For those of you who tuned into Monday’s blogpost, it might seem like I’m on a musical tour with Cinderella (today’s title giving a nod to the epic dance at the ball), but really I’m just plugging away at all of these posts I’ve been meaning to get to since February. This is another.
I’ve seen this phrase (#thisislove) floating around social media (mostly on Facebook), most recently on the wall of a college friend planted somewhere in the midwest. She was having a crazy hectic day (complete with pre-travel packing, backed up plumbing, and last-minute house staging with a toddler underfoot) when her valiant husband picked up the phone to order her favorite pizza. #thisislove #husbandsavestheday
I see the phrase #thisislove when my dating friends get flowers at work (#hesthebest #imsospoiled) or spend weekends in Napa (#wineislove #hesmyfavorite). I see it when engaged friends bemoan the stress of planning a wedding but praise the fortitude of their fiancés (#starbucksforme #soblessed). I see it when married friends get gushy and sentimental (as married people are allowed to be), when they celebrate anniversaries and have weekends away.
It’s a nice phrase. A good phrase. I “like” this phrase, both in real life and on Facebook. But sometimes it makes me pause. I stop in the middle of my scrolling and clicking and wonder, What about me? What does love look like for someone who hasn’t been held in far too long? For a woman whose family lives 1500 miles away? What does love look like when there’s no one texting back? When your community is good, but not great? When you’re tempted to shut down because risk has not paid off?
Sometimes it looks like wildflowers from the Farmer’s Market.
Sometimes it looks like a bottle of wine and a bar of chocolate to accompany the movie you’ve rented from Redbox.
Sometimes love from your friends looks just like all of the other pictures and posts.
But more often than not, love for this writer does not look like the sort of thing that you hashtag on Facebook. Not only because it can be difficult to share, but because deep-seated and consistent I-know-you-and-I’m-here-for-you, I-see-when-you-suffer-and-I’m-still-willing-to-listen love can be really hard to find. It doesn’t always look like the love under the #thisislove umbrella.
Sometimes it looks like your Dad sending you an e-mail to say not to worry about paying for your data plan this month because he realizes your laptop was stolen. Again.
Sometimes it looks like your only friend with a car bringing you ibuprofen and Sprite when you’re home alone with the flu.
Sometimes it looks like your brother sending an e-mail telling you your last blog post made him cry and you’re one of the best writers he’s ever read (which you take to heart knowing that he’s a pastor and as part of his profession he isn’t supposed to lie).
Sometimes it looks like your niece telling you knock-knock jokes about an elephant and a comb over FaceTime.
Sometimes it looks like a friend linking an ayurvedic blog post to your Facebook wall defending how much you care about something as small as eating.
Sometimes it looks like a small black card whose cover reads “This Card Has No Purpose…” and whose hand-written message includes the line: “I hope you will fight for yourself, because you are someone worth fighting for.”
I have had problems with love. I think they are linked to the problems I have with envy and believing the rest of my community is as happy and hopeful and content as they appear to be. It is a problem because it isn’t wholly true. It is a problem because I treat it as though it were, and stacked up against the hashtags it makes me feel like less. Less loved. Less worthy. Less deserving.
One solution to this problem is to reframe my misconceptions and remember that I am loved, even if I am loved in different ways. Another is to reframe the question, not asking “What is love for me?” but rather “What is love for him?” “What is love for her?” “What thing can I do that will drive that message home so that #thisislove is the rule and not the exception? Maybe #thisislove is more about what I’m doing than what is being done to me. Isn’t this supposed to be the underlying hashtag of our day-to-day actions? Not just looking for #thisislove moments, but making them happen?
Maybe if we did our concept of love would expand, becoming as vast and diverse and specific and nuanced as each of the individuals our lives brush up against.