The Dreaded “I Love You”

Why is this phrase taken so seriously? It’s not scary for me to love pizza, but it’s scary to tell your friend that you love them (particularly if they’re the opposite sex, or same sex if they’re male). I’m not someone to say “I love you” often as I personally believe that not handing it out aimlessly gives it more meaning. But after a good day spent with a friend, or a meaningful conversation on the phone with a family member, why is it oddly uncomfortable for some people?

Perhaps a part of the discomfort is owed to our flawed language. As many of you probably already know,  english seems to use the word love for everything while other languages have words for love that pertain to different things. For example, there are several greek words for love, which include love of the self, lust, a deep friendship, etc.

In english there is a staggering, and even offensive generalization for the word love that other languages would be appalled to discover as there are so many different kinds of love, and pertaining to different kinds of relationships.

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Deformities aside, language itself operates through our own personal associations. When we are learning the meaning of the word, we often have our own unique experiences shaping the definition of that word. It is as if each word has one standard definition that is very loose and malleable, with several subdivisions within it depending on the circumstance, and depending on a person’s history with that word. For example: “I have a barrel of oranges” means different things to different people. For the blue collar worker, it is “Oh no, thats another barrel of oranges that I have to process.” For Stacey, a nutritionist, that is a lot of vitamin C. For Bob the business man, that is $0.20 per orange, 300 oranges per barrel, 300($0.20)= 1/12  month’s rent. For Cindy who is allergic to citrus, it is a trip to the hospital. To Jerry the fashion designer, it is a barrel of oranges. It goes on. There is an emotional sheath coating each word that we’re not always aware of.

I love words, and I love language. I write because I do not have the artistic skill to create certain things otherwise. I cannot paint or draw the images that haunt me, so I craft a story that I can insert them into. I can’t always photograph a feeling or thought that I’ve had. So I use words, which gives me an infinite pallet immediately at my disposal. Despite this, words fail me all too often. Words sacrifice accuracy in expression for instantaneous communication. This is how words can separate us even further.

I do not have the psychic capacity to know what “I love you” means to all of you, but I can identify what it means for me personally. To me, the phrase “I love you” is often a reflex of having someone in my presence who did or said something so hilarious that it returned me to the moment and made me feel joy. It means I value your position and involvement in my life, whatever that may be. Lastly, In a very unique way, to say “I love you” is as if my heart is saying thank you.

Don’t be afraid to express your appreciation to your friends and family for the holidays this year. It may take time to find the right words and the right setting, but don’t blame that on yourself. Blame it on the limitations we’ve cultivated in our modern language.

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Thank you Marci Stern for becoming a patron for Metanoia! Please check out her beautiful artwork and publications (can be found on her contact page).

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Featured photo from lleana Skakun

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The Human Capacity for Love

I think that regardless of whether or not others are willing to admit it, people get into relationships, choose to love romantically and feel the need to be in a relationship because it does something for them. They do it to fill an empty space, whatever self serving, or altruistic space that might be, or even to just make life more interesting. The fact of the matter is that human love is conditional to varying degrees depending on the person. This does not make humans bad, or lesser beings. It is simply what they’re capable of doing in their current state, much like how your dog is unable to discuss politics with you.

I don’t usually talk about such personal matters, but recently a friend was interested in my philosophy/maxim on love and relationships. She had questions. She was asking because she knows me, and she knows I wouldn’t have a typical attitude on the matter. I just didn’t have a concrete answer for her, but I think I do now.

I was having a hard time trying to explain how I’m incapable of feeling love from people. I surmise that this is because conventional human love and my idea of love are not the same. When it comes to sex, I see it largely as a performance meant to satisfy one’s own physical or emotional  needs, and thats it. We attach things to this condition, like love, but that’s not love. As a sensitive person, I sense other’s need to fill some faculty. It can be some infatuation, some boredom, some physical interest, some area of their life. It is almost as if everyone is walking around with an empty cup, and trying to get someone they run into to fill it for them like homeless beggars. The way I see it, my cup is already full. When you have a full cup and are surrounded by desperate people with empty ones, you learn to become very protective of this cup. You do not want some energy vampire coming along and taking everything you worked so hard to make for yourself. That is what is happening when externally I am emotionally distant. I’m simply highly aware of a person’s desired conditions (and these vary greatly person to person), and base my involvement with them on this. To be perfectly honest, I believe that what I am can serve no purpose nor fulfill  any condition for anyone on this Earth, largely due to the ironic reason that I myself am complete and fulfilled with my own cup of love.

Having said this, I feel true love from things like animals and places. This concept is beyond what many can comprehend, but I also think there are many who can relate, and thats why I’m putting myself out there in saying it. In the case of animals, their conditions are a bowl of food and water, and company. Things that keep their bodies from dying. These conditions are so elemental that it feels closer to unconditional love. The mutualism that exists comes from a pure place. In the case of geography, it is an even purer form of love I’ve been able to experience. When I go to Fire Island, my childhood playground residence, I feel like I’m coming home to something I intimately know. For once, I get a sense of being seen, that something recognizes my true essence, not for any particular reason other than I’m there, and have spent a long enough time to leave an imprint on its surface, and vice versa. It is an equal exchange. I do not believe people are capable of seeing me in this way. We have not been equipped with this capacity for one another, yet…On Fire Island, there is a sensation of being held, and thats not something I know how to explain.

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How could one not feel true love from these things?

You may have noticed that this idea of love is purely platonic, and it is this that makes me question whether or not I identify as asexual. I seem to fit the bill in many respects, and right now that is what I’m calling it. But I’m open to being wrong about this, as well as being open to the idea that my condition doesn’t have a label or a name. Perhaps it is just how the unique expression of my soul manifests when allowed to be its true self.

Rebecca, I hope this either answered your question, or provided some sort of insight into my attitude on this matter. In the meantime, I am searching for better ways to explore this aspect of myself, and how to explain it.

Featured image by Anthony Garratt