>How do you know love?
It’s not easy, like in cartoons—no hearts around your heads, or in place of your eyes; it’s not as obvious as in movies, since there’s no dramatic music and lingering shots. Those sources do get one thing right, it seems: you tend to come to accept that you love someone when they’re not there. As in “My Fair Lady,” you grow accustomed to their face.
The most basic love, family love, is so much a part of me that I hardly even know it’s there. It only came out in full force a few times when I was young, but old enough to analyze the emotions: the best example that comes to mind is when my mom came to pick my sister, brother and I up from school. Kelsey and I got out early, but Ivie had a party at a teacher’s house, so we came back to the school later—when he came out, I felt like something had a hold of my heart. Sheer anxious terror—and Kelsey had the same response. I still don’t know what made us freak out, since he wasn’t walking much slower than usual, but by the time he got to the pickup we had the door open and were demanding to know what had happened. (He fell off of a trampoline at the party. He was fine, but it scared him because it scared the teacher. It would have been when Ivie, Kelsey and I were about 12, 13 and 14, respectively.)
It was a given, to me, that I loved my brother—but a simple word making such an overblown response to someone walking out of a building? A familiar building we all spent time at most of the year? So, a good part of love is on a subconscious level. You don’t constantly say to yourself: “I love this person. I worry about this person. I am aware of how this person usually is, even though I wouldn’t be able to describe it, and a change in their behavior would cause a large reaction in my mood and mental state.”
The love of friends is just as basic, for my family, because many of the “family” roles were filled by people who had no blood kinship. Neighbor was like a young great-aunt or a much older aunt—for several years, I only knew her as Neighbor; to this day, I still can’t call her “Peggy” without thinking first, and I think I’d spontaneously combust before I’d call her “Ms Houser/Howitzer.” (Her late husband’s name, and her maiden name. That didn’t help my confusion once I was old enough to care that she had other names….)
Does it seem like I’m rambling? I’m not, exactly. I just see most things through stories or similes, or at least have an easier time explaining things with them.
Love just confuses me. I know I’m not alone in that…. But how does one know if one’s feeling “REAL” love? Maybe all love is real, it’s just a plant that requires the proper care and soil to grow. That sounds right.
I’m not going to touch on Crushes-Love. That’s a gray area, since it’s hard to know until they’re over.
I also know Lonely-Love. Where you’re alone, and you may or may not know it, but someone comes and fills the emptiness for a while… even when you know you don’t love them, you stay, because it’s better than being alone. Usually, it ends bad—in my case, I trusted someone I shouldn’t have, and I’m glad that all I lost was a few hundred in loans that will never be repaid.
There’s also what I think of as Heart Love—not heart as in the purely romantic heart, but more along the lines of the ancient idea of the heart as being, well, the brain and soul rolled into one. The center of the being, the way you are when you forget to care about the way you are, and when you do notice you like it, even if you feel like you’re tipping your hand and giving away an advantage. (See the next para.) Basically, the way you are around your best of friends—or the way you would be, if you haven’t been fortunate enough to have a Best Friend for many years. Heart Love tends to grow out of friends. People you like to just spend time around, or can talk to for hours, or would trust to help you if you were in REAL trouble and you didn’t know where else to turn, even if you hated the idea of turning to anyone. The same people you trust to tell you if you’re being foolish, and the ones who say what your heart longs to believe when you only halfway believe something good about yourself, and the ones who will occasionally say something totally offhanded that makes your day a thousand times better. REAL friends. (The capitals are to show emphasis. I realize that’s the third time I’ve cap-locked “real.”) Sometimes you’re lucky enough to avoid the “I don’t want to ruin this friendship!” neurosis and work around the “But what if they want to be Just Friends?” angle…. I can’t be objective about this one, so I’m going to stop, but looking at my family, it seems like this is the best one.
On the idea of “tipping your hand:” if no-one knows the real you, they can’t reject you—they can only reject the mask-you. Oddly, this reasoning meshes very well with the way of making a mask that people will accept. I’m not as against this as it might sound—everybody has to adjust themselves somehow to fit into society, even if they don’t realize it. I tend to think of it in a couple of ways: trellises, armor and fortresses. Everyone that you’d want to know has some trellises in their social growth, or they’d be unable to function in society. Some folks stick close to the trellis, like a morning glory, and some only touch on it occasionally, like a climbing rose. Both can be lovely, and both can be terrible. (Any smart-a**es that want to say they go up on their own, with out a trellis: bawling infants that wet themselves are about as “natural” to their unformed selves as you can get. Having something to grow off of is a *good* thing, and it doesn’t destroy your uniqueness. Have you ever seen two morning glories that have the exact same twines on a trellis? How about an Ivy plant, for those who want to “branch out”?) The thing is, the trellis forms how you are, lets you have something to build on. The armor can be various thicknesses—from the light padding of basic manners to the plate mail of anonymity, the arm-shields of listening before you speak on touchy subjects to the tower shields of never offering what you think on any subject. Then there’s the fortresses where you form an entire personality, a way of portraying yourself. Personally, I like the with-guided-tours idea of making people happy as my fortress—it’s something that catches their attention and pulls it towards the more-acceptable aspects of my personality. Some folks like the we-have-guns-on-the-turrets-aimed-at-you way of their fortress—those folks who are always so angry that nobody wants to spend all that much time around them? It’s not a constant thing, by any means—I’ve been known to use the “guns” approach when I just don’t want to deal with anyone, and some people take the “happy” angle to the point of insanity. (I do sometimes go out of my way to make people happy, but I won’t do something I really, really don’t want to for someone who’s not a dear friend or in dire need.)
If anyone can think of something to add, please do. This came to mind because I was waiting (Welcome to the Navy: hurry up and wait) and I had a pen and paper around. I’ll probably add to it at some point, but I mightn’t be able to post it when I’m at sea.