When I was 16, the drama club at my high school performed A Chorus Line. The song “What I Did For Love” still pops into my head with the full band behind it and I can remember viscerally my own heartfelt renditions in the backstage tending to props, wondering how, when, and if I would ever find a peace with this deep drive to love and be loved. This is arguably the one life lesson we all yearn for, and yet our cultural norms and technological frenzy all seem to conspire to create less true intimate moments (and more broadcast ones). All in all- less authentic community has fallen out of favor, while superficial digital connection is ever rising.
My son is facing a typical scenario of the millennial generation of struggling to fall in love with a girl who has no interest in “anything serious.” He has grown up steeped in emotional intelligence and has a capacity to articulate his feelings and is dumbfounded how a girl could be so unable to even look at her feelings and feel so threatened by his vulnerable self expression. He recently shared a passage in Ken Kesey’s “Sometimes a Great Notion” at the dinner table, where the main character, a lumber worker describes the many ways he has witnessed how love has been the only explanation for the exceptions that rigid people will make, or the looking away of an over bearing boss, or the hiring of unqualified people- all in the name of love. He concludes: “Love and all its complicated ramifications…actually does conquer all; Love or the fear of not having it, or the worry about not having enough of it, or the terror of losing it, certainly does conquer all.”
Sometimes it is hard to tell what motivates us when it comes to love…Are we actually motivated by love itself or the worry, fear and downright terror we associate with not having or losing it? This is a big question that is easily overlooked and one worth considering when you think about what you do for love. Acting out of fear of losing love is actually the opposite of real love and explains much of the heartbreaking cruelty that people do to each other when love is not going the way they want. Giving up things that are important to our sense of self out of a fear of losing love is a recipe for disaster. Either the silent resentment builds to a crescendo over small stupid things or we show up with half of our selves, a condition that makes us feel unworthy to be loved.
Giving up things in the name of love is qualitatively different. We let go of how or what we want because we made a promise to show up. Our real loving feelings for someone else turns us into a better version of ourselves, making us more clear about what we believe and desire. Real love makes us willing to tell the truth, even painful truths because not doing so, creates fear, which we know pulls us out of our ability to love. Acting out of love is the antidote to the fear of losing it. And, if mostly you feel afraid of losing it, then it probably isn’t really love.