On Love and Self

There are stages of love as well as grief. I suspect more people know the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Few people understand that love has stages as well: infatuation, passion, routine (or restless), partnership, companionship. If grief comes about through loss of loved one, where does love come in?

Love comes with loss of self, meaning love causes self to become secondary to the one you love. Giving up self for another is an altruistic, personal, uplifting gift that one both gives and receives, and by receive, I mean that you are giving yourself that gift as you give it to another. Another way of looking at this is to think of it as giving your undivided attention to the one you love. I “discovered” this as I wrote my novel Honey Ko. In chapter eleven, Sam describes his love for Susanna:

“…it’s like in a dream when you love a woman and the joy you feel is so incredibly intense that your heart feels like it’s going to burst.

When you dream, there are no outside forces competing for your attention, Frank, nothing to dull the effect of the emotions. When you’re sad in a dream, it’s the most intense sadness possible. When you’re happy, it’s the most intense happiness possible. Dream emotions are pure, unadulterated, undiluted. They are the form, the definition, the substance, the being, the universal truth of the emotions we experience less deeply when we are awake. The love you feel for a woman while you’re dreaming is the purest, completest, and most fulfilling love there is. Do you know why that is, Frank?”

“No, Sam.”

“Because in your dream, Frank, you give the woman your undivided attention. She is the sole object of your dream. The same thing occurs when you’re infatuated with a woman. She is the sole object of your life. You give her your complete attention. You give up self for the one you love. That’s the key to love, Frank.”

Give the one you love your undivided attention.

“When I met Susanna that day, I knew we were destined to be together. There was no doubt in my mind. The thought that we were not never occurred. It was a universal truth, an absolute, an a priori fact. Water seeks its own level, fire burns, gravity is, we were destined to marry. It just was.”

Sam’s faced glowed with the rapture of memory, and I knew Susanna was with him.

“When our eyes met, the deepest, most intense dreamlike feeling of joy and happiness, fulfillment, and inevitability came over me. It nearly brought me to tears. My knees were shaking and my face drawn, and my gut burned, Frank. My gut burned. When we reached for the same apple in the vendor’s cart, our hands touched, we looked at each other, and I saw it in her eyes, Frank, it was in her eyes; she knew it too. She knew it too.”

Love begins as infatuation. We’re so bowled over with intense passion for someone that they consume our lives. The critical point comes when infatuation fades as we become used to one another’s ways: foibles, habits, moods, peculiarities. Self enters the picture here. If we can accept our lover’s unique traits then we move into the next stage of love, passion. Not everyone makes it to this stage.

The key to love: You can’t love without giving. Giving begins when you give your undivided attention to the other.

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