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When I was younger, I was a little obsessed with the “Love Is” characters of the 70s. I remember in elementary school I had this hot pink notebook with the characters on it and it was one of my most prized possessions at the time.

I didn’t grow up in a household where love was freely expressed and shown frequently. Warm fuzzy hugs and cuddles “just because” weren’t a thing. I knew this kind of love existed though because I’d seen glimpses of it outside my home. And I wanted to know more about THAT kind of love.

The idea of unconditional love fascinated me though I never really believed that it was a thing. Love as I knew it – the only way I’d experienced it – definitely came with conditions. At least I felt like it did. There were conditions and big strings attached where I came from but I knew it could be different.

I wanted better than that for me and my life. This desire set me on a path of living with my heart wide open and that of course, led to it getting shattered more than a few times.

It was the little tastes I got of love “that good” that always kept me going and to this day has kept my heart open in spite of some really painful experiences I’ve encountered and endured along the way.

Love is always worth the risk. It is always worth taking a chance – or another chance – on.

One of the really eye-opening realizations I learned along the way was that love isn’t about having something or owning something. Love is an experience or a state of being. It’s a form of connection and communication.

The more conditions we place on love, the more it starts to diminish. You can’t grasp it. You can’t cling to it. You can’t own it. You aren’t guaranteed it. You can only BE it.

I’m still a work in progress when it comes to love. I suppose I always will be and that’s the way I feel it’s supposed to be for me. But the kind of love that I AM has stayed basically the same. That is, I feel love a certain way in my body and being and I lead with love staying completely unafraid of getting hurt. I appreciate that in some relationships I encounter, it is fleeting and elusive and in others it is rich and fulfilling.

I’m willing to allow love to take whatever shape it will in my life. I don’t place demands or obligations on it.

I also respect that like the tide, love flows in and out of our lives and that’s ok because also like the tide, what flows out will always flow back in again. It washes over us and through us, leaving us far better for having its presence in us.

One of the hardest things I’ve found about love is learning to let go of the physical manifestation of it while the emotional part of it is still there. When we love someone or something, we want to hold it tightly so it doesn’t escape.

But here’s the thing… Love between people changes and grows and by being open and receptive to the changes, we’re able to experience it fully – the highs and the lows of it.

And yes, sometimes the most loving thing you can do is to let go when you see that the implied obligation of being in a love relationship is actually holding another back from a life that could be so much more fulfilling and rewarding to them. Agreeing to let go of the ties that bind is difficult and painful but also freeing when you realize that stepping away allows for ultimately greater love in the world even if it isn’t experienced by you directly according to the vision you had for it.

This poem has been particularly powerful for me and does a great job of explaining love as I understand it. I hope you enjoy it!

Comes The Dawn by Veronica Shoffstall

After a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning
And company doesn’t mean security,
And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,
And you learn to build all your roads on today,
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans,
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.
After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure…
That you really are strong,
And you really do have worth.
And you learn and learn…
With every goodbye you learn.

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