Musings on Meaning + Words Like Love

Musings on meaning and words like love:

What is the difference between love and devotion. When it comes to our children, our partners, how directly do we put our devotion into action? Or at what point does love require that we stay devoted to the love itself and not the person? Is love for a person really about ‘the other’ at all, or is it about our own potentiality to feel? How arbitrary is the person? Does our capacity to love speak more to our capacity to be vulnerable — to our willingness to be loved? Does it speak to the degree to which we are devoted to ourselves?

I went to bed last night genuinely wondering whether or not love was measurable. How can I be sure what I’m feeling is actually love? Can I truly, accurately, discern love from other things such as longing or need or desire? Is love separate at all from my own pursuits or seeking? I know many of the great spiritual teachings from various traditions talk about a pure love as being entirely separate from our own desire. Love without parameters or cages or mirrors. But while embodied, while being in the human experience, is this attainable? Is this even the goal?

I am grateful to be in physical form. I celebrate my human struggles, and more than I want to transcend the limitations of being human, I want to dive deep into the crevices of their boundaries and borders. As a young woman I explored calorie deprivation seeking a hard and fast boundary. Where does my physical body end? Where is the line? How deliberately can I pursue that border? And though this might be a controversial statement, I did not abandon my body or my love for myself by doing this. (I’m not defending anorexia or saying we shouldn’t advocate against it, I’m just saying I didn’t abandon those things.) I actually listened very intently to my body in order to know just how far I could go. I chose, intentionally, not to feed myself. Because I was angry, but also because I was curious. Because I was scared, but also because I was seeking. See me, don’t see me. Where is the line between?

With earnest humans, is there any act that isn’t an act of love? Is love really the opposite of fear, the way we’re told in quick quips or cute quotes? Or are they the same thing. Does my devotion to my own process require that sometimes love looks like fear. Does my devotion to my body require an honest i.e. messy, nonlinear, destructive at times, relationship. Can I separate love from any action or step I take?

This morning I sang a silly love song to my family, I kissed my husband, I made heart-shaped pancakes and handed out chocolate kisses and cards to my children. I drove them to school, and got out of the car to pause and watch them walk toward their classrooms. I had that feeling that my heart was outside of my body, that what I loved was walking away from me. Except that I remembered all of the love I’ve ever felt is housed only in my own body. Love can’t actually come or go. Likewise, every drop of rage or fear or guilt or grief I’ve felt stems from deep within me too. (This is not to say I’m responsible entirely for my feelings and experience — I don’t actually believe that — I do think it’s sometimes appropriate to place blame outside of ourselves, and I do believe outside forces come into play and affect our inner experience — I’m just saying, the feeling gets housed in my body.) And thank all of the thankable beings — gods, goddesses, demons and dream creatures — that I get to live the spectrum. Love and devotion in every shape and form. On my hands and knees for my children, for my partner, and on my own hands and knees for me as well, and for you. Mistake after mistake after mistake. I’ve fallen on my face so many times. I’m sorry. I’m in love. And not the way you think.