love. week thirteen.
city. new york city, esch-sur-alzette
My friend Jo is one of the most loving people I know, and has functioned as a kind of model for me while I've been conducting this 'experiment'. So I was overjoyed when she agreed to let me pick her brain on the subject. I didn't tell her that I was going to publish this (it took place in the form of a WhatsApp chat), so you know it's legit ;)
Daniel: If it’s okay with you, I’d like to start with the simplest things first. Can you please describe what you mean when you use the word “love”? To me there seem to be many things people refer to. Most obviously there are the loyalties we have for our family and friends, the care we have for children, the passion we have for a partner...
Jo: Love can refer to a lot of things, which are at the core the same.
Daniel: Okay can you describe the “core”?
Jo: This is what I call my ‘general attitude of love’ because I don’t have any other way to describe my deep sense of connection to the world (not only around me, just the world itself.) Everything plays into it.
When I think of how things were created, I think of love. When I feel someone hurting, I feel it too, out of love. When I connect to something or someone or the world, I really feel and connect with my whole body (love is obviously not only ‘in the heart’).
My eyes and heart are and have always been very sensitive to love. I kind of saw/see it everywhere. At least I get inspired by pretty much everything around me and try to integrate it. This generally loving attitude that I have has really helped me with a lot. But on the other side, as I got to know through my relationship to myself, to my mum and other close friends, I needed to realize that this only brings me this far. In each of these relationships, there were misunderstandings, mistrust and other components that turned out to be (at least for myself) very big problems (from whoever’s side, or both sides).
Starting with love to myself: I got to realize that no matter how eloquent, curious and loving and loved I am, my self worth does not get much of that love, which I (paradoxically) know does not only exist in me, but also defines me. My ‘mission’ is to really heal the parts of myself (right at the sources from where it has been generated) that don’t allow me to love myself as much as I love literally everything else that exists. Sharing love is inspiring and simply precious. It just also comes with vulnerability which is so individual that I really am the most curious person about what others get triggered by, why they get triggered, and how they cope with it.
Daniel: Okay, let’s try flipping the question around. Are there things that other people think of as love that you think is different than the love you’re talking about? For example, as I’m working on love, I’m realizing that romantic love (although it’s very valuable ofc) is not the kind of love I’m interested in cultivating right now. For one, it feels too focused on one person, rather than an open love toward others. That’s just my own example. But I want to know your own thoughts.
Jo: I know from a loooooot of people (either family, some friends or TV) that love is seen and longed for the most part from the romantic point of view. (I of course have the need to be loved as well, but honestly you have no idea how much I did not want to have a boyfriend before I had one.)
A lot of people are just very confused I think (not saying that I am not haha) but then just focus on one thing (no matter if themselves, one lover or whatever) and try to figure out from this point what love is and “everything” that’s there about it. Or just take this perception as all there is about love.
I really fought myself while falling in love with my last partner. So much. I “planned” to not have a boyfriend or sex or anything for at least some years before that happened. (I kind of find myself at a similar point of view now after the relationship even though I miss the romantic and sexual love obv, because I am also just human haha). But still I have a much greater need of expansion, not in the sense of being megalomaniac, but in the sense of not dwelling on one person and all the needs and expectations that come with it.
I believe (due to the “natural" optimism I believe I and most people have) that there are relationships (or anyone could at least theoretically have one) where both people are just growing and letting the other grow.
I know for myself (speaking from that deep sense of connection) that literally everything could make me and my love grow. And at this point I feel like I, myself need to direct that and cannot be focused on one person.
Daniel: Okay there are a LOT of things I want to ask, but maybe we can turn back from romantic love for now. You said that you've always felt a deep sense of love. Can you talk about why you think that is and when/how you came to realize that?
Jo: Sure, but first, I just realized that, to me, love kind of means ‘abundance’ :)
Daniel: Oh boy. Hold the horses. Go on. What do you mean by that?
Jo: With abundance I mean the balance between the absorption of everything (good and bad love) and letting go of what is bad or not good anymore by still remembering it as something good (I would spontaneously say).
Daniel: oh dear, I think this answer created even more questions. Maybe let’s first talk about the historical roots of your loving personality?
Jo: Well, first of all I literally got bullied for (or because of) how sensitive I was in school. With sensitive I mean attributes like being soft for example. I was absorbing every tiny and big emotion and sensory input around me. With time I became v strong (resilient) personally: character wise, as I needed to somehow learn to deal with the overflowing worlds around me and emotionally as I needed to somehow learn to cope with some pain that was either caused in the context of my family or obv at a certain ages also by peers. I cared a lot (about everyone and everything) which didn’t make things very easy. Being so sensitive to your environments (which are multiple if you are curious and enthusiastic) with all it’s different individuals with all their different problems created and enhanced this very empathetic and understanding love inside of me. When I actually realized how deeply I felt love and compassion, though, was during a time where I was feeling or actually pushed to thinking that I was alone.
Daniel: Alone in loving?
Jo: Alone in being sensitive to love and alone in the sense of not being understood 🙊🙊🙊
Daniel: I would have thought that after being treated that way, your love might have turned to hate. Was there ever a point in which this almost happened?
Jo: I wouldn’t call it hate but I would definitely call it “multiple points of extreme desperation and disappointment”. Maybe even if it was hate inside of me or simply anger (I experienced a big amount of anger blended with sadness), I never changed my general loving attitude. The more vulnerable I became in relation to specific contexts, the more love kind of grew (even though through a painful process sometimes).
Daniel: Was there a particular point when you kind of had to choose between falling into anger or disappointment and continuing to be a ‘lover'? or was it more fluid than that?
Jo: Yes, more fluid :) because I love (my happiness and the creations around me) too much.
Daniel: Final question about this before we move on. Do you have any idea why you're a loving person? Do you think it’s genetic? or personal? or something to do with your childhood? etc
Jo: All of it :) The compassion (my mum also has for example), my open mindedness which is very very likely just my character (in contrast to some family members I mean) and my desire for expansion, growth and connection which are personal “interests" that I received in the interaction of my personality and spiritual parts with all the inspiration in various environments.
Daniel: Nice. So we discussed the concept of love and its place in your life and I assume that you think that your capacity for love improves your life. Can you describe how it improves your life? especially for those of us who aren't 'lovers', we'd like to know what we're missing out on ;) to some, it can seem like it just makes your life more complicated and vulnerable…
Jo: Definitely! I can understand that it might seem to make your life more complicated and yourself more vulnerable, because I think it does (at least if I put myself into that perspective). Maybe I think it improved my life because I need to think of it positively in order to maintain my self worth haha.
But maybe there lies a lot of beauty and the origin of good in it. In the sense of that you can receive (not necessarily because you are smart or something) answers (which people apparently love to look for) for literally anything. You see or feel something “good”/harmonious, you love right away, and feel abundant! Or you see/feel something “bad” and you still feel abundant because when you are reflecting on your pain you realize that you are literally alive and how deeply you can feel.
Finally, you see or feel something “bad” in others’ lives (their pain) and you do everything with all your creativity and compassion to either make it good/harmonious or simply share your compassion and create space for the person and their emotions in front of you.
Daniel: What would you tell someone (like me) who would like to feel more love. What would you recommend?
Jo: 😂😂😂😂 Jo recommendation of today: Remember that anything bad (except for major animal or human murder missions ;) ) has something oddly funny about it as it was generated out of pure love but somehow just turned bad, like a carrot cake accidentally made out of lupine flour.
Daniel: lol sounds good
Jo: Your recommendation?
Daniel: Meditation has been very helpful (it's been helpful with just about everything, and love has been no exception). Do you have any 'love role models’? idk some ppl like Jesus or Mandela… or someone from your life? or an artist?
Jo: Mediation is v good and helpful, I agree :) In terms of a role model, I can include literally everything I love. Today it was the flower shop that I dreamt about last night that led me through my day and made me the happiest and most creative person and just made me love things 🌚 But not a specific role model, no. How about you?
Daniel: I don’t rly have individual people. More like groups of people. I think that art/music has been used for a long time to express a certain kind of love. Also Christianity and Buddhism. And the hippies in the 60s and 70s. So I've been trying to draw from some of these sources, but am always looking for new people to read/listen/see/talk to.
Jo: V reliable sources if you ask me 😍 I can relate :)
Daniel: Okay, I have two main topics I would be curious to hear more about.
1. You wrote: “My ‘mission’ is to really heal the parts of myself (right at the sources from where it has been generated) that don’t allow me to love myself as much as I love literally everything else that exists. Sharing love is inspiring and simply precious. It just also comes with vulnerability.” So there does seem to be a risk that you accept when you open yourself up to love. Can you describe that risk?
Also, it seems that you’re touching on a solution (self-love). Is self-love the remedy for the aches of other-love?
2. Describe your experience of love with a little more detail. Because the word has become very cliche, like the word 'god’. I'd like to talk about it on several levels: emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, actively, socially, etc.
Jo: The risk basically lies in the “destruction” of your self worth (psychologically speaking). On the way to that there are other risks as dependency (to whom or whatever) or “exploitation” of your love. But these are rather extreme (even though one should really not underestimate them, esp in the context of romantic relationships or friendships). The only risk in opening yourself up to love spiritually would be maybe that your love is misinterpreted by people not thinking of love in a spiritual way.
I do think self love is the remedy for those aches in some way. Not only retrospective but especially preventive.
In terms of the “types” of love: emotionally, love is very energizing (for me). Basically every other emotion/ feeling can result and accumulate from love. That’s why some find love to be either soooo good or soooooo bad (alternating at times). We need love. All of us (I believe). Many people have a “hole in their soul” due to the vulnerability that we have especially as children. Our early environments play key roles for our development. Directing your attention inwardly and not only identifying yourself with external things can lead you to actively letting go of pain caused by a lack of love (for example) and remember the bad as the good (a lot of reflection is needed for that, I think).
There is toxic social love. In relationships or friendships. But by being aware of and recognizing signs (through honest self-reflection and open communication in relationships) that show dependency, you can actively act against this dependency/attachment and start to actively forgive yourself and others. I truly believe that forgiving is one of the highest forms of love.
And, finally, spiritual “love" always reminds me of how deep consciousness is and that it can get deeper and deeper the more you open yourself up to love and giving.
Daniel: It’s interesting to me that you consider forgiveness to be one of the highest forms of love. To me, it seems to me that forgiveness is actually one of the lowest forms of love. It doesn’t require me to actually love you, it just says that I don’t (or won’t) hate you. Can you explain what you mean?
Jo: One could also see it that way 😂 But what I mean is that the fact that you don’t hate the other person is just a side effect of forgiveness. Forgiveness itself is a conscious decision. It is like giving peace to yourself. So, even if you no longer have contact with that specific person, forgiveness requires that you meet them with love.