Thursday, 1 December 2011

Love (and beanie animals)

I'm sitting here in the wee small hours feeling rather philosophical, listening to the rain splashing down on the pavement outside my living room window, and contemplating the issue of love. 

Love hurts. Isn't that the saying? In fact Daniel Bedingfield's song 'Nothing hurts like love' ripped my heart out the last time I heard it, as every single word seemed painfully appropriate. But the more optimistic amongst us say that no, love doesn't's the absence, or retraction of love, that hurts. LOVE is awesome, wonderful, beautiful, exciting. Love rocks! Well, 'they' are probably right. But it can be almost impossible to hold on to that perspective when you're feeling really broken hearted.

I've had 'I love you' said to me passionately, and sincerely. I've also had it said to me as a selfish means to an end. I've had it recited as an excuse for hurting me, and used as emotional blackmail. I've been unable to stop smiling like a lunatic, lost all common sense, been unable to sleep, lost my appetite, daydreamed my way past the right bus stop, been motivated into getting fit quick, spent crazy amounts of money, and done things I never thought I could or would - all because of the words 'I love you'. On reflection, it's almost scary how much power those three little words can hold over us, be it positive or negative.

However, it occurrs to me that all of this musing so far is only related to romantic love. And yet there are so many different forms of love that we come into contact with on a daily basis. So why is it that we so often spend the majority of our time focussing only on that one kind of love? And if we were able to open ourselves up to the power of love in different ways, might it perhaps make the often confusing and painful battlefield of romantic love a little easier to navigate? Could we perhaps, by learning to understand, appreciate, and drink in the beauty of all kinds of love, learn to discern sooner when romantic love is insincere and not built to last, or when we are truly on to a good thing?

Many people never get married, or have the opportunity to have children. Most of us travel through life fearing that this will be our fate, and taking as many steps as possible to prevent it from happening. Some people date or even marry out of fear, simply to avoid being alone. And yet some of the most amazing, caring, happy people I know have never been married and have no children, but they radiate peace and fun and contentment in all they do. They have families with whom they are extremely close, children to whom they are Godparents or honorary Aunties/Uncles, and close friendships that have lasted for years. How is it possibly fair to say, therefore, that they have in some way missed out, or that their lives are any less fulfilled than those around us who have 'found love'? Have they not also found love?

It is true, in my thirty-and-two-thirds years of being alive, that some of the most amazing, passionate, intimate and poignant moments of my life have been romantic ones. And a few of those moments are, without question, burned on my heart and mind forever. But I also know that when those relationships caved in on me, and my heart was unbearably broken, it has been my family and my close friends who have been there for me, and who have allowed me - no, encouraged me - to cry in their arms, in their homes, into and onto their pillows/blankets, over plates of cake: nowhere is ever off limits to people who truly love you. Over the years I have been given massages when I was tense, provided with enough tissues to consider taking out shares in Kleenex, had cups of tea brought to me, been forced to eat when I couldn't, been dragged on nights out that turned out to be inexplicably awesome, and have even been presented with ludicrously cute microwaved beanie animals to cuddle (as displayed below. Everyone should have one. So adorable!)

I have been reassured countless times that (contrary to my own opinions) I am beautiful and special; that I deserve to be treated like a Princess, that everything is going to be ok, that I am loveable, that I'm not second best, and that 'somewhere out there' is someone who will agree with them on all of the above points, who will treat me with honesty and respect, and 'make all my dreams come true'.

I am not saying these things to make myself sound fabulous. I am saying them because recently, it has been occurring to me that the only dream I really have, when it comes right down to it, is to be able to live a life of love with, and for, the people around me. It's as simple as that. I suspect that this is also the case for many of my other single friends. But this is not necessarily a dream that needs an 'other half' to be fulfilled. I am a whole person as I am, and for me, my worth is found in who I am, in the God who created me, and in the people in my life who love me back. So how is it that we all seem to grow up harbouring a constant need to 'find someone', and harbouring an even bigger complex if they appear to be nowhere to be found? And why on earth do we feel that we need a 'significant other' to make our dreams come true?

It's as if the only way we can fully accept ourselves is when somebody somewhere has a revelation of our hidden awesomeness, which will magically transform the way we view ourselves, instantly validating our existence as a person worthy of love. When the simple truth of the matter should be this: there are already people around us who believe that we are beautiful and special, and who already treat us with respect and decency. These people make it their business to ensure that everything will be ok for us one way or another, simply because they constantly have our backs in every situation, and they love us no matter what. These are the people who show us true love on a daily basis and ask nothing in return.

These people are our friends, our parents, our siblings. These are the true heroes of life. These are the people we can call at 3am when we feel lonely, for no other reason than we know that they care. These are the awesome, wonderful nutcases who for years have put up with bad hair days, bad mood days, creative messy paint all over the house days, weepy days, irritable days, writing music at 3am days, crazy hyper happy days, oops I drank too much and I'm not sure where I am days, I really need a hug days, can I come over? I locked myself out again days, I'm sorry but I spilled Ribena all over your white carpet - please don't hate me days...and all the days inbetween. 

Why should these relationships have any less worth than romantic ones? Surely they should hold equal value in our hearts, and we should invest every bit as much time, effort, and love into these people as we do into finding our 'someone special' - they are ALL special, and should be valued as such.

It's natural sometimes to feel lonely for more than just friendship. To deeply miss the one who meant the most and who, for whatever reason, slipped away, or broke your heart. To wonder 'what if', be it concerning the past or the future. And when we get hurt, it's natural to retreat and to take time to heal. But I truly believe that the most important thing, above all else, is to not waste precious time by blocking everyone out whilst grieving over someone who once was, or by neglecting those close to us whilst worrying over someone who is not yet. Instead we should throw ourselves into loving and truly appreciating those who 'are' now. 

That doesn't mean it's wrong to remember, or wonder about the future, and it doesn't mean that being alone doesn't sometimes hurt. Broken hearts take time to mend, and loneliness can be a killer. It just means that when it does hurt, we need to open up our eyes and realise that we are never fully alone, and learn to be grateful for the people in our lives who are our true constants. They are our lifeline...they are our now. They are what makes us awesome, no matter what we go through. They are a huge gift and we need to treasure them, or someone else will.

So to every friend and family member who has been a hero to me throughout my life so far I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Your love means more to me than you will ever know. I will love you forever and ever. Thank you x