Love: a Examination.

I say, “I love…” in abundance.

This has been discussed a few times with others. It has been suggested that when I use the phrase “I love…” to describe the feelings I have for many varying things, the emphatic value of the word is diminishing, as if it once was of larger meaning and is slowly haemorrhaging. I will say that I love an expression, or a food, or maybe a particular weather pattern. Does that mean when I say I love a person, that it’s the same as when I say I love fog?

Nope.

Definitions of love are broad, and multiply by as many different people feel it. Merriam Webster defines it as multitudes:

~ a feeling of strong and constant affection for a person
~ attraction that includes sexual desire : the strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship
~ warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion
~ unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another
~ an amorous episode
~ the score of zero (as in tennis)

The irony of the last one is not lost on this writer, mind.

So, what do I mean when I say, “I love…”? It helps to quantify things in the english language, since words are so easy to assign personal meaning to. English is a very logical language, which can leave it weak in the realm of emotional communication. Since I strive to be as emotionally articulate as possible, I have thought a fair bit about what I mean when I use “love” to describe how I am feeling about something. It seems there is no other recourse than to elaborate my meanings.

I love the people I have chosen to keep close. I hesitate to use the term “friend” to describe them all because the word is loaded, and while everyone I love I consider to be friends, I also have other words I would use to describe them. The umbrella term I’ve settled on is “close people” because to say someone is close is not prioritizing them based on whether I am romantically or sexually involved with them, or whether they’re related to me biologically or whether i’ve known them for longer than anyone else. How I love them is subject to what they mean to me, though.

“I saw that you were perfect, and so I loved you. Then I saw that you were not perfect and I loved you even more.” ~ Angelita Lim

I love them so much that when they expresses some feeling or thought that so wholly represents what I understand them to be as a person, I can’t help but tell them right in that moment before I crumple in my seat and hide the huge smile that has spread across my face because of it, completely uncontrollable.

I love the rain. It feeds the planet and makes things green. It is comfortable and soothing. It gives me a reason to stay indoors that is acceptable to broader circles who don’t fear the sun as I do. My reverence for the sun stems from what it does to me individually (i’m very fair-skinned) as well as what is happening as the layers of atmosphere can’t keep it out the way they used to, as if they have grown tired of trying to protect us when we keep throwing carbon emissions and poison at it. As if the world isn’t increasing in temperature as a result. It is. I know it’s not the sun’s fault, which is why I fear and respect it rather than am angry at it. The rain is a respite, an illusion cast over what is coming.

I love her because she listens to me contend with my own humanity and validates me, as I hope I am able to do for her. She tells me what I’m doing or saying is okay and reasonable. She tells me it is even healthy to say or do things I fear, sometimes. She tells me about her own struggles; we compare notes and support each other. I love her because she will call me on my shit, and check it. She will ask me a question that makes me think about where my feelings are coming from, and that helps me grow. I learn from her whenever we interact.

“The love we give away is the only love we keep.” ~ Elbert Hubbard

I love them because they have been such a profound influence on me and my life’s trajectory. I wouldn’t be where I am without the exposure to ideas they have afforded me, or the lessons they inadvertently taught me when we were young. They broke my heart worse than I thought I would be able to bear at the time, but this taught me to question the supposedly solid ground beneath my feet, and if I thought it was real and sound enough to stand on. They showed me that could change at any time. They also outlined that if it disappeared, I would be okay eventually. They taught me to trust my own resilience, a lesson that came later while I curled up on their couch deliberating over what to do next about another broken subsection of my heart. None of this was intentional, and I have no idea how we managed to get here, but here we are.

I love biscuits. They’re soft, buttery, and taste delicious with preserves or just with butter. Turns out I love butter, too.

I love him such that it brings me to cry when he is telling me about some concept or feeling that he is struggling with. I sit across from him at a table in a coffee shop, or a restaurant, while he shows me with his words what is happening for him on the inside. Tears start streaming down my face because I just want him to be more comfortable in his own mind. I know he is doing a lot of hard introspection, and that is beautiful; I want to be able to relieve him of how hard his feelings are being on him, or how hard the state of the world is on him, or both. I deliberate over what I can do to support him, only to conclude that if he wants my support, he will ask. I don’t hold my breath for that because I see him do a thing that I do: explain away his needs with intellect. I explain away my own need to try to help with intellect. Around we go in a circle. I also want to reassure him that I can see how hard he is working on himself, and what an awe-inspiring thing that is to be able to witness.

“The giving of love is an education in itself.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

I love words. I love the way I am able to download my thoughts into them, onto a screen so they don’t whirl around in my brain anymore, and I can read them back to myself. I love how writing is like taking a picture of the thought I have and freezing it right where it is. I appreciate how this allows me to think about it in the moment the keystrokes occur, as well as how it develops into something else later. Looking at writing is like looking at a series of thoughts and feelings, frozen or captured before they either escape or morph into something completely different and unrecognizable from what they were when written. Show, don’t tell, an instructor once said. Writing is also like being able to look at a situation or setting through the eyes of someone else, unlike any photograph.

I love him because he has been unwaveringly supportive of everything I have ever decided to do, even when he doesn’t think he would have made that choice himself. He never had a handbook on how to deal with me, or the set of circumstances that were to befall me when I was younger and he was my guardian. However, he somehow managed to instil in me the tools I’ve needed to navigate many challenges and in some cases, extract myself from complicated or dangerous possibilities. I take risks, but I always know when to get out. I believe my other guardian figures to be more skeptical of this, despite time and time again my proving that I have it “handled”. Whatever that means. I know what I need, despite my own skepticism of myself, sometimes, and he instilled that value in me: I always know when to get out.

I love her because of the way she cross one arm over her chest to cup her other elbow, fingers of her other hand dance along her lips idly while she inhales before saying something she has been thinking about for a minute, a mere second, or maybe for ages. The brilliance that is then spoken can’t be measured by how long she has contemplated the thought, because it’s all perfect. She is pure steadiness when I get emotionally cyclonic, acting the lightning rod to bring me back to level when i’m having a hard time. Her support in the way she mirrors me is completely unwavering, and I’m so lucky to have her to look to.

“I realized I was thinking of you, and I began to wonder how long you’d been on my mind. Then it occurred to me: Since I met you, you’ve never left.” ~ Unknown

I love my community because it is weird and wonderful. I enjoy being outside “normal”. Whatever that means. I want to also recognize that we are making our way in a strange, unpredictable world that has graced us with being born into really fortuitous locality so we get to sit around thinking about politics, privilege, feminism and relationships instead of whether a bomb is going to blow up our house or if it’s going to be too hot to live in our country at some point.

I love the people I have lost over the years, through death, or some great point of difference we could not overcome, or both at once. I love them despite these differences, because I know, maybe, a tiny bit more now than I did then. I’m sorry, and grateful.

Sometimes, I love someone for a second, a minute, a day, a week, a month, a year, seventeen years, or since the moment I laid eyes on them, and until now. Sometimes I tell them, and we share that. Sometimes I never do; I hold onto it until there are little half moons in my palms from where my fingernails meet skin in my clenched hand.

In those white knuckle moments, it is just mine.

“Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

Somebody That I’ll Never Know.

The venue, with house lights barely that could be considered dim, was buzzing with energy as the performance got underway. The floor was lined with row upon row of assigned seating, with space near the stage for standing room. We were all standing anyway, despite having seats assigned to us. The seating was for jackets or purses. This sort of event comes with the expectation that once the act comes out, everyone is standing and remains on foot through the concert. I love these shows; the ones where nothing can keep you from swaying or moving your hips a little, because who sits idly through Gotye?

The first time I heard “Somebody That I Used to Know” I loved it. I romanticized it, listening to it on repeat. I’ve since listened a lot harder to the lyrics and taken a different perspective. This song is about entitlement, and not respecting a person making their own choices about their participation in the life of another person. This is precisely what I was grappling with as I stood in that concert hall, listening to a live rendition of that song. I had left my autonomy in the hands of someone else, and as a result I had a small collection of cells growing inside my uterus, and within a few days they would be removed.

The subject of abortion is a controversial one. Is it killing a human being, or is it simply removing some cells that are the precursor to that person’s existence? Is it murder, or is it allowing a woman to choose whether her body becomes an incubator for 9 months? That last question isn’t even taking into consideration the impact that having a child has on her life, let alone her body. If she chooses to raise it herself, that is a life-changing trajectory that will mutate everything that happens to her onward. If she gives it up for adoption, she is still subject to the person she gave to other parents showing up in her life at one point or another, wanting to know who she is and why she made the decision she did. That could happen at any time, forever. The option that erases it having ever having happened is terminating the pregnancy, if the woman happens to live in a country where it is legal to have one. If they have access to medical care and resources to pay for such a procedure, should it not be covered. If they are able to access said medical care in clean and safe conditions and the procedure can be done without lasting harm to her. If it can occur without any blowback from family, social network, or society. If.

I am very lucky.

I live in Canada, where medical care is partially, if not fully, covered. I was able to sit in a clean, safe doctor’s office and wait for a nurse to come back from testing my urine sample and say to me “your test has come back positive”, neutrally, waiting for my reaction. I was able, as a result of my own upbringing, politics, and privilege, to stare her right in the eye, deadpan, and respond, “I am going to need the phone number of an abortion clinic, please” because those are available here. I think she then asked if I had not planned this, and I said that no, I had not. In fact, two contraception methods had failed in the process of this conception. Two. Contraception methods of which I had easy access to. Also, my self reliance had failed, but that was tertiary. When you are in an abusive power dynamic with another person, and he says, “we don’t have to use protection until you get your period, because you took the morning after pill”, you just say, “oh, okay” instead of checking into it yourself.

I check into it after.

My brain does a backflip. My heart sinks when I realize how far gone I was to just believe him when he said it was fine. You should have protected yourself from him, from all of it, I scold myself after; I still do. I didn’t protect myself. I did that thing I do where you let someone take the reins from me so I can just relax for a minute and someone else can drive.

I always do that with the wrong people.

My singular moment of reservation and self-doubt about my decision to terminate my pregnancy happened at that concert.

I was standing with my girlfriend and her other partner, listening to a wonderful performance by a set of talented musicians, and I caught some light from behind me out of the corner of my eye. I turned in time to see two smaller children run down the aisle, and a man following them, asking them in a loud whisper to please slow to a walk. Neither of them looked older than six or seven, and they were both adorable. They rushed up to the front of the hall, excited for the music and the show, practically tripping over their own tiny, padding feet in an attempt to get closer, faster. I thought to myself, isn’t it great that father decided to bring his kids to such an amazing show. Not a lot of parents would think Gotye to be a good or appropriate experience for small children, but the talent and the experience might inspire their own creativity around music. I think any sort of exposure to art is great for kids at any age, so i silently, mentally high-fived that dad as he breezed by after the two little ones. All I saw was a flurry of flapping jackets, excited voices, maybe some blonde hair.

Maybe I am imagining the blonde hair since mine is strawberry blonde, and his had been an ashy lighter shade. Our child would probably have blonde hair and blue eyes, based on his and my appearance. I wonder what gender they would be. Would they exist in the world around them or inside of their head, most of the time? I wonder if they would want to paint, or learn piano, or play soccer. Would they be more interested in boys or girls, or boys, girls and anything in between, like me? I wonder what sort of heart they would have. I wonder if they would be happy with the name I gave them, or if, like me, they would alter the spelling when they hit a certain teenage place that promotes arbitrary rejection of things assigned. I wonder if they would be a good friend to their peers, or a good partner. I wonder if they would grow to resent me, as I do my own mother, for something I did that I could never have foreseen affecting them in the way it did, and if they would be able to find a way to forgive me. I am only human, after all.

This thought stream lasted for about fifteen seconds, I figure.

I blinked and the children were lost in the crowd near the stage, the father gone as well. I rubbed the tears standing in my eyes out of them with the heels of my hands, wishing them away and to not give me away. I was not going to cry over some cells that had infiltrated my body, unsolicited. I was going to take another sip of my gin and tonic, enjoy the music, and get through the next few days. I was tougher than this, than tears over an invasion in my body, and I knew I was doing the right thing. To have a child right now was preposterous. To have HIS child, abhorrent.

No.

I was 6 weeks along. My lower back started to hurt a bit the day before the procedure, reminding me with its dull ache that my body was starting to adjust to its inhabitant.

I had found out there was a set of cells clinging on for dear life to the inside of me, trying to grow, four days prior.

That set of cells was going to be removed from me in three days time.

The last four days, and the following three, would be an alcohol and marijuana induced haze. I drank myself into a stupor each night, and spent most of the days stoned if I wasn’t working.

I did this to make sure I went through with it.

I knew that if I intoxicated myself to the point of memory loss, I would not back out because of the damage I was doing to those cells, as well as myself. I would be able to continue to put one foot in front of the other until I found myself at that appointment in three days. I would tell the on-site counsellor that yes, I have thought this through, and yes, I am sound of mind. No, this was not planned. Yes, I am sure.

Yes, I am sure.

A friend drove me to the clinic. I sat across a desk from a counsellor that had to ask me if I had thought through my decision, and how I was feeling about it. I gave her short answers. Yes, I am sure. No, this was not intentional. Yes, I would like to take this pamphlet about support services. No, I don’t need anything. Yes, I’ll happily put on that gown and put my feet in these stirrups while this nurse hooks me up to some pain medication. Yes, I can feel that. No, I don’t want… oh. Okay, I guess i’ll take another hit of the pain meds. The more, the merrier. Yes, I can hear you. No, I can’t feel that.

It was over in an hour or so.

I was high as a kite when I was guided back out of the clinic and to the car. We went to my house and watched “The Last Unicorn” and ate french toast.

I have not for a moment regretted my decision. I didn’t even think about it when the month I would have given birth passed. It wasn’t until more than a year after that I thought to myself, wow, I could have had a baby right now. Every so often I have reflected on how old they would be, briefly.

The reflections last no more than 15 seconds.

a letter to them.

This was written initially a long time ago, and revised recently as a personal essay for a creative writing class. The feelings portrayed here are long resolved, and I love the person who this was written to dearly. She is one of my best friends, and I am so proud to have her in my life.

~*~*~

my dearest, my love, i’ve missed you.

recently, we spent some time together, and it was really nice to see you out and having fun. being you. it has been ages since i have glimpsed you being you; maybe i never had until now. i’m so happy for you.

even as i write this, i’m trying not to. procrastination is a fine art when you do not even realize you are not doing what you set out to. i stop, check if there are updates for my laptop, or look at social media. i get up and see if the food i have in the oven is okay. i shuffle the contents of my kitchen counter around, rearranging things that are perfectly tidy. i wander through the living room to the windows. i take a photo of the beautiful colours the stormy sky is creating outside. the storm is timely because i have a cyclone in my head that would be better out there in the clouds, wrecking havoc on landscape. or on my computer screen, one letter following the next. all of these little activities are avoidance tactics. i have been burying this letter; it has been clawing its way to the surface for a while.

i’m still mad at you. and then immediately at myself. those two feelings chase each other around in my head endlessly, a cat chasing its tail.

we were together for just shy of three years. you lied to me, to everyone, to yourself, for that time, and the years preceding. for your life. i don’t blame you for hiding. i don’t have even the slightest beginning of a thought of what that must have been like. i know only what you have shared with me; that the stress, the depression, the hurt and the fear that almost killed you. because of that, i can’t blame you.

i thought i was going to marry you. i wanted to have children with you.

we talked about it, planned a future. it would all be perfect, we discussed it over the phone when we were apart, mostly. maybe it was easier to lie when you weren’t looking me in the eyes. we would talk late into the night, and i would ask you where you thought we would live, what colour would the sheets be. could we have a pet? as time passed, and things felt stranger, i would ask for more details with more urgency. i wanted you to tell me what we were fantasizing would manifest. i wanted to know whether you thought we could live with your cousin, as you did then, or if we would live separately. would we have an apartment where you and he would keep your office? what colour would the walls be? we should make sure we have laminate or hardwood if we are going to get a pet. i would get my driver’s license so we could live in the city you preferred, of course. i get it; that suburb is quite pretty with all its newly landscaped parks and clean, sterile streets. we thought we would name our first daughter odessa. that was your suggestion. i loved it. should we keep my bookshelves or build something into the living room? i hope we can find something with a yard. dogs and children alike really need green space, you thought. i agreed.

we agreed about so many things.

the first time we fell away from each other it was because you had a row with one of my dearest friends on her anniversary party at a cabin outside of town. she didn’t like you, but i didn’t care. you didn’t like her, and i cared a lot. i remember you driving away from the cabin in a flurry of curse words and flinging gravel. i stood on the porch and watched you drive off after hearing you and her yelling at each other. the tears streamed then, but in two weeks i was back in your bed and your arms because we loved each other and surely that was enough. you hadn’t meant to get so upset, you promised. you would never leave me again, i was too good and kind for being so patient.

the second time came from nowhere, or from my insistence that something wasn’t right, maybe. i wonder about that, if i had asked less questions, just allowed you to be as you were, if it wouldn’t have ended that time. but i asked a lot of questions, and couldn’t just let you be as you were. i was gentle, but insistently so. when can we move in together? why can’t we talk about it? why won’t you tell me why not? why? over the phone, of all things; this was when people still usually broke up in person. you didn’t know what you wanted, so surely we must part ways. surely we weren’t meant to be if you didn’t know for sure. it was weeks before we saw each other, and my tears free-flowed like rivers. as soon as you knew i had been with someone else, you said you never wanted that again. you had also tried someone on, and it had felt wrong, you said. we tried again. i let myself love you again.

i bent and morphed and chameleoned into this person that was ideal for what i thought you wanted. when we met, i left friendships behind you deemed unhealthy for me. my best friend would come into town and i would not see him because you thought he was problematic. there was this one time, the only time you met him, and he behaved as aloof and cavalier as he does a lot of the time. he jumped out of the car at a busy intersection, saying he was going to a punk club. you thought him irresponsible and unreliable. i abided. i stopped seeing him when he came to town, made excuses, flimsy ones like i couldn’t make it or that i was too busy. when you and i disagreed, it ate me up inside; whatever it took to minimize any conflict. my proverbial walking space became littered with sharp, breakable things that i gingerly tip toed my way through in an attempt to appease you. i made changes. i drank less, smoked less, tried to fit in with what you deemed to be a healthier lifestyle. i stopped seeing my friends as much as i wanted because you weren’t keen on social situations more than once a month or so. i stayed in with you whenever you wanted. i saw you whenever you wanted. i would have done anything for you, if you had asked or even shown a sign of a need i could serve. this is how i am with those i love; i will build spacecraft and slay dragons. this subservience was one-sided; this is where the self-loathing comes in. i could have seen it coming, i could have held back. that’s a lie; i could never have.

the sex stopped sometime after about a year and a half.

well, stopped is harsh. it creeped to a slow crawl of an average of about once every month or so, at best. this was if i was lucky. i would wrestle with my feelings and my desires, not knowing if it was because of me; feeling inadequate, lost, isolated within my mind. i remembered lying next to you while you slept, staring into the darkness at the curve of your nose, your slightly pointed ear, wondering if i could see into your mind if i looked long enough while you were sleeping. maybe if you were sleeping, the vault that was your consciousness wouldn’t be as impenetrable.

every time it would happen, i would feel a tidal wave of validation. maybe you still love me. maybe because you wanted to fuck me, you still love me. you would go to the washroom and i would curl into a ball on my duvet and pillows in the dark, and cry my eyes out with relief. i have always hidden in sex, used it as a mechanism for affirmation: a way to feel close and safe. i felt the gap between us grow with it missing from our time together. i felt helpless, a passenger.

you told me, hesitantly, that you liked wearing women’s clothing. you asked me to google about cross-dressing fetishes and tell you if i thought it was weird. of course you’re not weird, love, whatever you like is okay. You asked me if i would mind buying you lacy thongs to wear under your jeans. of course, i would go shopping today.

i thought this would solve the intimacy gap that seemed to be growing.

as the disconnected feeling escalated, i would ask you why we never really talked about living together, the future, what our life together would look like anymore. whenever i brought it up, i was met with rejection and dismissal. i was told i overreacted and over thought. i felt crazy. you reinforced that by telling me i was being crazy, and to check the calendar for my period, as if i had ever had a mood swing in my life. my perception was that if these things were not discussed, they would never come to pass; i engaged you hopefully, and retreated from your criticisms with my fears amassing.

we laid in the dark that one night, and you told me that when i had called you after work, you weren’t just getting into your car to drive to my house, as you had said. you were at my house already, in the underground parking.

you were on the phone with a crisis line, crying and begging for help.

you wanted to die. instead of getting off the phone and acting in self destruction, i called and you told me you would be at my house in a half hour. from my underground parking garage. you said it and sat there, deciding whether or not to tell me.

we laid next to each other in the dark, parallel and staring at the ceiling as if the answers were there. our fingers were intertwined and i turned to look at you just as the words came, when you said “i think i’m a girl” and dissolved into tears i never knew you were capable of having. i think i had only ever seen them standing in your eyes, when you told me you loved me the first time, and maybe once when we had decided to keep going together the second time. third time is the charm, they say.

you told me of your prison within your own skin. i cried with you, once the words settled into my realm of understanding. i told you i would support you no matter what. i love you. i bit my tongue, tasting copper, as my entire universe, the past, present, and future, disintegrated when you said “i think i’m a girl”. every feeling i had, every worry, an illusion. none of it was real. three years of my life was built on lies. the house and the kids and the life we would have together shattered and became what it was: nothing.

you asked me to tell no one, i agreed. you said you wanted to tell your family before i could speak to anyone. i called a counsellor the next day; it was that or institutionalization.

you were the last monogamous relationship i was ever going to have.

we went back and forth through the turbulence of my ousting monogamy from my life,; you did not approve, nor would you tolerate it. i stated clearly that you no longer had a say in what i chose for myself; i was going to take some time to heal, i was going to take care of myself, and i was not going to adhere to monogamy anymore. when you said you wanted me still, despite the challenge, i thought you meant it. i thought you meant you wanted us both to be happy together. you said you would transition, and then no, and then yes. and then there was one phone call while i was in transit one morning that did me in.

this was happening to me too.

i walked swiftly through a train station that led me to work, weaving through jackets and briefcases and shoulder bags of commuters, staring at nothing but never bumping into anyone.

my heels clicked on the pavement as my lips pursed and my eyes glazed over, still not touching another person because if i did i might be a person, like the jackets around me, in that moment of dehumanized, robotic listening to words that cut me. you said you weren’t going to let me go, i stopped in my tracks. i would be your wife, you said, and we would have children, and then you would transition, you said. i realized you didn’t know. you didn’t know what i was going through, and you didn’t know what that life would be like for me. i would be a single mother in no time, and you were okay with that trajectory for me. i knew what you were struggling with was worse, but i was still struggling too and you didn’t know.

i would not be with someone who didn’t know what they were doing to me.
we didn’t speak for months.
when words did start to be exchanged, the odd text here and there or an email, a check in,

it was infrequent and timid. more months passed.

i spread wings from the ashes that were my destroyed projections and i have flown into a whirlwind life where i am myself; i am growing again. i learn every day some thing that will better help me be myself. my self-awareness has been honed into a utility with years of counselling and friends who get me and support me. i have fallen in love and out and in and out. and in. i am calm. my tendency to love unabashedly and deliberately has stayed present within me. it wasn’t destroyed by this great turning point. i’m thankful for that.

i had this idea that it is healthy to get over things. i have had so many things i have tried so hard to get past and let go, but i am starting to think it is more about understanding them. the things we have been through are the dents in our armour that makes it unique and ours. they make us who we are. i wouldn’t be the person i am right now, right this moment, if it weren’t for this, or for you, and so many other varying experiences that have shook my being, ruined me, violated me, have had me twisting and turning in the air trying so desperately to just land on my feet. i always land on my feet. if the things i have been through had not been, i wouldn’t have this specific capacity to love; i wouldn’t have my patience, my sensitivity, my strength. i like who i am. even when i’m mad at myself because i’m mad at you, i’m still happy it all happened. without it i might be different.

this is starting to sound like letting go. or carving out a little place for my hurt to rest and be quietly a part of me. a dent in my armour.

so if I’m a bit distant when we are together, i will come around eventually. or i won’t. i may need breaks. i may go radio silent at times, but i’ll come back eventually. i know you didn’t mean to hurt me. i hope it isn’t taken personally although it is personal to me. i love you.

i’m not sorry.