This Is What I Think Love Is

what I think love is
Photo by Bart Larue - Unsplash

Love is a mystery. It is a wisp of an emotion that lodges into many hearts, and whose presence shapes thoughts, actions, and feelings.

In my 24 years of life I have had the privilege of being loved and loving others. With each person loves takes on a new aspect.

When I think of my adoptive mum, my real mum, it is a deep, undeniable current. Despite the differences and turbulence, my love for her is an exasperated, affectionate love, tinged with wariness. I have a greater understanding of what she tried to do for me when I was younger. Her actions pointing to the greater good of my future. Her desire to keep me safe and shielded from the world, eventually became cloying as I got older. The four walls of our home a cocoon from the world, especially during my childhood.

My mum is a proud woman, and even though I loved her, I never felt that I could share my fears with her. My issues would shatter her pride. So out of love I kept everything to myself. Her happiness my priority. My mum is a woman of many strengths and many moods. Each day I would try and read them and adjust myself to them.

Eventually I realised I wanted more, to see the world and live for myself. Perhaps I could’ve handled the execution of that better. Maybe it wasn’t possible leaving Wales without a bittersweet trail behind me. Maybe my departure felt like a betrayal to her. When I think of motherhood, I believe it as the journey of equipping our child to face the world head on. My mum tried to equip us well; focusing on education, the importance of reading, and having a set of morals to live by.

And yet love can give way into other feelings. Loving is being vulnerable. It is offering every part of you to another person and hoping that they will be there by your side, thick and thin. It is showing the fears, and prickly emotions that can’t be articulated, but exist regardless. A natural reflex of being vulnerable for me is being waspish. Pushing people away so they don’t see, but all the while wishing they would, and would love me anyway.

Humans are complicated, there’s a lack of congruence between our thoughts and actions. We expect others to decode the mysteries of ourselves, even though we might not be fully cognisant of them.

With my younger sister, love takes on a steady heartbeat. Something mellowed from our argumentative childhoods and abrasive teen years smoothed into a shiny pearl. It is an unconditional love, but knowing that she is her own person, and should she need her older sister I will always be there. It is laughing with her, joking about our past selves, or drunken antics. It’s the sharing of hopes and knowing that regardless we are here for each other. Despite where life takes us, I wear the mantle of older sister. A comforting, familiar weight.

My adoptive father is a difficult story. Maybe I did love him once, desperately seeking his approval yet never getting it. The lack of love giving way into an icy indifference. A sharp pain of knowing that where there should be love, there isn’t. I am a stranger to him, and I do not find myself wanting to get to know him, or to share my life with him. There is a haughtiness and pride on my end. The “I’ve lived life without you, and I’ll keep on doing so.”

I see friends as family. A handpicked person I choose to share my life with. I have close friends, family in all but name. Stories shared between us from years ago. We drift apart, we come together. Now that I’m older I’m not too afraid of the drifting apart. Life gets in the way, we each have our own path to walk, but when we return to each other, affection remains.

When I was younger, I was prone to jealousy and possessiveness. I didn’t want to share my friends. They were mine and mine alone. Time is a great teacher and shows who the true friends are. I do not want jealousy to ruin friendships. Being in my 20’s I see people achieve different things, some things I want for myself. But is it worth losing a friend over jealousy? No. Celebrate their happiness. I read a quote somewhere, “a problem shared is a problem halved, but happiness shared is doubled.” There isn’t a cap on love, it’s only magnified.

Romantic love. I’ve only had one serious relationship and it’s the one I’m in now. Prior to that was the more casual one-night stands, or friends with benefits. My fear of being vulnerable, of giving someone the power to leave me as I offer them my heart was terrifying.

I’ve been with my partner for four years. The electric sizzling passion mellowed into something sturdier. A true friendship at the heart of it. Even now, on an off day, I’ll retreat into myself, and he’ll be there waiting for me. We are an odd pair. I’m an extrovert, he’s an introvert. He likes metal music, has a thorough, methodical mind, extremely empirical and cynical. But I find his qualities compliment mine. We exist harmoniously, constantly evolving individually and together.

I asked an aunt and uncle of mine, what’s the secret to a good relationship? They replied with their lyrical Irish voices, “find someone you want to be friends with, someone you know will be beside you regardless of the ups and downs.” I’d like to think I have that with my partner.

I firmly believe that first and foremost, the key to life is to be your own person. Of-course it’s nice to have someone to share life with, but you are the only person who can live your life. No-one can climb inside your head and re-write it. You are the architect of your life. Love is an evolving emotion, it inspires greatness. It steers you into life’s mysteries, the perilous journey of sharing your true self in the hopes of a genuine connection. And maybe, we are very lucky, and a genuine connection is forged and cherished.

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