Tuesday, 29 May 2012

All mankind loves a lover - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Love is four small letters but it holds a big question; what is love?

Is loving the same as being in love?  That is a difficult one. Love is a word that is bandied about covering many facets. You can love your parents, your partner, your children, your friends, your home, your car, your new phone, your job. But, apart from your partner you are not going to be in love with the others.

How do you differentiate between love and being in love? I loved my parents and grandparents, I never queried whether I did or not and I felt loved in return. We didn't have much money but I never went without. I had warm clothes in winter and lighter clothes in summer. I had stout shoes in winter and sandals in summer. I had toys, not the mountains that children get now and not the electronic toys either. It took a lot for my parents to save up in a club for Christmas, I remember getting two big china dolls one Christmas. One was a blond, pink doll the other a black doll with black hair; they came with a twin pram, it must have cost my parents a lot of money that year. I don't equate my love for my parents with what they bought me that would be too shallow and that is not my style. I was fed well with plain home cooking, our house was warm, albeit that we had no bathroom we were clean we bathed in a tin bath in front of the fire. My parents had worked since they left school and worked into their 70s. After I married and had a family of my own I had a better relationship with my parents and the balance of love shifted a bit. I felt more protective of them as they grew older. After my father died I felt a rush of love that was difficult to explain. I realised that he had loved me but in his own way. I said I didn't evaluate my love for my parents on what I was given and that is true, my father loved me but he was undemonstrative. He hadn't received love as a child and he found it difficult to express it. After he died he left a wish for a requiem mass and at the service the priest said that my father had told everyone who would listen how proud he was of me, my brother and my daughters. But why did he not tell us? My daughters asked. I believe it was because he didn't know how. Children learn to love as they learn to talk, walk, feed themselves. It is through copying, watching, learning - from their parents and others around them who care for them. If a child isn't shown love, how can they express love? They won't know what it is. Children need to feel safe and loved, I felt that as I had my mother and her parents as well as great aunts and uncles to show me what it was I was exposed to family love. My father read to me, we went out in a family, he provided for us and that was love in the way he could express it but not the hugs and kisses love that my husband and I gave our daughters.

When I became a grandmother I never thought I would feel the surge of love I felt, it was just the sort of love I felt after the birth of my daughters. When I saw my first grandchild, a girl, I couldn't believe how beautiful she was. She was perfect and my love was so strong. That feeling was there after my second grandchild, a boy was born. He was perfect too, like his sister his tiny hands, ears, feet, nose, mouth and eyes were all  perfect and evoked the feelings I recognised as love. My third grandchild, another boy, was premature but still perfect in every way. Unfortunately we couldn't see him as soon after birth as his sister and brother but the wait was worth it. I held him and my heart overflowed. My fourth and fifth grandchildren are twins - a boy and a girl. Like their cousin they were premature and they looked like tiny porcelain dolls. I saw them, but could not touch them, in hospital but only held them when they got home. I loved them from the start and I felt so protective of them just as I did with their cousins. I felt so proud of my daughters for giving me such beautiful grandchildren. Obviously I am not the only grandmother who is proud of her grandchildren and who loves them so much but they are my grandchildren, part of me and love for them is part of me too.

I had and still have close friends who I loved and do love. There are two friends with whom I have been close to for many years and we are like sisters. Both my friends are only children and I never had a sister so I feel they are the people I can talk to and confide in. One friend lives in Australia and the other in the UK. I live in France so we don't meet up but we e-mail, telephone and keep in contact as much as is possible. The love is for someone who accepts you as you are and doesn't expect any more than you can give. I have experienced the highs and lows of their lives, been through the raising of our families, experienced the joys of adolescence from our children and the problems teenagers bring. We talked, cried, laughed, and sympathised with the agonies we went through with exams and university. We cried with pride at weddings and then when we became grandparents. At times in our lives we need friends who know us so well and who will empathise without being judgemental, will worry about you, care about you. All this is done differently to your family as they are outside of the family whilst still being 'family' to you if not the rest of your immediate family. Family and friends are loved and whilst it is possible to fall out with family and friends there is still an emotional tie to shared lives, the good and the bad.

We can love a house and there are people who have a really deep attachment to what is not just a house but a home especially if it is a place that they have grown up in and the building seems to hold strong memories. At the centre of the attachment is the love felt in childhood that seems to have permeated the very fabric of the building, or it was the place they raised their own family and every room has a story to tell.  Others have no such connection with what is in effect bricks and mortar. They can move with no qualms about leaving and will settle into their new abode very quickly.

So often it is heard when out shopping, ' I just love that dress/shoes/handbag/boots/' I wonder about using 'love' in such a superficial way. Can you really 'love' an inanimate object? Transferring love to objects takes us back to childhood. If a child is not shown love but is placated with 'things' their love will centre on objects rather than developing love for other people. People who develop a love and fascination for surrounding themselves with objects seems very shallow. But I think that it is a crutch they feel they need to lean on or they wouldn't have anything they feel would satisfy their needs. How sad that someone feels the need to fill their lives with objects rather than people. Even sadder are those that continue to fuel that need after they take a partner. Something is missing from their lives when they cannot let go of the passionate love of objects to replace the love of another person. The partnership with the other person is doomed to failure if they are seen only as a means to fund their obsession.

At some point in nearly everyone's life there comes a point when they want to find a life partner. I was very selfconscious  as a young woman and never thought anyone would find me attractive enough to want to go out with me, live with me or marry me. Then I met my now husband. I can't say I loved him or even liked him when we first met but he grew on me! We have been married over 40 years now so it must work. I did come to love him and there was a passion when it developed. The passion of the early days settled into a mature love and we were 'in love' the feeling that some people find elusive. How do you explain being in love? What is that bit of chemistry that is felt that is not present in the above types of love?

I can only describe how it was for me. The wanting to be together all the time, thinking about what we have done or going to do when we are together, hearing their voice in your head, seeing their face, wanting to touch them, feeling a shiver when they touch you, hearing them tell you they love you and seeing the love in their eyes when they look at you. But that isn't all. When you are upset it is being there, holding you, crying with you, helping you to overcome what is upsetting you. Sharing joys as well as sadness, encouraging dreams, giving you freedom of choice and not trying to control you. Trust is the most important ingrediant of a relationship, without trust there is no relationship. Remember this is all reciprocal and cannot work if it is onesided. Many people have someone they refer to as their 'partner' and that term is used whether they are married or not. A partnership only works if the partners work together to make the partnership a success. They need what is called give and take - one person doing all the giving and one doing all the taking - is a recipe for disaster. Sharing the chores, childcare and shopping makes life easier. If you share the boring as well as the fun aspects of life everything can look better.

However much you feel you love and are in love with your spouse or partner there has to be a life outside of that relationship to keep it alive. If you become insulated and cut off other relationships love can die as one partner can become stifled. Obsessive love is dangerous and can lead to tragedy. Keep your friends, see your family and discuss even trivial things with your partner. Keep your love alive by going out, if you have children arrange babysitters either from within your families or join (or set up) a babysitting circle. You don't have to spend lots of money, just going for a walk together can be quite romantic and keeping your love alive need not be a chore. Once it becomes a chore then you need to recognise why and work out together what you need to do to get back on track.

The title of the post - All mankind loves a lover - is a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson the 19th century American poet, essayist and lecturer who founded the Transcendentilist movement. I interpret this as meaning everyone loves a person in love. Love is universal and if you show love it is an emotion seen and felt by other people. Does love come naturally to a person? Some people, like those who have never been exposed to love may find it doesn't come as easily as perhaps Emerson might have thought.

'Love unifies the scattered ends of life and brings them all together into an intergrated whole.' So said Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who developed  the Transcendental Meditation technique thereby enforcing what Emerson said, that due to the nature of love it is a unifier bringing and holding lives together.

Love is beautiful, it is to be appreciated, shared and should be shown.

 "You live that you may learn to love.
  You love that you may learn to live.
  No other lesson is required of Man."
           The Book of Mirdad.                           

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