What I mean when I talk about love is…

valentine-heartLove is confusing. It’s messy and unpredictable and wild and untamable. It obeys no laws, adheres to no restrictions. It’ll knock the socks off of you and everyone around you. And the wind out of you too.

What with the wind and the socks, it sort of feels like being in a tumble dryer.

But no one puts that on a Hallmark card.

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The Greeks had 4 or 7 or 8 words for love… like ἀγάπη, ἔρως, φιλία, στοργή, μανία.

Wikipedia has a bunch of them. But you can’t find love on Wikipedia.

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What I mean when I talk about love is so many things but many of them point to being kind.

Being kind and not being attached.

Being kind and not being attached and expanding. Expanding into something you didn’t know you could be.

And there’s also something about being curious. Endlessly, hopelessly curious.

And devoted. Which implies LOYAL but also implies SURRENDER. (Well, shit, that’s scary.)

Yes. Love is kind and not attached and expanding and curious and devoted and loyal and surrendering.

All that. While not getting lost and keeping your center. With, like, boundaries and stuff(Because if you can’t say “I” then you can’t say “I love you.”)

What I mean when I talk about love is being kind and not attached and expanding into the unknown and being curious and being devoted and loyal and surrendering.

I mean all of that. But what I really mean is being kind.

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A lover once said to me, with wonder in his eyes, “Love feels like love.”

Love doesn’t feel like obligation, or coercion, or fear, or doubt, or a battle to be won. Those things might be there, but those aren’t love.

I wanted to take him into my arms and say, “Of course it does, dear.” But he was already there.

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Love is safe. Profoundly safe. But it FEELS dangerous…

Can I trust this much? Can I really let go? Can I surrender? Is it okay? Is it okay? Is it okay?

Is it okay?

I don’t know. Is it?

You have to answer that for yourself.

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What I mean when I talk about love is that it’s scary to love and it’s scary to be loved and it’s scary to let go into someone loving someone else, and it’s all very vulnerable.

I spend my life helping people navigate all the things around love: fears and boundaries and desires and what about me? and how do you build a life with somebody that you love and what do you do when there is more than one person you love and what if you love someone but the sex isn’t working, or what if the sex is working but you want something else too and so on.

But none of this is love.

What I mean when I talk about love is that it’s worth it.

 

(Originally published on the Successful Non-Monogamy mailing list.)

Who are your role models?

513px-Katharine_Hepburn_promo_pic“She was independent. She chose her way of life – hurting no one and never vying for approval.”

This is what Lauren Bacall said about Katharine Hepburn after her death.

I love this quote for so many reasons. I love it when powerful women build each other up. I love that it reflects Hepburn as the kind of woman who neither needed to be “good” to be great, nor “bad” to be noticed. And I love that it points out that women have the opportunity to choose how we live.

In a time when most Hollywood actresses played to stereotypes, Katharine Hepburn dared to go a different direction. She was labeled “box office poison” early in her career and rejected the Hollywood publicity machine but she made her own (massive!!) success outside of these power structures.

Hepburn donned mannish suits while never caving on her femininity, and found ways of playing powerful characters even as she aged out of being a starlet. After her first marriage ended in divorce, she never remarried, but did have a 26-year committed relationship with Spencer Tracy that she kept firmly out of the public eye.

All of these things point to what it means to be a Great Woman instead of a Good Girl. A good girl would have tried to conform to what the publicists and studios wanted. A good girl would have tried to stay young, and she certainly would have worn gowns and dresses at every turn. A good girl might have tried to reject these constraints by rebelling. But a Great Woman stays in her center, even as life throws its difficulties at her.

(I don’t know about you, but even THINKING about all that “trying” exhausts me!)

The world is full of people and messages that are all about telling you to be unfailingly nice, not “too much,” and ever-accommodating. That’s why it’s crucial to have examples of women who have done it differently. Not necessarily “bad” girls, but actual, grown-ass women who have found their own path and built their own lives on their terms.

In other words: role models.

Katharine Hepburn is one of mine. Who are yours?