Sometimes I begin believing that my philosophy of love and relationships is so outmoded that I am an oddball relic from some historic past when love reigned. And then, just like that, out of one of my teenagers’ room, I hear a new song wafting under the door and it catches me in the hall – knowing the voice but not having heard these words before. John Legend’s new ballad “All of Me” has been playing in my head for days now. I wake up in the morning with his soothing tenor voice serenading the start of my day. I think it has been on constant repeat because a few of the lines could be used to define what we do for love when we are open to its power to transform us into the best version of ourselves.
“Love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections…”
What more beautiful poetry could describe the often harsh and challenging ways that we react and withdraw from the hard work of relating? After the glow of falling in love fades, loving someone truly is about recognizing that the ways they are imperfect, the annoying mannerisms that were once endearing, actually still are. This is advanced work in love, where we don’t refuse the edges where people’s communication skills are insufficient or they are unwilling to bend. I imagine John crooning this into a stadium full of imperfect lovers, who would all feel connected in that moment because it would describe each and every one of them.
“You’re my end and my beginning, even when I lose I’m winning….”
Loving someone truly has a timeless quality. You keep going around many of the same issues, like rings on a tree each time widening out. There is more space, more compassion, and more forgiveness each time you hit that same rough spot. It becomes hard to tell where things start or end between you as this work cycles and recycles the intentions and efforts we have put in from the first time. The idea of losing and winning becoming one elevates the truth of love to the space beyond our own personal gains and losses. Rumi said it this way, “Out beyond idea of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.” When you love someone for real, caring for the space between you is more important than being right or wrong and way beyond the immature urges to get our own way.
“You’re crazy and I am out of my mind…”
It isn’t just in falling in love that we lose our minds, truly you could argue that growing the seed of love inside of us, gives us a new mind. It feels like a form of insanity sometimes when we are working to love people and it isn’t working. We don’t know why they can’t hear us, they don’t know how to receive what we are trying to offer, we think we are giving in, they perceive it as demanding more… Truly sifting through this language of near misses to get to the solid and comforting space of feeling both loved and loveable requires a willingness to weather a transformation in our sanity. When it works, our ideas of how things are or should be soften into the perpetual question of what else do I not see or understand about this person in front of me. There is a lot of letting go of what we thought was true to come to living inside a question with someone and it feels crazy.
The only way to do it well is to do it the way John sings, “I give you all of me and you give me all of you…ohhhh…” There is no room for halfway in or giving up when it gets hard. There is only the one decision to come around to over and over again, that what we want most is to love.