Love. Four letters, so many meanings. I’ve used the word “love” to describe my feelings for brilliant books and electrifying films, for breathtaking locations and elegant outfits. But do those things deserve my “love”? Or am I cheapening the emotion by so casually throwing it around?
Here’s how I used to think about love, when getting attached felt dangerous and yet so desirable: sappy, weak, shortsighted. Not worth the risk, no matter how much I wanted it. Because here’s what happens when you tell someone you love them: they say it back, and then, in time, they do something terrible, letting you know beyond a reasonable doubt that they never really loved you. You showed them yours, yet they couldn’t care less.
Was it love’s fault that this was a pattern I seemed doomed to repeat? I sure blamed love.
What I failed to notice: how many of the people I surrounded myself with didn’t have my best interests in their hearts, minds, or any other locations. How I sought all the right things in all the wrong places. How I accepted poor treatment as inevitable, as opposed to remediable.
And then, the shift. The slow recognition that perhaps it wasn’t love’s fault; instead, it was circumstantial evidence that pointed to its unfounded guilt. Poor love needed a good lawyer in my court of raging retribution.
Now, love and I get along. I trust her to lead me down worthwhile paths, even when I’m uncertain where they’ll end up. Now that we have mutual trust, love has a whole new set of adjectives to describe her: meaningful, powerful, enduring.
Let me tell you about love: she hides in the small moments, not the big gestures. She’s a bit elusive but wants to be found. She can be somewhat corny — it’s only because she tries to use words you’ll recognize. If you let her, love will take you pretty far in the right direction.
The importance of love isn’t when she flows to me from other people, but when I put her out into the world. When I lead with love, I get to bring along empathy and care, leaving anger and hurt behind.
In an ironic twist, it turns out that the most detrimental thing you could do is avoid love, rather than embrace her. The vulnerability that comes with real love feels terrifying at first, but it offers both freedom and connection. An opportunity for seeing someone fully, and being seen by them.
To quote the iconic words of Ronny to Loretta in Moonstruck: “Playing it safe’s just about the most dangerous thing a woman like you could do.”
When we avoid love to safeguard ourselves, we’re actually inflicting a terrible, life-threatening wound on our hearts. Because love, while appearing as the ultimate exposure, is the only true shield from the madness, badness, and sadness of this world.
You can connect with Kat on Instagram.