This is Essay #6 of The 52 Essay Challenge, a series in which I write a new (unpolished) essay each week during 2017.
I love you.
I love you.
I've been saying this a lot lately. To everyone in my life. Sometimes it's said as a farewell, a goodnight. Sometimes it's said as reminder, lest we take our loved ones for granted. Sometimes, it's said out of urgency, as if one of us were going to die that day. (Our current political climate has that kind of effect.)
In the days leading up to the inauguration, I emailed and texted almost everyone I knew and told them I loved them. I felt like the world was going to explode and that my people would never know how much I loved them. It was important to me that they knew this. I’ve lost too many people in my life to whom I’ve failed to profess my love. Why deprive others of this beautiful gift?
What is love?
I know: a question that everybody asks. To the point that it’s a cliché. But one that really has no singular answer. Still, we recognize it when we see it. In a gesture: a father helping his disabled son put on his coat. An embrace between friends. One hand slipped into another. And of course: a kiss.
We also recognize it when we feel it. For the most part. Well, maybe. It depends on what kind of love you’re talking about. The Greeks had seven words for seven kinds of love. Sometimes infatuation is mistaken for romantic love. It takes practice to discern these things.
Love is a vastness with infinite variations, endless manifestations. The effects of which are just as multifaceted. Like a polished and cut gem.
We can take love further and bring in divine love and cosmic love. Both of which are spiritual experiences and create similar, if not stronger, more intense feelings.
On this site that has the lyrics to Hamilton’s “It’s Quiet Uptown”, there’s a remark about the song that has stuck with me: “humanity’s terrible and infinite capacity for love”.
Oh, how true.
These days I am caught between feeling creative and destructive. Between loving the world and breaking it apart. Between hugging someone and wanting to kick their ass. Literally. Fists raised, wide stance, front leg ready to kick. I move like a pendulum between the two. Create. Destroy. The vibrational energy of my body rises and falls in waves. Sometimes in small movements like the easy break at the shoreline on a calm summer day. Other times there are huge swells and crashes of a storm out in the deep sea.
This makes it very hard to navigate the real shit of daily life.
Last night, I was trying to write in a coffee shop while my oldest was at basketball practice. There were two women sitting at the table next to me. When a third woman approached them, my vibrational energy escalated. She had good energy but it was crazy for me to even pick it up to that extent. It was like someone had turned on a switch inside me.
This is not the first time something like this has happened. And not the most intense either.
The other day, my friend Marina asked me if I was an empath. We were at a reiki community share where Himalayan crystal healing bowls were being played. The sounds activated my energy. I had to sit on the floor against a wall to ground myself. I felt like I’d fly away if I didn’t. No one ever asked me that question before: am I an empath? Generally speaking, I’ve known that I’m super-sensitive to things around me, but I thought that was just part and parcel of being a poet. You know: in tune with the world and all that. Only recently have I heard the term empath to describe a person as someone who is extremely empathetic to others to the point that their physical being is affected. Hmm. I was curious, so I took the first online test that Google gave me. I had no idea whether this test was legitimate or not, but I just wanted to see.
Apparently, I’m an empath. It also turns out that I’m very bad at protecting my energy and aura. Uh, yeah. Duh.
Onyx mala beads, anyone?
What’s it like to love so widely? To love unabashedly? This is a question I’ve been considering. It sounds terrifying. Especially considering “humanity’s terrible and infinite capacity” for it. You see that? Terrible! Who wants to participate in that? And yet, despite this, I am compelled to love, to radiate that love out into the world, even if it leaves me vulnerable, exposed to potential hurt. (Maybe that’s why I swing back to destruction – maybe a kind of defense mechanism?)
But also: how do you love the people you already love even more? How do you grow love? How do you nurture it? It’s always changing, shifting, growing, even diminishing. Perhaps it’s like a garden: you need to tend to it with light, a little water, some good soil.
My dearest sweetest friend, Ross, whom I love so so much, says: "Attend to what you love. Love is the engine to our own poetry."
What more is there than love and our own life’s poetry?