I found myself having a taste of love recently. It was in the form of a friendship that became more for me. One that filled up little caverns of longing I forgot existed. Because I knew that friendship could be the basis of an enormous heartbreak down the road I realized that I hadn't really chosen greatness over love after all. That my desire for romantic love was just lying dormant. "...faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love." the bible
"All you need is love." John Lennon
Throughout time artists, philosophers, poets and everyone else who has ever published anything about human relationships has come to the conclusion that the very fundamental drive in our lives is love. We do it all for love...greatness included.
The problem - and I'm pretty sure this has been my core driver - is that love also can become such an enormous disappointment that we tell ourselves all sorts of stories about not needing it. Not wanting it. Being above it. Whatever we can possibly tell ourselves that will dull the aching need to have it. Psychology Today had a brilliant little piece this month about the worst advice we've been given. I think that the worst advice I ever got was that "you couldn't love anyone else until you love yourself." Why? It seems so sound, right? Well sure. Self-esteem is important and, for most people, is a long road and ongoing process. The world is full of self-doubt and people who will let you know you won't make the grade. But I think better advice is that you can't receive external validation for something that is lacking internally...but denying yourself love until you get there isn't positive either. And truly, how does one even know what one is missing unless one experiences it?
Sure, Lady Gaga's recent quote in Cosmo made me jump for joy:
Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you’re wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn’t love you anymore.
Because it captured that ennui I had been feeling for so long regarding love. Something so fundamental to our lives had become an utter disappointment for me so I wanted to reject it outright and embrace something that I could actually control. But it doesn't work that way. It's like being hungry. You can only ignore the stomache pains for so long, but then there are more adverse effects on your body. Love is like hunger. It's essential to living.
I think I read it in Goleman's Social Intelligence, but there is actual research on how heartbreak DOES lead to death. It's slow and it works in tandem with a weakened overall system, but a human being without love will eventually die. That's why you see widows and widowers pass away shortly after the death of their partner. Our bodies work better when we have love.
Now sure, I always have love. I have my son, my dog, my family, my friends and my worldwide community of amazing interweb friends who show me uber amounts of love. Therefore, I'm in no threat of keeling over from lack of human connection. But having a taste of someone I can build a deeper, more intimate, more meaningful relationship with made me realize that mentally, I could really use the occasional 'rock' to lean on to help me grow. The problem has been that, to date, my 'rocks' have been rocky and the results of that in my life have left me mentally more anguished than satisfied. In my case, my heartbreaks didn't lead to physical death, but they definitely led to metaphorical illnesses - where each one scarred me a little more emotionally.
And the biggest issue is me, of course. I'm the common denominator here who can't just fall in love a little. I'm a jump in with both feet kind of girl, often leaping far before I've decided to look which has led to some really bad decisions. Decisions that were bound to leave me disappointed. And so here I am after taking several years now to avoid love and focus on greatness feeling like I'm missing something that I know I've been terrible at identifying in the past anyway.
But I'm rethinking it. I'm recognizing it. And even though I haven't changed as a person (still can't seem to fall in love slowly), I think I'm a little more aware of who I am and what I need. And guess what? I need love. Because that is, at the end of each day, the meaning of life.
This being said, I'm not about to dive in head first without looking like I used to. No more bad decisions. And I'm also going to try and balance the two - love and greatness - which means the love will have to be a net positive in my life and the greatness can't be obsessive. So for all of you who, on the original post, told me I was being too narrow about this...you were right. Because it's not about choosing between one or the other, but recognizing that both are complicated and hard to accomplish, but cannot exist isolated from one or the other.
So yeah. I choose both. And even though that scares the bejeebus out of me, I'm kind of excited to see where this new direction leads.