What is love?

If you’ve been following my writing for any length of time, there has been a pull for me in the realms of spirituality, psychology, and philosophy. To me, they are all synonyms for the study of love, and that is what I would like to write about today. I believe love is a four-letter word that has caused more confusion and pain than any other concept known to man, and that is because of man (human man, not gender man). At least, that is how it has been on my journey. For months, I have struggled with my writing, because I did not want to write about me. Yet, I don’t know how to write in any other way when it comes to spirituality, psychology, or philosophy. All of these are first-person experiences for yours truly. I have no degrees in any, yet at a bare minimum, all of them lead me around by the nose, as it were.

I write this as a disclaimer because I will never claim to be an expert. If you take my writing to heart, cool. If you think I am crazy, cool. I have no dog in this race, so do not mistake me for a person who is attempting to persuade anyone to anything. I have nothing to sell, I am not a brand (if I am, it’s Itchy Butts, so…), I am literally and philosophically no one. I am a woman who obsessively studies, and if I don’t begin writing again, I’m probably going to go crazy again. My personal idol is Alan Watts, and it is his advice I follow. “If you want to be a writer, write! Write like your very life depends on it. Write like you have a message from the king. Write like you have a message that could save us all. Who knows – you might.”

Today, love is on my mind. Have you ever heard of a Japanese Koan? A koan is like a riddle – “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” is an example of a koan. In other terms, a burning question. It is often the question that creates the seeker on the road to enlightenment. Koans are used as a part of a discussion to help seekers awaken, but they are actually almost like a joke. They are used to override that logical part of you and create a reaction. It’s an A-ha! Usually, that’s what you hear with awakening, this sudden moment of “A-ha!”

My koan – before I even knew what a koan was – is, “What is love?” (baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me…no more)


In a discussion with Jack, I asked him if he was happy. He replied, “I’m not displeased”

I said, “but..shouldn’t your response be a simple yes or no?” this conversation went around a few times, but ultimately, I said this:

“Why does it seem happiness is something that is worked for, earned, hell even suffered for? I do not believe any of us were meant to suffer for happiness”

Jack said, “You can’t always be happy.”

I said, “I disagree. I believe happiness is a choice. It’s available to you at all times, even if you are sad, happiness is a perspective, people confuse it with a mood because we use too many goddamn words and we’re all fucked in the heads anymore. I mean, you can’t give a yes or a no to happy. You said you are not displeased. What does that even mean?”

He said, “Well, there are things I would want to change, I don’t know, it’s midnight, where are you going with this? I don’t think you can be happy all the time, I think we all have to work for our happiness, I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it.”

I said, “Isn’t happiness just another word for love?”

Then, I had my A-ha.

In that a-ha, I understand again, Buddha’s words about expectations because nothing altered, shattered, shifted or changed. I’d answered my own koan but inadvertently gave myself 12 more. Setting new questions aside, what is love? See, that answer is easily given in externals. I can describe the love I have for my kids, or my favorite songs or bands, my fleece pajamas, or the sweet potatoes I had last night. My struggle was not in the love for the outside, it was the inside. I highly doubt I am alone in this sentiment:

I have no problem loving everyone and everything, except me. 

So, then, I have spent much of my life in quite a tizzy, because I read lovely, well-intentioned diatribes about how “you cannot love anyone unless you love yourself.” I’ve spent 11 years worried I don’t actually love my oldest son because I knew, deep down, I don’t actually love myself. If I stick to purely biblical terms, “love is patient, love is kind…” I’m 0/2 right there as it relates to yours truly. “Dude you suck. What the actual fuck is wrong with you” were constants as I’d tell everyone else, “Believe in yourself! Don’t you see how incredible you are?”

I look at my children, my heart explodes. I look in the mirror, I feel disgusted.

That’s not purely physical, although yes, I have never been happy with myself on a physical level. The past two years have awakened me to many truths, one of which being I have judged myself on my appearance based on something as stupid as other people’s opinions. Yet, this is not easy. Beliefs are so deeply intrinsic, deeply rooted, and inside all of us. Where do you stop and a belief begins? Where did the belief come from? Who does #2 work for? I believed I was fat and ugly. Now, I am fat. I am overweight. Don’t get on me with any euphemisms, I will vomit. I am beautiful – inside and out, but I do not skinny dip my friends, I chunky dunk. I had to tear all of this apart to see all of this, and yet I still did not feel love for me. Even once I stared in the mirror and smiled and said, hey there beautiful and genuinely felt beautiful – inside and out, I did not feel love.

What is love? (seriously, baby, stop fucking hurting me!) What do I believe about love?

I have loved many men, had horrible relationships, but I genuinely loved them

The common denominator was me, so I blamed me. 

I genuinely believed you had to suffer for love. Pain = Love

In all of this was a struggle. So yes, I am the problem, as projection and perception create your reality. It is not, however, that I do not love others. This is nonsense. For one, love is not like money or any tangible item that can be exchanged. The problem in studying arises one day when you realize words create confusion because words are not reality. Words are concepts and symbols. They are representations, but they are not absolutes. The four letters that symbolize love aren’t love. When we say “I love you” to someone, it’s truly nothing but exchanging wind. There’s the great sentiment behind it, and we make a grand fuss about it, but the reality is, it is meaningless. Don’t mistake me, I am not a nihilist – I am quite the opposite. But these notions and behaviors are driving me and lots of others quite insane.

Love is action, not a word. As I started attempting to understand all of this, it was in words. When I began showing myself love, as I showed my children and the men in my life, I began to see shifts. This well-intentioned notion of “not loving anyone til you loved yourself” confused me right out of love. I doubted everything I had ever done in the name of love, yet I am the most loving person I know. I realized, like my physique, I simply had to stop listening to other people and their opinions (as I write my opinions…) The purpose of the koan and the discourse is for the seeker to find their own truth, which is why questioning everything is so important. I have listened to that line unquestioningly forever, yet for my truth, what I write now makes far more sense.

I began treating myself, speaking to myself, thinking of myself as my own best friend. I realize this is as enlightening as telling you a dog wags its tail, but for me, it was. I became (and still am) like a psychologist observing a new patient while simultaneously a lover exploring a new beloved. I write love notes to myself in my journal, while observing the changes in my attitudes, etc. It’s fascinating. This and happiness simultaneously happened. They are synonyms, yet again, neither are moods. Neither are passing states. These are constant states of being. These are perspectives that we all have the power to choose for ourselves.

In my a-ha, I realized the truth is when you do not love yourself, you render others unable to love you. It is not that you cannot love others. You block your ability to choose love for yourself. If you were to imagine yourself as that proverbial pitcher, you act in love towards others, but no one can refill you. It’s as if you are an ATM that no one can make a deposit. When projection gets into the mix: You create a reality that no one loves you because you do not love you. It does not matter how others actually feel or act because you will project your inability to love yourself to everyone. Love, as I said, is not currency. You cannot dictate its flow or direct it. Have you ever “fallen in love” with someone you don’t want to or have no logical reason to? Love is energy, but again, these are words confounding words. Love just is. If you think about it energetically, though, your inability to love yourself blocks the flow. You are a beaver of love, and you’re supposed to be a frigging mermaid, swimming in that shit with your pretty little clamshell bra and whatnot. Well, I personally, am tired of being a love beaver.

Years of “bad programming” aren’t undone in a momentary a-ha, but much can be undone. I am currently tearing my love dam (is this a god dam?) down. The reality is, love is our very nature. Whatever your beliefs, I don’t care, to me: God = love. In my inability to love myself, I further believed God did not love me. I believed I was evil, and I was going to hell. In my psychosis, I had demons talking to me, telling me to kill myself, etc. Jung said a healthy mind needs a connection to the divine – whatever works for the person. This all started for me in trying to stop being crazy, then I began on a spiritual journey, which led me then to philosophy. All of this, to me, is the love of love. Love of self, love of God, love of wisdom. Why all the extra words? It’s all love, baby.

What is love?

It’s the sound of one hand clapping.

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