little to none. Love by its very nature is sensitive, and one must be ready to open their hearts to new situations in life, not step away from them. Perhaps in just acknowledging yourself, you have acknowledged love. We must start somewhere.
Several years had passed, and with it time to hang out with friends. I was involved in traveling with my career, which put my social life on a stand still. I was putting gasoline in my vehicle and a car came by, stopped and a familiar face looked out the driver's window. It was Katie. She looked wonderful, and I asked her how she was. She said on "top of the world." Then she introduced me to the man sitting next to her in the car. His name was Carl, and he was her finance.
Love is never really lost, but we must be willing to have some faith, believe in ourselves and know that we are worthy of being found.