How does it feel to love someone? To know, in your heart, that what you have is real? That the feelings exploding in your chest and traveling wildly through your veins are similar to what this other person has pumping in his or her heart? That he/she is experiencing the excitement, the fear, the sweaty palms and overwhelming emotion at each other’s smile, laugh, touch?
Why is it that we try, so desperately, to understand love? To make sense of it? To grab it between our fingertips and hold on? To understand whether it’s a feeling, an emotion, a thought, a concept, an action, a choice?
To know it fully, or to recognize when we’re experiencing it with someone else?
Maybe because we’re human and have this desire to comprehend, to micromanage, to label, to organize, to put our thoughts and feelings into boxes we can understand. Maybe it’s because when something makes sense, we can learn how to define it, how to feel it, how to know that what we have with someone is real, rather than temporary.
But maybe love isn’t something that we can so easily understand.
Maybe love isn’t something we can categorize and so easily write off. Maybe love isn’t something that always makes sense. Maybe love isn’t something we can even define.
And yet, we try so hard to label the affection we have for someone. We categorize our emotions, based on what we see around us, based on our past relationships, based on the movies or music or images we see on a television screen. We make comparisons between what was and what is, between people, between entanglements and connections and ideas that we absorb from the crazy world around us.
We want, we need to know what we’re falling into as we’re falling into it. We need to have some sense of where we’re headed, or some sort of safety net so we don’t get hurt. We need to know whether or not we’re wasting our time.
We need to define ‘love’ so that we can have some sort of control as we let our feelings go. If we know what we’re doing, how we’re feeling, where we’re headed, that somehow allows us to release, doesn’t it?
But what if that’s the whole point? To not know. To not understand. To not be able to define or label or make sense of. But to feel.
What if we’re really not supposed to fully ‘get’ what it means to love someone, to let them in, to allow your heart to tie knots around someone else’s? What if we’re really not supposed to have this sense of control and dictation over our emotions?
What if it’s completely irrelevant whether love is an emotion or a choice, a feeling or a state of being, a thought or an unconscious pull to someone else?
What if none of that matters, and we simply let love—whatever it is—happen?
What if love is not meant to be defined, but to be experienced in all its confusion and beauty and chaos?
We spend so much time and energy analyzing ourselves, our relationships, our feelings. We try to understand how we’re feeling and if it’s ‘right’ for a certain moment or connection. We want to know how we’re feeling in comparison to our significant others, if they’re on the same page.
We don’t want to be too much or too little. We don’t want to fall too deep or too soon. We don’t want to lose ourselves; we don’t want to get hurt. And yet, we don’t want to miss out on what it means to really have a permanent connection with another person.
So we think that when we can label and understand love, we can really experience it.
But that’s where we go wrong.
Because love isn’t about understanding; it’s about letting go.
It’s about freeing yourself from the rules of this world, from the preconceived notions that as a human you must act or feel a certain way. It’s releasing all your tension, all your fear, and stepping forward and into another person for reasons you cannot explain.
It’s choosing not to define, but to feel.
To let your emotions speak for themselves. To listen to your heart and let that beating muscle be the guide. To trust that what you feel inside is real and valid and beautiful, no matter if another person feels the exact same way and no matter the outcome of sharing yourself with them.
It’s choosing to accept that maybe love cannot be understood, it simply ‘is.’
Marisa Donnelly is a poet and author of the book, Somewhere on a Highway, available here.