Putting all your love eggs in one basket
In college, I had a great professor who said the only way to get through life is to have something to look forward to every day, even if it’s only a fantasy in your mind.
The students asked for an example and the professor said he was looking forward to the potluck lunch he had planned that day.
And, as if on cue, our deliciously immature classmate asked the professor if it’s okay to look forward to having sex.
I still remember the professor’s response. He said there’s nothing wrong with looking forward to carnal pleasures, But that we only control our own lives and fantasies — and once we hand that power over to someone else, we’re doomed.
Of course, it took decades to fully understand. What he meant is if you put all your eggs in someone else’s basket and they walk off, you’ve got nothing — mentally or physically. You can always lay more eggs, it’s the missing basket that’s the problem.
And while immature doesn’t mean dumb, our precocious classmate continued, “Oh. So it’s okay to look forward to having wild sex, just don’t fall in love.”
A lover’s Catch-22
Phrases like, “You’re my whole world,” and “I can’t live without you,” illustrate the awful, impossible Catch-22 we find ourselves in as it relates to “true” love.
You can’t experience the fullness of love — euphoria, bursting passion, mind-blowing exhilaration — without relinquishing your heart and being as vulnerable as a naked baby in the snow. Yet if you close your heart and refuse to surrender to the unknown, you lose out on experiencing the tremendous highs that love can offer.
Unlike a potluck lunch, we have very little control over who loves us, and some argue even less control over who we love — it just erupts. And when it does, we are at its mercy — fear, insecurity, uncertainty, and all.
True love is never measured
Show me the Hallmark card that says, “I love you but I don’t need you.”
Romeo and Juliet is our accepted template for romantic, passionate, timeless love. The literal expression of not being able to live without someone’s love.
Yet I contend we all eventually choose who we love and, in some ways, “settle” for that person. And that works for millions of people.
We all “settle” for less than we deserve
I have a daughter. Will any man be “good enough” for her? I hope so, but I think she deserves the greatest man in the world because I think she’s the greatest girl in the world.
The truth is, there are many men “good enough” for my daughter. And hopefully, someday she will pick one whom she believes is right for her.
Does that mean she will be “settling” for someone less than she deserves? No. It means there are 3.5 billion men on earth. She’s going to potentially meet someone “better” every single day of her life.
At some point, she, and all of us, make a conscious decision to love someone, with the sincere hope and intention it will last.
Sure there are players, and forever bachelors, but most people eventually do what we collectively think is stupid — settle on (or accept) loving the one they’re with, instead of embarking on a lifelong pursuit of perfection.
Pragmatic love doesn’t end with one person driving a sharp dagger into their chest because they think their lover poisoned themselves as Shakespeare envisioned.
Pragmatic love is indeed a trade-off — deep and meaningful, yet calm and collected. Reassuring in its steadiness — more dependable than volatile.
Fairy tale love — which some claim is just a byproduct of the dopamine hit we get when seeking sex — depends on surrendering a piece of yourself to someone else — lock, stock, and barrel.
Fairy tale love is a hostile takeover of all your senses. A hijacking of your pride, dignity, and self-esteem. Because it cannot occur unless you are at your most vulnerable emotionally, psychologically, and physically.
There is no other experience in life that requires someone to surrender themselves — mind, body, and soul —in order to have access to sensations beyond our wildest imaginations.
The trade-off sometimes seems awfully steep.
My love theory
My love theory is nuanced, but clear: True love only exists if you’re willing to sacrifice something very important — yourself.
When you give another human being complete control over your heart, mind, and soul, you’re taking a huge gamble.
When you tell someone you can’t live without them, do you really mean it?
Of course not.
It’s an expression of your feelings.
Can you love someone just a little and call it “true” love?
I say no.
Most of us end up in a strange place mentally. We desperately want to love and be loved but want to retain our sense of independence and self-control.
We don’t want to be enslaved to someone else in a vain attempt to keep the ice from cracking beneath our feet.
So, we mentally toggle between surrender and self-preservation, insecurity and confidence, from depression to euphoria.
We tell ourselves we’re not going to be controlled by someone else’s “love spell” but we’re in the worst of Catch-22’s — we need that rush of happy juice to “feel” intense love, but it is precisely that altered brain chemistry that robs us of our ability to be ourselves and function properly.
Love is like a roller coaster. We crave the climb and the wild gyrations and feel a sense of being let down when the ride ends. Yet we know we could only survive so many loop-d-loops before we’d get sick and the fun would end anyway.
Sometimes a roller coaster of the mind is enough — a journey with a beginning, middle, and end.
The key is getting on the ride.
If we’re lucky, we’ve all had at least one Romeo and Juliet romance in our lives.
But that kind of mutually intense, hyperbolic, mind churning, ecstasy is not sustainable mentally or physically.
We all have people in our lives we feel we cannot live without.
But we can…and do…if we have to.
Are we supposed to just pick a friend and slap the title “love” on it — thus settling? Of course not.
I say ride those love juices as far as they’ll take you.
Love is as much aspiration as it is an inspiration.
So go ahead and surrender to the unknown. It’s fine to obsess about someone 24 hours a day. Let your mind relish and entertain every spine-tingling fantasy.
But it can’t hurt for your brain to whisper to yourself every now and then, “I will be fine with or without them.”
Your heart won’t believe you….but it’ll catch up.
Love is a fairy tale; life is not.
Enjoy it like a fine wine — slowly, methodically, and in moderation.
I will always love you so deeply there are hardly any words to describe it…but, my dear, I will always love one person just a tiny bit more…me — and my fairy tale dreams.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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