Collectively, as a world, we need to learn how to love each other better. I'm not just talking about romantically. I'm referring to just the love of going through this experience together: loving our family, friends, neighbors, strangers and ourselves. If we're able to do that better, it will also be easier to make sense of the romantic kind of love.
It seems like we would have to be the most selfless people in the world to do this. I'm not sure that's even true. If we were actively practicing a larger kind of love, the benefits we'd personally see from that would be huge. That's not even counting the bigger ripple effect. What we would see directly in our personal lives should be enough to inspire that life.
My grandpa recently passed away, which is a subject that I'm sure I'll write more about later. The last time I was with him, he seemed to know that he was nearing his end and he made it a point to share a few things with me. One was a rare glimpse at how much he appreciated my grandma (once again...more on this later). And the other was that he had to stop watching the news, because all of the crap we do to each other upset him. My grandpa was a tough guy. The fact that we're building a world that was too much for him to handle should hit us all like a truck.
We all have a very limited view of what it means to love somebody. It's based on how we grew up, who has wondered into our lives and how we've learned to treat ourselves. Love comes to us through example and practice. And it is such a personal experience that requires huge amounts of trust. The need for trust means that it also makes us vulnerable and like wounded animals we can sometimes hide our desires and lash out in a backwards we to protect ourselves. We need to be tough. We need to be self-reliant. We need to be invulnerable. Or we've convinced ourselves of that.
That's no way to live.
- Love yourself. I know that sounds really obvious, but make sure you're taking that seriously. Be nice to yourself. You're doing your best with what you're given. We all are. You were not put here by mistake. You can only love others as much as you love yourself. And we only accept the love that we believe we deserve. It's important to love yourself.
- Love your family. Once again, that sounds obvious, but sometimes they can make it REALLY DIFFICULT. Your family can do things that really mess you up. They can hurt you more than most. They can be less grateful and this gift you are giving them can go completely unnoticed. Love them anyways. Be compassionate, even when you don't want to. You only get one family and, like it or not, who they are will define you. To reverse that, you are part of their family, too. This means that who you are will, in turn, define them.
- Love your friends. I don't just like my group of friends. We love each other and make a point to actually say it. Friends are people that you choose, so choose well. Like any group of friends, you will go through cycles of being close and less close. Geography, circumstances and sometimes disagreements can leave you feeling distant, but real friends will always float to the top. Remember there is a difference between someone who is your true friend and the casual observers who are just interested. Love them both, but don't blab all of your secrets to everyone.
- Love your neighbors. The term neighbor is such a global idea anymore. I live in a big city. My life is fully accessible online. Yet, I don't really know the people who live next to me. It's a bizarre contrast of being overly available and feeling super isolated. In the past month, three people have broken that bubble in important ways. One was Ricarda, a middle aged hispanic woman. She didn't speak any English and I don't speak much Spanish. And, yet, she insisted on starting a conversation with me. I continued to speak in English, she continued to speak in Spanish and we somehow talked about how cold it was and our plans for the night. Another was Thelma, an unusual looking woman in her 20s. As I sat by the water at the Nature Conservatory, she came over to me, because she said she could sense my sadness. I had just found out that my grandpa had been moved to hospice. She asked if she could pray for me and I told her the story. The next morning as I was frantically driving to the hospice, I started repeating those words from Thelma's prayer. As it happens, I was praying for my grandpa's peaceful passage at the very same time that he was getting exactly that. Although I missed arriving at the hospice by about 10 minutes, it felt like I was able to be with him in spirit. Whatever your religious convictions, that prayer gave me a sense of closure and peace that I needed. The third happened this morning on my way to work. I stepped in the street to see if the bus was coming. When I didn't see it, I decided I would walk to the next stop. An older disheveled man started trying to get my attention as I passed the first stop. He looked a little crazy and possibly homeless. The kind of person we tend to not even "see." He asked if the bus would be stopping at that stop and if I knew how long until it came. I told him that it was the stop and should be there in about 7 minutes. Who knows where he was headed, but at least somebody took a minute to know he was there.
- Love those who can't ask for it. You think you're vulnerable out there dating? What about that maltese churning out pocket puppies in a mill? What about that child suffering from hunger? We can't solve all of the world's problems, but we can make sure that our personal actions have the most positive impact. We can't solve all of the world's problems, but each of us can solve some of them.
- Love those who don't deserve it. They're probably the ones who need it most. And, honestly, none of us really deserve it.
Love is a willingess to be accountable for our own actions and forgiving to the actions of others. Each of us is a reflection of the love we receive.
I think that's why I write Accidentally Sexy. I think that's why my grandpa chose to make those some of the very last words he said to me. I'm not perfect at any of the above. Most of the time, I'm pretty bad at even #1. If love needs to rediscovered, I'm happy to be the one who's looking for it. If that's the story our world needs, I'm going to make sure we all hear it.