I’ve never thought about what it takes to love someone. The incorporating of two lives, the compromise, that things NEVER look like what you expect, that people don’t always behave how you want them to, the lowering of expectations, the things you settle for, the things you don’t accept. The parts of yourself you give, you lose, the parts you take back. I mean, on the surface I’ve thought about these things, yes…but to really apply them is a different animal. We talk about unconditional love as if that is a natural state. There is unconditional caring—we innately care about people and want to see the best outcomes for them. But unconditional love is more rare and in many cases, learned. Aside from our own children (and maybe our pets) unconditional love is something we choose. Let me explain.
We know love is a chemical state. Yes, it is physiological and we respond to the reactions going on in our bodies, but it isn’t a sustained state. It goes away as our levels return to normal. That is why when we love someone it is so easy to fall out of love. It is why the habits we find quirky or endearing at the beginning of a relationship become grating and gnawing after time.
I started thinking about this as I watched my son sleeping on the couch. Having a child completely changes any plans you have because you are most definitely put on their schedule. You never know what your child is going to be like and you quickly learn that they are their own people and they aren’t afraid to let you know what they need. You start to feel like a volleyball balancing their lives and your own and oftentimes, things slip through the cracks. We can’t do it all. I find myself in these moments, while he is sleeping, trying to get it all in. Finishing work, getting ahead for the week, planning our next moves for our house. And he sleeps, so peacefully.
My world isn’t what I thought it would be. Yes, it is comprised of the elements I put together—my husband, the son we created, my job, the house we chose, the animals we brought in, the decision to sell, the house we are trying to find. I woke up and I saw that, in spite of all the decisions I willingly made, this still isn’t how I want it to be. But my son sleeps. He is safe with me. THAT is love. Love isn’t a reflection of how often things went our way, or how big our house is. It is the ability to sleep comfortably with each other when the world seems to be falling apart. It is making decisions you feel are right because you have their best interest at heart. It most certainly vacillates between unconditional love and rage—but the care is always there.
Love is work—but it is the best kind. I feel like a failure on a near daily basis and my boy will look at me and say, “You’re the best mom,” because I took him for a walk. He wants me to play with him all the time because he knows I am there for him. He wants to sleep next to me every night because he knows I will protect him. My husband and I will go toe to toe several times a week as we are navigating a new normal for us—but we always show up. We aren’t giving up on what we have built even though it is changing. We know this is worth saving, even if we can’t stand each other in the moment. That is love.