Controlled Substance - The Practice of Love

One Goll Gappay reader pointed out the importance of "understanding" in a relationship that I highlighted in two of my posts. When I think or write about love, I immediately weigh the understanding that is inherent in all of my relationships. And what exactly do I mean by this word - understanding? To me, it is simply the non-judgmental comprehension of the intentions of the person I love. For instance, even if I disagree with my sister over a fundamental difference in opinion, if I can understand her motivations and beliefs, we can meet halfway. There is a secondary definition as well, and that has to do with having patience and respect for our differences.

I marvel at the depiction of love, regardless of whether it is romantic or not, that is thrust upon us by the world. It is considered passive and external, like something that just happens to you without your control or consent. I emphatically disagree. To continue to love someone, even your family, is a conscious choice, and seeing it through takes a lot of effort. It demands the ability to listen to your loved one, and even if your values differ from them, it requires that you give them an assurance of understanding where they are coming from. Because wouldn't it be easy if our loved ones shared our value systems, our ambitions, our drive, our struggles, our fears, and our triumphs; Wouldn't it be easy to love them then, indefinitely, exponentially, forevermore?

I abhor the notion of passive love, an everlasting spring bubbling inside you, dotted with tiger lilies and surrounded by lush blades of evergreen grasses. Real love, I'm-in-this-for-the-long-haul kind of love is more like an arduous hike in the mountains. It is treacherous. It takes a lot of skill and hard labor to put one foot ahead of the other sometimes, the climb so steep, the distance endless, but you keep on going because there is a breathtaking view at the summit, and it is worth the trek. Sometimes, the climb becomes too costly - your supplies run out, your ankle twists when you step on a rock the wrong way, you encounter a rattlesnake or a mountain lion, or you simply get lost in the wilderness. That's to be expected with such an undertaking. After tackling your adversary, be it a wild animal or a dearth of drinking water, you evaluate your choices. Go downhill where a new course awaits you leading away from your original destination. Or, keep going up the trail, despite the scarcity of comfort, against every muscle in your legs, because getting to the apex is still worthwhile, it is still important. No matter which way you go, your journey is formidable. You must encounter new challenges and overcome them. But the course you choose should make you stay true to yourself, because that summit, this trek, it is all about you.

The objects of my love
Love requires you to give everything you have to give because you choose to, because you think the object of your love is worth it, because this act of giving matters to you, because it is rewarding for you. It is your resolve to give something of yourself to another person, your affection, your attention, your time, and your understanding. It is hard, grueling, back-breaking work. It involves altruism and sacrifice and forgiveness. And you should acknowledge that all of these virtues have limits. You, yourself, have limitations. You should also realize that loving someone is a choice. Your choice. You choose to do it, and you can choose not to.

Love isn't passive. It isn't something that takes hold of you in a moment of weakness. It is what you decide to give consciously. It is in your power to take back. It doesn't make you weak. On the contrary, it is empowering. That's the only kind of love I have in me to give - one that bows to my will, not one I submit to.

Photo by Rebecca McCue