In 8th grade music class, Mrs. Allaman taught us that every pop song was about some stage of love: 1) the longing for love 2) the joy of love 3) the pain of having lost love. At the time I couldn't disagree; every experience in my 13-year old life was framed within these three categories. I had a huge crush on a bespectacled soccer player who didn't even know my name, and every movie I saw was about the joy of love and the pain of losing it (Blue Lagoon, Endless Love, Doctor Zhivago - my mother had good taste in films even if I didn't.) Every sitcom TV show was about a woman who loved her husband and was tortured by his idiocy. At the end of every episode, whatever misunderstanding had served as the conflict of the plot was swept under the rug with, "I looooove you!" and the applause track played. So yeah, I thought the Beatles were right - it's all about this romanticized thing we call love.
But now I am understanding something new about love. There are shades, degrees, and various types of love. Somehow I had missed this in my emotional education. I knew I loved my daughter differently than I loved my husband, but it was still love at the core. I had longed for my daughter for years before she blessed me with her presence, just as I had longed for a man to love me long before I knew Earl. And yet, in this separation and pending divorce I am learning so much about the different types of love the world offers up. There's the love that strangers and new friends have offered -compassionate, wise, patient and caring. There's the love of old friends - full of the knowledge about me that I didn't possess, doled out in Goldilocks increments that are best for my maturation, not too much, not too little - just right. And there's the love of self that is expressed by acting in my own self interest. I have to make tough financial decisions (It's called comparison shopping.) I have to do the work now, not wait for someone else to do it (I really hate taking out the trash.) And most importantly I must seek and find people who inspire me. Different people offer me a variety of love, and I don't have to love them like a lover to call it love. Love is not a tortured affection for an unreachable or difficult-to-love soul. Love comes in the form of people who offer Art, Compassion, Community, Kindness, Independence, Self-Knowledge, Laughter, Shoulders to Cry On, Patience, Wisdom, and qualities I have yet to recognize.
I can say that today, even though I weep at the lost potential between Earl and me, I am grateful for the lessons offered to me by the Universe - lessons I would not be learning if Earl and I had not lived every moment of our lives together exactly as we had. I am learning that loving Earl doesn't mean that I have to have a romantic attachment to him. As a young woman, I fell in love with Earl and thought that the emotional attachment was "all there is." Now this middle-aged woman is learning that love is so much more than the magnet between two hearts. I am grateful for having had the experience of romantic love, a love that lasted for a very long time. I am also grateful for the chance to widen my emotional scope and love many people, exercising muscles I didn't know I had.
I love Earl, but I love him in a way I never did when we were together. I love him for the chance he gave me. I need to learn about the other possibilities for love in the world. That's a chance that wouldn't have come along if I had stayed in the emotional zone of our marriage.
For those of you who think it's crazy to say you love someone who cheated on you, I ask you to understand that a person must learn from life; there is no controlling the actions of others. In the Beatles' words - there's "nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you, in time."
When I say I love him, I don't mean I want him, I mean that he was the person I was supposed to be with and now he is the person I need to get over. He was exactly what he was supposed to be for me to learn how to be me.
"Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be. It's easy.
All you need is love, love, love is all you need."