Monday, April 21, 2014

love. actually and otherwise.

The strangest things pop into my mind when I'm cutting the grass. It's a tragedy, really. If I turn something over in my thoughts for more than a lap around the lawn I inevitably consider that a reflection on the topic du circumnaviation might be fodder for this blog. As you can tell, I am rather short on blog posts these days that aren't otherwise prompted by someone else's ideas. Fodder is welcome! Equally inevitable, however, is that by the time I've finished mowing my mind has moved to other considerations, like how humid it has become, or how grateful I will be for a long drink of water once I get indoors. Yes, that's me, the non-outdoorsy type.

So today--and don't ask me to recount how I got to the subject because I've forgotten--the topic of unconditional love filtered through the minutiae that takes up space in my little grey cells. For a while now this phrase has bothered me. It is my considered opinion that if love has conditions then it isn't love, it's a negotiation based on what can be gained by either side of the equation. That's not love in my book. So love is like being pregnant: you are or you aren't. It's love or it's not. 

But today I went a little deeper with my thinking on this. What about what we call "tough love?" Does that qualify as love with conditions? This is a trick question. The answer is no. Behavior might have expectations, or at the least, consequences. As a wise workshop leader once offered about expectations, we can have wishes or requirements when it comes to how we will respond to someone else's behavior. But the long and short of it is that if it's love, there are no conditions.

Now this doesn't mean that there aren't some nuances to how we experience love, or perhaps more significantly, how we make decisions related to love. I think that's where the rubber meets the road. For instance, it's possible to love someone to the core of your being and beyond, and at the same time recognize that spending time with them for the long haul is going to ruin your life. That's one nuance.

Here's another (and, spoiler alert! another cliche will be involved). A long time ago I loved someone who was more than a few years older than me. I wanted to have a family, and he'd already had his family. The odds of either one of us conceding our position on this matter were excruciatingly small, and as time went by and my clock ticked, I had to make a very difficult decision. Extricating myself from that relationship was beyond difficult, and took several years of missteps in an effort to be available for a new relationship that included the possibility of a family. Among other lessons learned and wisdom gained, the reality that love does not always conquer all became abundantly, and painfully, clear. In this case it wasn't love that bore the condition, it was my own deep yearning for a family that carved a difficult line through the substance of what was otherwise fulfilling. 

There is, as well, a kind of sacrificial love that means that the other person's needs will always come first, no matter what. I don't know if it takes a certain kind of person to practice such love, or if I have yet to know that kind of love in my own life to appreciate it fully, but I want to acknowledge that it exists. 

I'm sure there are other variations on this same theme that illustrate what I refer to here as nuance.  In the end, however, after turning corners of tall grass into blades of uniform height, and considering how we make choices when love stands at the core of any kind of decision, I am back where I ended up: if conditions are attached, we're not talking about love. 

Aren't you glad I shared? Since grass-cutting season is just out of the gate, chances are good that the coming months will see more than friday five blog posts here on this page.  I'm always open to suggestions, too.


Terri said...

I think love does have conditions - for example, love lifts up the other person and does not diminish either party. Of course, if one is abused or diminished by the relationship, then it is not love. But some people mistake abuse for love.

The Bug said...

I agree with you - if I say, "I love you when you love me back," or, "I love you if you stop drinking," or, "I love you if you like the same baseball team I do," well, that's not real love at all!

Jayne said...

Love in my mind does not mean that you agree with (or stay around to endure) all behaviors, but that you can see past the behaviors to the person underneath. Just because you can acknowledge that being WITH that person is not healthy for you does not mean you don't love them. It means you also love and honor yourself enough to know that it's their journey to take and one that you don't control.


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