I have grossly misidentified love in my life. I have called many things that were not love, love. Lust, need, want, dependency. And perhaps I wasn’t wrong, perhaps lust, need, want and dependency are all part of loving. What I am sure about is that I did not start off in life knowing that loving is complicated, messy, painful and often times, very unrequited.

And by unrequited, I mean that I have often loved those who did not love me back, at least not in the ways that I wanted or needed. I think what I failed to account for in my life was that loving is done differently to some larger and smaller degrees by each of us. What feels very loving to you, might feel like a hostage situation to me. And the way I love you might feel like nothing at all, even though my feelings for you run deep and true.

What I am absolutely positive about is that I have loved a great deal in my life. I received loving growing up, I have been blessed with children who love me and I love back. I have even had some relatively successful romantic relationships where the loving was strong, if not long lasting.

What I have learned about loving is often the behavior of the other person really dictates where we go with the love we feel. If they are interested, then it seems like you are greenlighted to continue, but in reality there may be flashing warning signs all around that you are unable to heed because all the loving you are doing blinds you.

I have probably learned the most about loving when the other person has gone away. Carrying a torch for someone after they have departed my everyday existence has taught me probably more about loving than the times when they were present and loving me back.

But while I have learned a great deal in love’s immediate absence, I have to say that it is far easier to love with your whole self when the object of your desire and affection exists wholly in your mind. This kind of love adjacent is far easier to maintain, hold onto and persevere than loving someone who remains right there in front of you, with all the messy problems of relating, living and surviving...together.

I have learned that I love you best when you are gone. I love you in all the ways you want and need, because you are not here to overtake me, you are not here to demand more or a different kind. You are easy to love because you are not here really demanding very much of me at all.

And I have come to realize that this is the type of loving that I do best. I love the idea of you, the thoughts I have about you, the things that I would say to you if only _______...

Where I have the most hardship with loving is when you are right there in front of me, vexing me, causing me to feel irritation and sometimes wrath. That is when I kind of suck at loving, and everything in me needs and wants to get away from you, from the relationship and to release myself from the bonds of loving you.

What I have come to know, is that I am absolutely fabulous at loving the idea of you, the ghost of you, the ephemeral absence of you, but I kind of suck loving you while you are present and solid in my life.

So what I have come to know is that I have a great deal to learn about loving...and it seems as though it starts with loving myself. Relating to myself in ways that support my own growth. Telling the truth even though you aren’t going to like it and may choose that truth as your exit point. What I guess I have realized most is that all of my previous attempts at loving came with the harbingers of control, manipulation and deceit. Not very pretty, but true.

So I am working on loving differently, with truth which really cuts through my ability to manipulate and control. I have to hold things back so that I can position you, hold you where I want you so that I have the opportunity to control, manipulate. But telling you the truth about who I am, what I feel and think is really what loving mostly requires. Loving doesn’t require possession, that is something we add along the way. Loving, at least the way I want to do it and receive it, comes with an earnestness that I have previously been unable to muster.

That is painful to write. And it has been excruciating to live. And I am sure that loving that way has brought me to this place where I am re-evaluating everything. The bright spot being I can learn to love differently, because I can be different. I have a level of safety within myself that I did not have before. And when you do the work to deal with your trauma, doors open for you that you never dreamed possible. The outgrowth of all that work is that loving can take on new meaning, intent and purpose...

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