Not just the parts we want to see
Loving as a whole person vs. a series of features
“They don’t love you like I love you”
People and places are more than playgrounds
Sometimes I hesitate to tell people I’m from Colorado. I answer “Chicago” instead — even though I don’t like Chicago — or I’ll tell them the suburb of Denver where I grew up. Or I’ll answer but quickly move on: “what’d you have for lunch today??!” Anything from hearing That Response.
Because it breaks my heart every time I say “Colorado” or “Denver” and the other person answers, “omg I love Colorado!!!”
No. No you fucking don’t.
You “love” Colorado for what it offers you — Weed. Skiing. Some fantasy-land playground where everyone’s chill AF.
You don’t love Colorado for everything she is. You don’t love her in her complexity and imperfect, barren bits. You don’t love the ugly stretch of I-70 just north of Denver. You don’t love the Purina dog food factory. You don’t honor her history. You don’t see her broad stretch of open farmlands — where many, many Republicans still live — over your shoulder, the other fucking way from where you’ve focused your sight on her peaks and loins.
You only want her as your personal playground. And that’s not love.
(Even people who live in places do this. Chicagoans may like Chicago — “except the winters, duh.” And Angelenos may like LA — “except the traffic, obvs.” You know who truly loves their city? Some New Yorkers. People who really love NYC love everything — the noise, the hustle, even the pigeon poop.)
It’s not a “my hometown’s changing!” remorse — I want Colorado to change. A slow death from stagnancy is just as bad as false love, so I’m pro-growth — grow away! (You see?… the jokes… already.) I want Colorado to change. What I hate is actually the opposite: her being cut down into something smaller than she is.
And the harder thing is: we do this with people, too. And call that “love” as well.
It doesn’t matter as much for cities — but it matters a lot with human beings.
Love is wanting their shit sandwich
The secret to loving your work — and your partner — is wanting right down to the shit.
In Big Magic, writer Elizabeth Gilbert, talking about her early ambitions to get published, quotes blogger Mark Manson in asking:
“What’s your favorite flavor of shit sandwich?”
“Every single pursuit — no matter how wonderful and exciting and glamorous it may initially seem — comes with its own brand of shit sandwich, its own lousy side effects. As Manson writes with profound wisdom: “Everything sucks, some of the time.” You just have to decide what sort of suckage you’re willing to deal with. So the question is not so much “What are you passionate about?” The question is “What are you passionate enough about that you can endure the most disagreeable aspects of the work?” Manson explains it this way: “If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands, of times, then you’re done before you start. If you want to be a hotshot court lawyer, but can’t stand the eighty-hour workweeks, then I’ve got bad news for you.” Because if you love and want something enough — whatever it is — then you don’t really mind eating the shit sandwich that comes with it.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
She goes on to recall once talking to a friend and fellow aspiring writer who was complaining about the number of rejections he was getting back from publishers and threatening to throw in the towel on writing.
Hearing this, Gilbert starts eying his shit sandwich, like: “uh huh — so you gonna eat that or what?” Because she’d take it if he wasn’t. She loved writing so much she wanted another writer’s shit sandwich.
Love is letting them be, even if doing so feels like “loss”
One of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read was Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost. What a gorgeous piece of work it is, the gentle lapping of lake water on a rocky shoreline. I gorged myself on it, carving it up and eating it slowly with my fingers, underlining and marking up the margins with my lovestruck, scribbled notes.
I wanted more of this. So — dutiful, devout, and ever-hungry — I read everything else Solnit wrote — only to find myself disappointed. Because all of Solnit’s books, outside of Field Guide, are decidedly political and social. (She coined “mansplain” in Men Explain Things to Me, just for example.)
And I “missed” her — but it was a “her” I had crafted; a “her” I had formulated in my head. A “her” that Solnit isn’t.
I have to let Solnit be Solnit. I have to accept that she will write whatever speaks to her heart, even if it doesn’t speak to mine.
Love is knowing them in private as well as public
I recently watched Jackie, staring Natalie Portman. There are layers of darkness, each moment carrying you back and forth between empathizing with Jackie and seeing through to her own emotional baggage.
But one thing is certain: she suffered differently than everyone else.
The nation lost their president. But Jackie lost her husband — her partner; a man she knew differently than everyone else. And while the whole country mourned their collective loss, she was left to mourn hers alone.
Jackie: “I’m starting to lose him. Pretty soon he’ll just be another oil portrait lining these hallways.”
There are layers of vanity and self-preservation in Jackie’s decisions following her husband’s assassination, but there’s also a very real truth: the struggle of who she’d really loved; whether a man she knew as her husband had ever been there all along. Her heartache was unique, and solitary. And there’s something heart-wrenching in that.
Love is outside of labels
We make this mistake — most of us — of loving people as “children,” then “friends;” then “lovers,” then “husbands” or “wives,” then “fathers” and “mothers.”
We love our own parents — the people who brought this into this world — only as our parents. Rarely do we love them as their own human beings, in their own rites. We definitely do this with our children, too. And do this with our partners.
That’s poor love. People are more than what they are in relation to ourselves.
Love outside of actions
Love is an action. But loving does not depend on the other person’s actions.
Fully loving means loving people for who they are, not what they do. It means loving people outside of what they are capable of, what they think, what they achieve, what they earn, how they spend their time. It means loving them even when they are motionless, even when they are taking a moment to breathe. Even when they are only being, not doing.
This is one I only learned this year, after reading The Will to Change by bell hooks.
“Caring about men because of what they do for us is not the same as loving.”
That one hit home. As someone who values work — in both myself and others — I realized I’d been coupling my love for others (and myself) with they do.
But loving someone means they:
“Do not have to prove their value and worth… simply being gives them value, the right to be cherished and loved.”
Love outside of a series of parts
Love is not a checklist to be met. Love does not hang its hat on “beautiful” or “hard-working.” Love is everything.
We can’t cherry-pick what to care for. We don’t get to approach human beings like buffets where we pick and choose what we want. Love is not piecemeal consumption.
Love is whole, not parts. Love is to embrace, not consume. And love is everything or nothing.