Just because I tell you I love you doesn’t mean that I can stand to be around most of you assholes. It’s not you. It’s me. Really. I’m a philanthropic misanthrop. “I’m just trying to love you muthafuckers!”
I can say, “I love you,” usually before the other person is ready to hear it, but it’s not usually because they don’t share similar emotions. It's that the expectations of that statement are overwhelming. But what I mean when I say I love you is the same thing we mean when we care for each other. I care about whether or not you are safe, comfortable, and happy. When you’re not all three things, it affects me. If you separate it from lust and all of the other more self-focused underlying emotions, that’s what it means to love someone. And I have said I love you a lot.
But as generous as I am with those three, I say these words much more sparingly, “I want you in my life, in whatever capacity you want to be there, for as long as you want to stay.” I can count the number of people I’ve said this to in my life on one hand.
I’m a fan of words that actually express intended meaning. Words that mean anything, (perhaps) like love, also mean nothing. Those words give up all expectations and demands of another person. It’s a concise way to say, “I’ll be your friend. I’ll be your lover for the winter. I’ll be your life-long partner. However much distance and time is between us, my door and my arms are open to you. I see you just as you are, and I’m on your side. No conditions.”
There are two characteristics that each of the people I have said those words to share: wicked smarts that challenge my thinking, and an incredible, outwardly expressive love of humanity. If you care about the safety, comfort, and happiness of others, then I can care about yours.
I have watched all the burden of the expectations of conditional (and traditional) love lift off a person’s shoulders and leave them as they exhaled in relief. I have felt the same unburdening as someone stood like a May pole while circumstance batted me around for a while. I can’t be wrong if it the effect just saying those words is that immediate, that powerful, that visible.
Not only has living that kind of love made for the happiest times in my life, it also takes some of the bitterness away as relationships evolve. All the relationship labels actually facilitate all those expectations and demands that I intend to avoid, and so for many of my relationships I can only say, “It is what it is,” and that is enough.
It has to be enough. Because when you take those labels away, the transition is smoother as relationships evolve. For example, an evolution from a romantic expression of love to a more familial love can heartbreaking because expectations were not met. Without those constrictions relationships gain the characteristic of elasticity. They can bend instead of break.
Humans are so strange to me sometimes. I see all of your customs and ceremonies and embossed state-issued paperwork telling you how to love, when to love, who and how many people you are allowed share that hoarded love with in the first place. I don’t need a paper from the state to hold my relationships together. I don’t need directions on how to love people, or a diagram showing what the end result of my love is supposed to look like.
If only love didn’t come pre-packaged and some assembly required.