Sadie Says … Love Forever.
My daughter and I were watching a program recently where one of the characters pledged to love the current object of her affection, her partner, forever. My daughter inexplicably paused the television and turned to me to ask, “But you can’t commit to an emotion for the rest of your life, can you? I mean, it’s an emotion. You can’t control your emotions like that, can you?”
She’s not quite twelve and the girl is already questioning the dynamics of love, the language surrounding it and the meanings that such language creates. And I have to say that I adore her for her capacity to challenge such established notions.
The characters on TV -who were perhaps 20ish- symbolize the cultural narrative (in which monogamy is the prevailing precept, which is, I dare say, subtly inferred inside the statement I will love you forever,) and their love-pledge illustrates the concept of everlasting love and the assumption that it exists for most, regardless of the level of its participants’ emotional intelligence, which I think informs the possibility of everlasting love. Emotional intelligence is grown, acquired, through relationship experience, and by questioning relationship dynamics and learning various ways of operating inside of them. I also believe that acknowledging the very real truth that most relationships end or at the very least change/shift/morph into something else is part and parcel of acquiring it. One learns through experience exactly what love means inside of long-term relationships – in all of their beauty; tinged with adversity, jealousy, longing, tension and communication mishaps that are sure to make even the most passionate of us ask, What is all of this love business for, anyway? But that is the nature of love, isn’t it? It makes us question who we are. What we want. Provokes us to procure a value system with this particular notion firmly embedded - I truly believe I will love you forever. Therefore I will.
But on some level she’s right, my daughter. We cannot know with absolute, unfettered certainty who we will love tomorrow, just as we cannot now with certainty that Magic Mike will do well at the box office. My guess is that it will, simply because the opportunity for women to objectify men in such blatant regard doesn’t present itself often enough – and we ladies, yes, we have sex drives too – we wouldn’t dare miss the opportunity to objectify a hot guy in our patriarchal society. Especially when the simple observance of Channing Tatum’s abs is the equivalent of eating two pints of Cookies and Cream, but without those pesky calories. Deliciousness.
But she’s also not quite correct. Because the truth is that we do have the capacity for long-term love. I hope anyway. I posed this question the other day on Facebook and was inundated with many thought-provoking responses. My question was this,
Do you believe one can sincerely, authentically commit, in real-world application, not metaphor, to loving someone else for the rest of their lives? Is futuristic love predictable? Or is the phrase “I will love you forever,” simply a symbolic statement we use to convey the emotional weight that we feel presently?
I entered into the conversation with an admittedly cynical attitude. I know, personally, that my own emotions are, or at least can be, fleeting feelings. They are part of my body’s machine, integral to its mechanical process, but not something that has to drive me. I possess them, endure them if I have to, revel in them when I feel so inclined, and perhaps I occasionally avoid them. But can I commit to the emotion I feel at any given time? Can I predict its occurrence? Can I say, I am going to be mad as hell next Thursday at 1:15. Whoooo, My ass is going to be chapped right then.
No, of course not. So can I say with certainty, I will love you next Thursday at 1:15 ?
Of course it’s not quite so black and white. Generally, anger requires provocation in order to manifest. But what about love? Does it need to be cultivated? I thought it did. But I learned -or was perhaps reminded- through my interaction with my Facebook friends … that love is different that way.
Love is a choice.
And it is inside of that choice that makes love have a power, a power that other emotions do not possess, and never will. Love is acceptance, in every sense of the word. It does not require reciprocity, nor does it need to be redacted as an act of vengeance or ego-preservation. Like choosing to love, taking love away is a choice made by the person who has offered it. It is my choice to love someone. And within that space of loving, truly and honestly loving someone without ego or expectation … I am given a gift.
Sounds new-agey, I know.
Because really? Love? That is a power that resides in me. It’s free, it doesn’t cost a thing – not my self-respect, not my self-worth, nor my vitality, well-being, satisfaction, fulfillment or by ability to self-express. In it, with love, I sacrifice nothing. It is unlimited. And it gives back immeasurably. Fills me up, nourishes my spirit. Reminds me that I am not alone in this world. To give love is to get it in return. Even if the object of my love does not grant his or her love back to me, I will still get it in return – from someone else. I believe that.
I have to believe that.
I tell my daughter I will love her forever, and I am certain that I will. I cannot imagine not loving her, you see, and this is where the idea of loving forever, and the sentiment attached to it, might very well originate. The sheer unfathomable-ness of such a scenario is so weighted, so impossible to construe, that I avoid even contemplating it. I see that this is where the power lies – in loves ineffable nature.
This is how big love is.
So big that we don’t ever want it to stop.
I certainly would never say to my daughter, I think I will love you forever, although don’t quote me on that, because I don’t know how I will feel in the future. That would just be mean. And inaccurate. And it would do nothing to help her cultivate the emotional intelligence I know she has the capacity for, and it would leave her muddled to the possibilities that loving can create.
We want to be loved. We need to be loved.
And we need to love.
So, to my daughter I say this – “No, Babygirl, you can’t predict your emotions or where and how they will show up down the line. But love? Love is different, which I guess is why it is so very special. And I promise you, I PROMISE you, my darling love, that love is something you can count on me for …
“It isn’t possible to love and part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.” ~E.M Forster