History’s greatest lovers have been ill-fated. Had they overcome circumstance, scheming relatives, scorned lovers, political intrigue, if the Moirae, the three furies, had shown greater favour would we even know the names of Tristan and Isolde, Abelard and Heloise, Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, Paris and Helen today?
Remember the Sandra Bullock/John Cusack movie Serendipity or Ms Bullock opposite Keanu Reeves in The Lake House with its lovely reference to Jane Austen’s Persuasion? The ever perfect happy ending presented as Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Barrett overcome all in Ms Austen’s Pride and Prejudice? Even if some measure of palpable pain is on the menu, the promise of consummation outweighs the potential of immolation.
How do you know that it’s love? It doesn’t need to scream at you, or shouldn’t. It should ‘feel’ like a thick oversized cashmere sweater – soft, warm, comforting, and most of all, reliable.
Listen to your inner voice, that intuition that can almost guarantee that you are not about to make a stupid choice. Have the conviction to follow through as Ewan McGregor’s’ character Christian in Moulin Rouge sings Come What May. Live your life with intention, powerfully. It isn’t so different from simply getting through each day – it just has the exquisite possibilities of living without regret. The principles applied to unleashing your 4 year-old self to the joy of splashing through a 5” deep rain puddle is the same for falling in love with someone – it’s about letting go. Find the ability to feel the exquisiteness of a single moment and believe me you will know what is possible when it comes to loving.
Remember those Pepto-Bismol pink desk sets with the blue metal legs found in elementary schools during the sixties? I was in the 2nd grade and a boy named Paul put pink rose buds in the holes of my overturned chair for two weeks until Mrs Gumm put a stop to ‘the nonsense’.
The whirl of activity surrounding senior year of high school, yet, my ‘adopted’ twin nieces (the daughters of one of my dearest friends) Kate and Julia still make time to visit their grandfather at his extended-care facility. Joe sometimes plays Bingo or Scrabble, often watches a Yankees game, and frequently falls asleep. But they go, willingly, to visit a couple of times each week.
There’s the kind of love a parent has for a child… dragging hoses out of the basement at 11 PM to flood the frozen woods glazing the ice to near mirror perfection, providing recipes to hotel chefs far away from home to ensure a grown daughter has her special birthday cake as she turns 29, sitting in the pouring rain for athletic activities and driving hundreds of miles to look at college campuses.
Walk in Boston’s Public Gardens, Manhattan’s Central Park, along the narrow sidewalks of San Francisco’s Chinatown and you’ll see them still holding hands or her arm threaded through his as they walk, often with canes, still glowing, chattering away like tiny birds or not at all, enviable in companionable silence, these lovers in their eighties and nineties both a sort of shade of griege touched with sea foam reflecting a translucent pink unique to age. “Hold onto him darling, a good man is hard to find!” They smile, announce they’ve been married for some astonishing number of decades and he says, clearly still smitten as a school boy, “she the only girl I have ever loved.”
The knowledge of love is cellular isn’t it? We look in his/her eyes and the world spins, our heart clenches and unfolds in wonder and willingness to explore all life has to offer. If we’re really lucky we mate, as swans do, for life and it’s long and deliriously happy – even when it’s as boring as watching paint dry. My great uncle Eddie and his bride Wanda were like that. Married in 1928, together for nearly 75 years – he passing at 96, she within six months at 93. They exuded kindness and ease, provided a framework of unconditional love for one another, their daughters and their families, and all who knew them. I can still hear her say, “Now Eddie”, taste her cheesecake, smell his greenish tinted cigars, feel the presence of their love though they have been dead since 2002.
Love cannot grow, flourish, sustain, nurture, set an example or comfort anyone else unless it exists within each of us as individuals. Self-esteem, the greatest form of human love, is the guarantor of the capacity to love others. We can rise from ashes like mythical phoenix with the presence of love. When we give it away, quietly and without need for adoration or acclaim, love multiples exponentially like spring bulbs, like cascading waters down the face of a mountain, like the visual confection presented as a flock of pink flamingos takes off in flight. It is beauty in every form imaginable. For most of us love will never be sweeping poetry delirious with adjectives – it’s much more likely to be formed with crayons, colored pencils and water soluble paint on a horizontal piece of 8 1/2 x 11” paper attached to the refrigerator.
There’s the physical love shared with longing and passion, tenderness and innate understanding which can result in perfectly synchronised, simultaneous climax. Once experienced makes you willing to go without – if even reluctantly – forever.
Love isn’t either chocolate or vanilla – unless it’s homemade tapioca pudding, Crème brûlée, warm chocolate chip cookies with a glass of cold milk as you get home from school or molten chocolate cake oozing Belgian decadence across your tongue. I know for certain that love is strawberry flavoured in the form of my Aunt Jeanne’s Jell-O salad with crushed pecans, pineapple, strawberries, bananas and a thick layer of sour cream.
The colour of love isn’t the deep throbbing of Valentine red but rather like the spectrum of light in reverse, pure white with the slightest tint of blue-y lavender. The full range of colour, of life, brought together in one perfect calming shade.
Dig a hole, work compost and topsoil together, plant a tree on the day you fall in love with the sound and smell of your baby’s first breath and a second one 12 feet apart on their first birthday. Twenty years later watch from the kitchen window as they lay in a hammock strung between the two trees which have marked their life, their arms around their first lover reading to them, the world slipping away on a Sunday afternoon.
I believe in 15 seconds. A kiss that includes kissing air – that electrically charged space between lovers before physical contact is made which is not dissimilar in effect on our sensibilities as the smell of ozone before rain. People who settle for less than this level of a kiss are surely willing to settle for less in all the little and big things which make up the totality of our lives. Don’t settle. Ever.
Trudge over a hundred miles one way for weeks, and then months, on end to secure treatment for a cancer that is slowly destroying your husband and watch him slip from you in spite of all medicine and you can do for him to know the full extent of love.
Sit in a sacred sanctuary, regardless of your beliefs or who your Prophet might be, and recognise that love defines what it means when in stone is incised “to the glory of God”. If the love you feel is as much spiritual as visceral be truly grateful that any one of these types of love have graced your life.
If you love enough, they never leave you.
(Excerpted from my book, ‘all that i need, or live like a dog with its head stuck out the car window’ and the chapter of the same name. Follow the link to order.)
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