Today is George Harrison's birthday. A man who truly understood the importance of love. And so, I feel like I need to write about it. Love. Not George Harrison. The man is genius. No blog of mine will ever do him justice.
The other day, I sat on the kitchen floor with Oliver and Etnie and gave them a little affection. That's all we were doing. A simple enough thing, but there was this moment, when Oliver laid his puppy head in my lap and let out this sigh of contentment, that I finally understood what unconditional love is.
Trust. Respect. Acceptance. No restrictions. Contentment.
There is nothing my fur-buddies can do that will change the way I feel about them. Not when they barf in the bed. Or step in poo and leave a trail of crap-prints all over the floor. And not even when they snarl or bite or claw or talk back.
I give them love without conditions.
It's a truly amazing feeling to be loved by something without reservation. And to give it? Well, that's the word, isn't it? I've said it before - it is not what we get, but what we give that makes us happy. Not the false materialistic happy we think new fashions, a speed boat or a diamond ring will bring, but true happiness.
A friend said to me, could you imagine a world where we loved everyone as much as you loved Oliver?
Wow, I thought. What an odd little place it would be. Then, I got to thinking about unconditional love towards people. Individuals, to be exact, not mankind as a whole, but I'll touch on that later.
For a long time, I thought this unconditional love thing was kind of hokey. I mean, a nice idea in theory, but essentially something made up by artists and writers to make people want something they will never have. I used to think, how can you love a human unconditionally when they are fallible, have cognitive thinking, and ulterior motives? Gee, doesn't it sound like I have a healthy view of people.
Back in the day, I believed people set out to double cross each other. Oh, it sounds even worse written down, but it pretty much sums up my mind frame. Correction: old mind frame. I'm not in that head space any more. Though, I do still experience trust issues and think, for the most part, humans are selfish creatures who will trample each other for a five dollar discount at Wal-Mart. That said, I've also opened up to not taking things personally. To letting things go. And, I dare say, forgiving people for their human tendencies.
Unconditional love is scary for two reasons.
1. The pain we assume goes along with it.
2. How inexplicable it seems.
First, let's talk about the hurt.
Sure, it can hurt to love something without conditions, whether or not they love you back, even if they dislike, ignore or mistreat you. It's painful because they can leave you or decide to test your feelings through jerky means. This hurt is directly linked to possession, though, because we are afraid of losing the person. And also, afraid of their actions. But, in the grand scheme of things, we cannot control how others act. And we actually don't own anyone. We are blessed with people in our lives, but there is no guarantee they will stay. We may call them ours, our boyfriend, our husband, our sex toy, but just because we say it, doesn't make it so. They will come and go, kind of like the wind.
And it hurts to think of them leaving us.
I fully admit I get choked up over the thought of Oliver dying or something terrible happening to him. It completely messes with my head, but I don't take away my love. To put it simply, it would be bloody lunacy to do so. Except, time and again, this is what we do to each other. We refrain from loving one another and push each other away because we are afraid of getting hurt.
In our hearts, we know it's silly. Unconditional love doesn't have room for these what-ifs and uncertainties. It needs to be left alone. To develop on its own without contraints or our own egos getting in the way. Besides, if our feelings are pure, we can let people go, because we know, even without them, the love will remain. Time, space, the past and future all mean nothing when it comes to the heart of the matter.
Secondly, we are creatures who thrive on understanding. We like to figure things out. Unconditional love doesn't make sense to us. Mostly because we're taught all forms of love come with conditions. We can thank movies, books and even our parents for that. After all, as children, we knew if we did our chores, went to bed without a fuss, and ate all our vegetables, our parents would love us more. Or, so we thought.
The thing is, unconditional love cannot be explained, even though I seem to be trying to do it. At times, I think it is our need to understand and have things explained that does the most damage. We are masters at over analyzing. And, I find, the harder we work to understand certain things, the more tainted they become. We need to learn when to leave something alone, to allow it to bloom and grow on its own, without picking it apart.
Love is the perfect example of this.
I live inside my head. I worry, mull, think, ponder, dwell, and poke, poke, poke. It's my fault. My flaw. (Out of the many I posses.) Only there is an exception to my over-thinking things and that is: I don't think about my adoration for Oliver and Etnie. It's true. It's all natural and it comes easily. I also don't think about the love for my parents or sister. It simply is. There are no expectations of getting anything in return and no doubts surround it. So, if I can apply unconditional love to them, why not more people?
As it goes, I started thinking about my ex, the most recent one. I've known him for years, almost decades, and our relationship spanned a very significant chunk of time. It is without doubt that I love him. And in a stupefying moment, I came to the realization that that love is actually unconditional. Of course, people will ask, if I loved him unconditionally, then why it didn't it work?
And that's the problem with love. People want to apply a romantic side to it.
Unconditionally loving someone doesn't mean you want to jump on it, ride the pony or slap that ass. (Yes, those are all terrible song references to drive home my point.) Besides, love isn't always enough to keep people happy, healthy and moving forward. We can love someone and not be able to be with them. In relationships, everything comes into play, from personalities to eating habits to quirks and even musical tastes. There are many factors that can derail the cohesiveness of your relationship, but that doesn't mean you stop loving them. It simply means you can't live under the same roof or spend a lot of time with them.
My ex is someone I loved for years before we decided to give a relationship a go. He's someone I admired, respected and cherished during the time we spent together, even though he drove me nuts with things he'd do, or, more accurately, not do. Which is why I love him now. Just because our relationship ended, doesn't mean my affection did. No matter where he goes or what he does, I wish him the best. If he's happy, I'm happy. My love for him has no expectations or obligations. It simply is. And it always will be.
Realizing I unconditionally love my ex is an odd sensation. It doesn't mean I want to be with him. Good God, no. He's an extrovert. I'm an introvert. And, while we had a fair amount in common, we simply didn't cohabit well. We also weren't heading in the same direction physically, mentally or spiritually. But it doesn't mean the love isn't there. And if I can extend love to my ex, why not my ex-ex?
Here's the thing I didn't understand before about this whole complicated matter. You can get mad at someone and still care about them. Through fights, hurt, breakups, indiscretions, hard times, growing apart, you can love the person on the other end. It's okay to get frustrated, upset, angry, and irritated with the ones you love, because we're human and, sometimes, we can't help it.
And I am not talking about boyfriends and girlfriends, husbands and wives. I am talking family, children, co-workers, friends, and even strangers.
Once you open yourself up to unconditional love, both giving and receiving it, you're made privy to a feeling of complete understanding. I never thought it possible before, but now I feel it daily. And I've been able apply it to the world as a whole, which is a very surreal and somewhat overwhelming feeling.
It means letting go of everything I thought to be true and embracing the fact that I was wrong. Wrong about love. Wrong about humans. Wrong about wants and needs. Wrong about how I looked at the big picture. Don't think I'm braiding flowers into my hair and wandering the streets in search of group hugs. No, humankind annoys the crap out of me and sometimes I get so agitated I want to scream. My sensitive self is constantly disappointed and upset with how we treat each other and the earth. But it's all part of the process. And I'm learning to deal with those feelings with understanding.
In the end, unconditional love isn't just for my dog. It's for everyone, all the people I brush shoulders with, everyone I come in contact with whether virtual or real. And it's for me, too, even though the idea of someone loving me unconditionally is a bit baffling. I mean, I'm a pain in the ass.
To wrap this all up, I do hold this kind of love for all creatures in every walk of life, but I feel it in return right now because Oliver's warm body is pressed against my thigh. And then I think of how big the world is and what the chances are that someone, somewhere out there, is thinking of me, and maybe there's unconditional love in their heart too.
At least, this is how I see it.