On Being in Love…

Poets and philosophers, artists and romantics across the ages have pondered the meaning of love. Falling into a few of those catagories myself, I am no exception.

From my own experiences, to those of the people I have done readings for, counseled, lent an ear or lent a shoulder to cry on over the last several years, I don’t believe there is any one definition of love, or even any one person who is the only one we love.

I imagine for most of us, our first real experience with love is when we are infants. It would appear that that the unconditional love of a parent is vital to our development. I recently heard a podcast of This American Life that followed the life and development of a child who was in an orphanage in Romania until he was around 7 years old. He sat in a crib, day in and day out, without attention or affection. He was adopted by an American couple who discovered that he was unable to form an attachment. The podcast follows their nearly unbearable struggle to get their son to love them. The story is both painful and very moving. You can listen to it at http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/317/unconditional-love.

I believe that through most of our childhood, our ideas of what love is come from how we are raised, the family members and friends who show us love and affection. We learn that love is a source of comfort, safety.

We reach adolescence and experience our first crushes and hormone driven romances. If we are lucky we develop friendships that withstand the test of time, show us that type of love that the best friendships bring us, someone to trust and confide int. Someone who “gets” us.

Eventually, our love relationships mature, and we find someone we believe we love enough to want to spend the rest of our lives with. Sometimes that works. Sometimes circumstances change and we move on, in search of that one, true love.

Here is where love gets complicated. (As if it weren’t already!). How do we “know” that we have our “One True Love”? Is there really only one? As we get older, how do we open ourselves to the possibilities of love when many of us barely love ourselves, or find ourselves worth of love? When we search for that special person to love, trust and confide in and they break our hearts?

Do we simply trust in fate? Or God? Or just dumb luck that we got it right the first time? Does there even need to be one person that we love, forever and ever? Is this something that we seek on a spiritual or biochemical level? Or is it just what we do because that is what society expects us to do?

I know… depressing isn’t it? I am not writing this because I am down on love, nor because I want you to be down on love. It’s a wonderful, mysterious thing and despite the heartaches and eventual heartbreaks, I would not give up the experience for anything.

What has made me wax all philosophical and spiritual about love, you might ask? Oddly it has been not just my spiritual path and day to day life experiences, but a new look at love from many different angles. Between my years travelling the psychic path and my years travelling the virtual road of Second Life, I have seen and experienced the idea of love in a whole variety of ways.

Four the past four years I have continued my psychic/spiritual counseling within the virtual realm. I never considered myself a “love life” counselor, but what I have seen over and over again, are questions about love. I do not feel like any kind of specialist in love and relationships. I am far more comfortable talking about spiritual/life path stuff than that. But here I was, being inundated by it.

First, let’s look at relationships online. It is not a myth. Marriages have come out of Second Life and other online communities. People who may have never met each other had the internet not existed, are coming together in the virtual world and getting married in the physical world. I personally know of three different US-UK relationships that have resulted in a person being willing to pack up their life and move to another country.

I have had a lot of time to think about this through my own experiences. No, I haven’t fallen in love and moved to another country. But have experienced pretty profound love on a sort of cerebral, almost soul, level. How else do you explain the bond that forms between two people who have never met physically. The first thing you notice is that the level of anonymity allows people to be much more candid. They talk about themselves and about things they might be terrified to talk about with someone physically sitting across from them. People who might be silent and stoic in the physical world find themselves pouring their hearts out in the virtual world.

Relationships there become something based on thoughts and ideas. actual conversation. It’s a true connection between people where age, sex, race and appearance are of little importance. In a world where you can literally look like anything you want, what does physical appearance matter? Your best friend could be a dragon, a fairy, a cat, a supermodel, or an unidentifiable collection of shapes.

My first virtual best friend came in a handsome, if stern, human male avatar package. What we found in our friendship with a really amazing, powerful spiritual connection.  We could talk for hours, venting our political and religious viewpoints without hesitation. We helped each other on our spiritual path. We spent months, nearly two years, having this amazing friendship. At its height, we had an epiphany… this moment that we felt this truly amazing, pure, white light sort of true spiritual love. If I could grant you all one gift, it would be to experience that level of love and friendship.

It is the sort of thing you want to last forever. But maybe the reason we find it so seldom is that it really does burn too hot and brightly to last very long. Tragedy struck in my dear friend’s life. He spent very little time online, to which I bear him no ill will, as we all deal with grief in our own ways. This is the part where this non-physical, cerebral only friendship has its downside. I could not physically “be there” for my friend. By shutting off our online connection, he shut off our main means of communication. Then he shut down spiritually, and that spiritual connection was suddenly just *gone*. It was like a door slammed shut.

In time, and in a long story I won’t go into here, he seemed to forget about all of that. He came back online, but now he believed lies and twisted my words. It ended badly and we now seldom speak. This was the first time I could say that a friend, not a lover or boyfriend or spouse, had truly broken my heart. Who knew!? That’s supposed to be the stuff of romance novels and romantic comedies, right?

This was the relationship that really made me think about love as more than that thing that results in marriage and babies. As the years have passed, I have learned more about loving myself and I know that for me, what I am often searching for is that type of connection. Maybe it fills a hole within my own self love. Maybe we all are sort of lonely, even when we’re in a good relationship, and we’re always looking for that special love.

Is love addicting? Especially within Second Life, it seems like an addiction. People “partner”, get married and split up again in the space of three months and before you know it, they are partnered again. It makes the head spin. If you are not careful it can be traumatic.

I have seen people who think they are hopelessly in love with someone they met in SL. They can’t understand why that person has stopped returning their emails, their IMs. Why they log in as another avatar all together. They think its just a matter of time before that person leaves their real life spouse to be with them.

I caution them… this virtual relationship is pretty crazy. It affords you intense feelings, strong mental/emotional connections. But the key missing factor for this relationship is the physical one. In a virtual world, you don’t have to contend with bills and families and annoying habits. There’s no body odor, no toilet seat left up, no toothpaste squeezed wrong. You’re “in love” with the mind, not the whole package. There’s an incredible amount of information you need to receive physically to really “know” someone. At least this is my theory.

In the virtual world, that girl you’re madly in love with might be a big burly male lumberjack in real life. I’ve heard of that happening!

Even in real life relationships, I have had clients ask me over and over again to tell me how the other person feels about them. Love isn’t a guaranteed thing. Like anything in life, you have to take risks. If you’re not willing to take a chance at loving a person unless you’re absolutely certain they love you back, you’re going to be pretty lonely. The same goes for friends. If you’re not willing to share how you feel about them, they’re not going to risk it either. Be bold, take the first step.

I was confused when I first started feeling this strong love for a friend. It started me thinking about the concepts of love, how many languages have several words for love, each having a different nuance. Having one word… Love… makes it sound a little weird when you say… tell your husband that you love this guy you know! But in conversation with a few of these close friends over the years, I have come to believe that we can love more than one person in more than one way. Maybe instead of loving one person more than another, we just love them differently.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways… Love for a child, love for a parent, love for a sibling, love for a best friend, love for a pet, love for a mate, love for a soul mate, love for a teacher, love for an ideal, love for family, love for mankind, love for life, love for the earth, love for God, love for your spiritual beliefs… I could probably go on…

For my part, love is pretty hard to kill. Even after my virtual best friend broke my heart and said awful things, I still love the idiot. I blame grief and emotions. And while I am realistic, I always hold hope that one day we can be friends again. I have since loved other people nearly as deeply and lost them. I am told on occasion that I wear my heart on my sleeve. Each time I get my heart broken I consider putting it away in a safe place. But then, I consider the consequences… I would much rather experience love and lose it than never experience it again.

My advice to you is to open your heart and mind to the possibilities of all kinds of love. Don’t limit yourself to one true love. At the same time, open your eyes to the knowledge that it may not last forever, but it sure was fun while it lasted!


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