Howard Jones came on the radio, singing “What is love anyway? Does anybody love anybody anyway?” I remember the song from my teenage years. Like so many songs, it made more sense to me at the time than it does now. At the time, it questioned the validity of romantic love, and hinted at teenage angst of whether parents really understood or had our best interests in mind.
Love might be the most fundamental and yet the most misunderstood emotion. Perhaps these are related features of love.
I listened to Howard Jones asking what love is anyway as I considered my aching back. It ached from doing everything our family needed to have done as my husband rested in preparation for his surgery. It ached from empathy. It ached from taking care of our toddler, who unexpectedly drops her weight in my arms as I get her dressed. The toddler with whom I unexpectedly fell asleep the night before, only to awaken and move to my bed to continue sleeping; I still overslept the next morning. My back ached from the incessant things only I can fulfill at the moment, and it ached from spending too much time driving up and down the highway. My back ached as a result of selfless love, the same reason my husband’s back ached.
Needless to say, we are all a bit of a mess these days. But there is no question of love in any of it. The song fell flat. Simplistic songs like that speak to the reality of teenagers more than the reality of adults, as they have yet to live and discover the depth of their own truths.
If you have to ask what love is anyway, or if anyone loves anybody anyway, then perhaps the glorious depths of love are still waiting for you. Not LOVE in the butterflies-in-the-stomach sense. More LOVE in the I-willingly-sacrifice-my-well-being-for-yours sense. Love is what you find when you give everything else away. You, giving love, and in doing so, finding it.
Love is understanding that the children are saying you’re not their mother because they’re scared and upset that their daddy is in the hospital. They’re frightened by the uncertainty of the situation. You know you haven’t explained the situation well enough, and frankly, you can’t. They’re children, and children live in emotional immediacy. Love is holding the children as they throw arrows at your heart because they have to release their uncertainty and stress somehow. And in accepting all these things you demonstrate to them that your love is what is certain. It’s a conversation of actions seeking resolution, and love resolves it.
Love has a far-reaching cascade effect. Love is a friend in another country whom I’ve never met in person magically making dinner appear on our doorstep while my husband was in the hospital. Love is the neighbor who mows our lawn while we’re at church without asking “let me know if I can do anything”. Love just does.
What is love anyway? Love is something I create, and you create, not something we wait to be given to us. When times are difficult, love is a little like denial – it sees only the light and not the limitations. Love pushes forward, love understands, love perseveres, love expects nothing in return. Love trudges through the dark forest, goblins be damned.
Does anybody love anybody anyway? The answer is within yourself.