A part of me doesn’t believe in love. If you know me, that certainly does not fit neatly.
But when you work in neurobiology and medicine, you start to think about love in terms of needs met, and the allostasis of organisms. You learn to love the cells.
In the boggy middle, my layman’s brain held onto mutual truth, or denial, I’m not sure which. But I could justify how love was a mystery, and set it on a shelf right next to theology, dharma, quantum physics, and the bit of knowledge we have of black holes…things I’m comfortable comprehending incompletely.
But one interesting day, my eyes opened to the concrete absolution of biology. We are wired for survival. All actions are toward some kind of manifestation of survival.
I can see that love is our grand, beautifully orchestrated effort to feel out where we belong. If we put weighted blankets on individuals with proprioceptive idiosyncracies, they can feel their fit within the space around them. It can be calming to feel safely contained.
If we wrap ourselves in the idea and feeling of love, we are able to feel and emote where we belong within the organisms around us. We fit with him, or her, or them. We feel where we fit, when our dog, cat, horse, etc. is nearby.
Together and with love, we are powerful. Without love, we seem to become dysmorphic. And we can be together and absent of love; and we can be alone and absent of love.
I’ve been writing about self love. This idea, that we can be together and yet absent of love, really brings home the importance of self love. By nature, we are joiners, though some of us, pained by joining, become abstainers. This is a complex issue we could contemplate another time.
When we join into partnership, and our emotional and psychological containment is out of sync, we may depend too much on love to give us shape. And love is about oxytocin, and reproductive hormones, and neurotransmitters. It’s about chemical messengers, and cells. It’s about attraction, romance, and other conceptual, abstract bits of humanity.
Love is not a magic fog that settles between and around us, though I love the visual that comes when I say that. The multitude of memories swirling through my no longer placid mind give me pause. It’s the contents of my cells talking to his cells and the sun or moon shining just so, and the palette of our greatest adventures.
But when things are out of sync, it’s too hot or too cold and too bright or too dark. When one or the other of us is depleted, or working on overdrive, or otherwise imbalanced, it’s a puddle on the floor. Shapeless and impalpable.
When we cannot feel the love, sometimes we cannot find ourselves in the melee. And then maybe we unplug, or we chase it. We scratch at the space where it once was. Or we just turn away, but not too far, and pretend it’s all there. We soldier on, or we bail.
Some people were born with the perfect cushion of grace here, and others had help to learn about it and grow into a healthy understanding of love. But for the most of us, it is a messy mystery, even as it’s lying all around us.
So, recently I stumbled into this part of myself–the one that whispered some truth, or what we could arguably say is one piece of the many truths, around love: It’s not real. And I was startled, because I consciously know, believe, and understand I am buried and buoyed, miles deep and wide, in so much love. Sometimes I am certain all I know is love.
Holding these mutual truths, I realized this blissfully skeptical part of me could be right, wrong, or indifferent. But it is afraid of love, and here’s why: If I acknowledge the ocean of love I’ve been virtually drowning in, and I let it in, I simultaneously risk allowing it to give me shape and definition.
And maybe that’s a little scary to someone who doesn’t really believe in love.
For years, I’ve told my husband I’m in love with every cell of his body. Simultaneously, in some controlling corner of my being, love is something you give, and it is not something you should trouble yourself to receive. Because maybe that’s not safe.
I know definitively this love is safe. Sixteen years into a number of ridiculous behaviors and some magnificent victories, we’ve trenched it out. Over and over. For one distinctly difficult part of our marriage, I used this song as my alarm clock:
Yes, we sleep in the same room.
The remedy is mindset, diligence, and acceptance. If I am walking around pretending love is not for me, even if love is a sweetly biological hat trick, then certainly some of the rest of us are. This is a human problem.
We can overcome it with conscious co-creation of a gentler reality, where love is not something that defines us, constrains us, or makes us dysmorphic. We can choose to look for the smallest acts of love, acknowledge them, and greet them softly.
We can soften the clenched muscles of our front body, our shields, and say to ourselves, “That is love, and it is safe.” We have to allow love in, right to our deepest core, or we will continue to reject it, walk right past it, and live out our partial truths.