so this post has been inevitable for a while. A big, rambly meditation on capital-L love. Er, Love.
I’ve been trying to hold off, because I have no idea how all my various thoughts on the subject are going to get down on the page without a bit of push and shove and an indecent amount of fervour. But I just watched the film Dear John – another Nicholas Sparks creation – and it’s caused precipitation.
The film doesn’t have a happily-ever-after moment. But what it does is perfectly capture the irrational nature of love. The way it profoundly interrupts a life, even after such a short time, and never goes away.
Come on, maybe you don’t admit it to other people, but think about it: You still love the first person you ever felt that for, right? The first person who made just breathing and looking and talking incandescent. Loving them still is not a rational act and it probably has nothing to do with who you are now, who they are now, what your life is now, whether you even still know them. It has nothing to do with having any kind of future together. When you fell in love part of you was irrevocably transformed and thought, Forever, no matter what.
I also watched the BBC adaptation of Love in a Cold Climate the other day, and was very taken with the last line.
Fanny: Fabrice was the great love of her life.
The Bolter: Ah yes, they always are. Every time.
To me this is the unanswerable question at the heart of a romance novel. It took me a while to figure it out, because of course we already know how the story will end before we even start writing, so what is there to discover by writing it?
Every time I set myself this challenge: Can two people really find each other and think, Yes, you, to the exclusion of all others, always. And can it be true?
I don’t have an answer to that, by the way, which is why it’s the unanswerable question.
When me and special k got engaged I was terrified for two weeks. How could I possibly say I would love this person for my whole life? Then I thought about it like this:
When we met – ok, the second time we met, something sparked between us. Something irrational if you think about it, because we really didn’t know each other at all. I think trying to know and understand and empathise with and support each other are all immensely important aspects of commitment, but that spark - that is absolutely necessary to the in love kind of love. So because it had nothing to do with who either of us happened to be at the time, I figured: Whoever I am at any given moment loves whoever you are at any given moment.
It’s the irrational, forever, irrevocable and slightly insane aspect of love.
And the best (scariest) part is that you can’t control it. As soon as you try horrible things happen like doubts and anxiety and “you’re not the man I married.” It’s bloody hard to let go of, too.
It’s like admitting Santa Claus exists. You’re allowing for the possibility that love is slightly magical and beyond you and that it can do and be anything at all.
Which reminds me of this thought about Love:
Most people long for it, pretty desperately if we’re honest. But a rational society like ours doesn’t like to admit that one of the highest attainments in life is something so illogical and irrational. It’s pretty astounding what we would be prepared to do for Love. For something that is so unquantifiable and so infinitely precious.
(This is one of the reasons I think people are condescending about romance fiction. It just goes ahead and says love is important – and not in an ironic way.)
But if you think about it, it makes no sense at all that instead of nothing there is life, either. When we love we feel stupidly alive.
Irrational + irrational = bliss
One last thought:
Love is one of the most deeply transformative experiences we have in our lives. I read in an essay a while ago, whose author I’ve since forgotten, that Love is the only power on earth that can make Romeo and Juliet blind to prejudice, hatred, vengeance etc. It overcomes obstacles that almost anything else in life cannot. (Okay, so it didn’t end very well, but you get the point.)
I think a line from the film Valentine’s Day sums it up best:
Love is the only shocking act left on the planet.