"I'm not a smart man... but I know what love is." ~Forrest Gump
While sitting in a smoky bar, years ago, someone once asked me, "What is love... really?"
It was a rare instance in which a definition completely escaped me. I was speechless, and always regretted my lack of an answer. As a result, I've spent a whole lot of time in the many years since, thinking about love and what it really means. Much as I would like to sit here and give a concise definition... I still cannot. What I can do, however, is tell you what love means to me, and what it does not.
Love is not hearts, gifts and flowers, cards and cake. Those things can represent love, or offer a show of affection, and are often appreciated by the recipient, but none are the nuts and bolts of the emotion. To equate a bunch of flowers or a card to love, is to diminish it in a profound way.
Love is not what makes babies and brings new life into the world... its what nurtures that life; before, during and long after the birth. Its what walks the floor at 2am with that colicky baby, cleans vomit out of the carpeting, changes the nasty diapers, waits up past curfew for rebellious teenagers to arrive home safe and works the third shift to pay for it all. Love is working overtime and setting that money aside to put those babies through college.
Love is not words. All the fancy words in the world cannot express it, without the action to back it up. Love is action; its about being there, standing by and supporting someone you believe in, even when they don't always believe in themselves. Love is about going farther, reaching higher, working harder, dreaming bigger and digging deeper than you ever thought possible... not for yourself, but for another. Love is about giving of yourself, and your time.
Love is not always pretty. Its about weathering storms and standing firm in the face of adversity. Its about taking the pain with the pleasure, the sorrow with the joy, the mundane chores with the wild adventures. Love is as much about sickness, loss and sacrifice, about blood and pain, about hardship and arguments, as it is about the happy times, prosperity, fun and romance. Its about taking the bad with the good... which makes the good times even better.
Love is not about youth and beauty. It is about acceptance and forgiveness. Its about making accommodation for age and idiosyncrasies, looking the other way when things aren't perfectly pretty, about forgetting the angry and derisive words and remembering the supportive, encouraging and affectionate ones.
Love is not a silent doormat. Sometimes, love says what needs to be said, stands up for itself regardless of the consequence, points out the wrong in an effort to make it right. Love is not politically correct or cowardly. Love is about hanging in there, about fighting for what you believe in... and sometimes, about letting go. One thing is certain, and that is the fact that human love is never, ever, perfect.
I am so abundantly, profoundly blessed with love in many forms, as a mother, daughter, wife, sister, and friend... and to have borne witness to so much of it, even in ways I will never personally experience. Love is what gets me out of bed in the morning, and what lulls me to sleep at night. Love is what drives everything I do throughout each day... whether cooking or cleaning or writing or shoveling out the barn. Its what focuses my passions and sparks my dreams, makes the tough decisions and allows me to give just a little more each time. I will never be perfect at it, and will always fall far short of the goal... but I will always try. Even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts.
I wouldn't have it any other way.
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." 1 Corinthians 13 v.1-2