Let’s talk love. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, both the word and the experience of it. The word is the harder thing for me to grasp, since love itself, the experience of it, is rarely an intellectual pursuit. It comes unbidden. It’s impolite. Love doesn’t care if this is a good time. Sweet or brutal, welcomed or inconvenient, tender or consuming, love happens whether I’m ready or not.

Lying in wait at the very heart of the human condition, love has a tendency to screw up the best laid plans. It is why sex is so seldom just sex; why friends forgive each other for the same infractions over and over again; why parents and children are locked, it seems, in an endless recasting of roles. It’s messy… and maybe that’s why nothing makes me feel more alive. Love reminds me that I am capable of both joy and sorrow far beyond my ability to express them. And it is THAT feeling, that sense of being caught up with another human being in a space beyond language and intellect, that I live for.

I am, for better or worse, in love with love. But the word gives me trouble. The word, when bandied about by the afflicted, requires definition. I can’t think of a time in my life when I have required that a relationship be properly defined, but throughout my life I have struggled to define my feelings for the benefit of others. I’ve learned that people like labels. They like promises and parameters and commitments and forgiveness. They are not so fond of the gray space between, which, I think, may be where all the real stuff happens.

The word “love” feels more prevalent now than it used to. When we feel it – that sudden, amazing, unflinching sense of connection – we express it, in writing, over the phone, as an accompaniment to our hugs. I, for one, am all for that. Though I know there are many who will disagree with me, I do not think our more frequent expression of love diminishes it at all, and I don’t think that everyone who tells me they love me should have to properly define the term. It’s enough for me to know that in the moment the word is uttered (or written), it is felt, and it is directed at me.

I’m not saying love should never be defined. Certainly when you’re standing at the alter exchanging vows, that’s a good time to make sure both people are talking about the same thing. But I would like to make a case for just being in love – with your friends, your family, your lover, your amazing bloggy community. Sink into it. Revel in it. Be hurt and bruised and cured and saved by it, and stop, at least as much as you can, being distracted by semantics.

In the end, I think it’s okay – maybe even good – that we don’t always know what we’re talking about when we talk about love.

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