NMW – A post on Love
What is love? Are there really as many answers as there are people? Or is it something you can ask and find an answer to.
They’re (my coworkers) watching “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” right now in the dressing room with the idea that love is something that can’t be erased even if your memories are, if your mind is cleared. So where does love reside if not in the brain, the neurons firing? I read a book about how the brain formulates, categorizes and reacts to love, affection, desire and the sense of belonging. I read the book with intense interest, took notes, highlighted and yet all that I seem to remember from it is that love is dealt with in the brain on some level and that animals without a limbic brain cannot love, or so it seems, as reptiles will eat their own young but mammals (with a limbic brain) will not only NOT eat their young but will sacrifice themselves to protect their offspring and often, their partners. Is that love??
Dan and I just went on holiday. The fact that he can spend four days straight with only me and my neurotic jam hands is a testament to love. Perhaps the lingerie helps. Or beer.
But in all seriousness we had a lot of time to talk about us, our families, our futures and pasts. This is when sometimes my inner dark and is released from it’s cage. By all rights I am a happy person but I know in myself I contain depths where deep sorrow and abandon reside. Sound dramatic? When I was young I felt that “God” had opened my heart to carry the sadness of the world for those less strong and less fortunate. My Dad believed this wholeheartedly. He believed that some where chosen to carry burdens and that I was one of those people. I don’t know that I still believe that (or that he does for that matter) but I guess there’s a part of me that wonders. I wonder if artists often are those who, quite literally, carry the weight of the world and find a way to make it beautiful. I digress. And often I digress when talking about my past (especially under the influence of delicious rum infused beverages). For some reason I was explaining to Dan about how my parents, despite our general difficulty as a family, were 100% the most supportive when it came to my career. And not only supportive but they were proud. And people, I haven’t done much (yet). Both my parents came to see me at The Pirate Dinner Adventure and RAVED about it. They genuinely had puffed up chests and smiles ear to ear like I was walking down the red carpet with Brad Pitt and Steven Spielberg. The particular story I told was about my Mom coming to visit me at a time when the other Gypsy Girl (my part as an aerialist) was injured and I had to work several days in a row. My Mom had originally come out to visit because my sister was engaged and we girls were driving up to LA to go wedding dress shopping. Mum had watched like 4 nights of Pirate Shows in a row as I didn’t have a night off until dress shopping day. Lo and Behold the one other back up Gypsy was unavailable and I got called in and my Mom insisted she’d come, YET AGAIN and eat the potatoes and watch me work. And she did, and she cheered and raved and compared casts until I dropped her off at the Airport. At the end of this story, Dan looked at and said “now THAT’S unconditional love”. I hadn’t thought of it like that but how true. And how moving! I was thinking more patience. But he’s right. It had really meant a lot to me that she didn’t hesitate to come every night. My parents adore my work, make me feel amazing about it. Even my siblings do. It’s something that even though I don’t often admit it, I fall back on it psychologically, quite often. Show business and the life that comes with it is hard and if you don’t have something that supports you through the seemingly endless years of auditions and rejections and turmoil, well you might just end up going into taxes eventually.
Unconditional Love is the phrase that was thrown around all throughout my childhood. It was how good and bad was measured, heaven and hell, worthy and unworthy, marriage or divorce. I grew up Catholic and, without commenting on religion (as that is not what this blog is prepared to do), i feel that the influence of the particular kind of Catholicism I learned (read, I am not speaking out agains Catholicism, Christianity or any religion, nor am I promoting it. I am speaking from my specific experience about my specific perceptions) stole some of my childhood and my innocence away. Unconditional love to me meant the six year old me praying on my hands and knees, crying for forgiveness because I knew I had “sinned” though I wasn’t sure how, the nine year old me putting stones in my shoes because unconditional love was wanting to share Jesus’s constant pain without complaining or wanting for relief, the twelve, thirteen, fourteen year old me believing that love in relationships meant sacrifice of self, self worth, comfort, happiness and well being. If you weren’t in pain you weren’t really loving unconditionally. Okay it meant many other things too, not quite so dramatic and dark, in fact some very, very positive. But when I was 23 and had a 30 plus year old boyfriend wondering if people or his parents or I would still love him if he admitted to having doubts about God, if he was just himself, I just kind of snapped. That is the epitome of CONDITIONAL love in my opinion. And I could never really hear the term “unconditional love” without out feeling that sick, bile-rising, feeling in my stomach. I felt that “unconditional love” ruined love, ruined families, ruined me.
Fast forward to today. Today when I woke up and Dan and I were destined to be on different pages. The stress of not knowing what we’re doing or where we’re going is compounded by other things. Okay, namely, that we’re from different countries and, AND we’re both performers, of all careers. I got something today that I needed to talk to Dan about and Dan wasn’t in the mood to be even more stressed out. These thing, these factors will be out of our control until, say the month, or even the week before we leave whether we talk about them or not. It’s usually this way. And it’s never easy to deal with but something always works out. However, now, added to that is our desire to be together and to want the other to desire the same thing. Long story short dan and I didn’t communicate in our normal disgustingly cute and harmonious fashion. And sometime during the day he said to me “Crista, you know though, I love you No Matter What”. Of course I kiss him and yes, I know that and I love him No Matter What as well.
But it didn’t hit me until later in the day what that means to me, how much it means to me. Dan told me today that he loves me No Matter What, does that mean fill in the blank? No Matter What happens next year? To my thighs? No matter which country we’re in or how successful I become, or how bitchy I can be sometimes? That’s no small feat. I’ve been Loved As Long As – I don’t get fat (true story my friends), as long as I don’t do long distance (difficult for performers), I look the other way (difficult for Leopardi’s in general), I don’t have any expectations or needs. I’m not saying that any of those things are unreasonable. But they are conditional. Dan told me he loves me No Matter What. Is that what unconditional is? Amazing. I know it may seem I gush a lot about my relationship, but really and truly I often feel like a student around my partner. Where did I get my ideas on love and relationships from? There are things I just assumed were par for the course that just don’t have to be. Even today we were talking about marriage. Dan has never been afraid of marriage. I admitted that, although I dreamt and desired marriage from the time I was 9 years old that I was also afraid of it. ANd still have fears. He looked dumbfounded “really? what’s there to be afraid of?”. Oh you beautiful boy you. And then I had to figure out what I really was afraid of. I’m not afraid of the commitment or the daily life, no, I thrive on consistency. Familiarity does not seem to breed contempt in my life in any area but increased interest and passion. I finally said, for the first time out loud “I am afraid of being regretted, hated and tolerated instead of loved. I know what that is like, to live day to day being told or perceiving that you were a mistake and an unwanted burden and commitment. and somehow I have gotten the impression that after the shine of the honeymoon wears off most people feel that way about their spouses. I can’t live knowing I am regretted, that I am a mistake”. People should be cherished, but what if that’s too hard over the long term? I can’t believe I actually said that. I can’t believe that is my underlying fear but it seems just more then I could bear. But as GI Joe says, “knowing is half the battle” and as U2 (so… Bono) says “you can’t win until you’re not afraid to lose”. Or, in the words of my loving Grandmother “well, you should know what makes a good boyfriend. You’ve had enough of them” Thanks Grandma, truly. (ps, isn’t my Grandma beautiful?! She tells it like it is but means it with love).
But, alas, she’s right. and I’ve taken something valuable from each of them and gleaned a piece of love too. And each of the people that has come in and out of my life in general has seemed to bring with them a necessary piece of the love puzzle. I don’t know if it could be researched or tested by monitoring my brain. But for me the picture seems to grow clearer by the day and more dynamic. Maybe what is true is what my sister told me as I cried in her car, that love is different for every person and this is my version of love that I’m finding. To uncover someone to share it with, to grow your own love to a level you didn’t know was possible -well, that’s just more then I ever imagined existed.
So I think, though they’re very much the same, that I can put to rest the question, the problem, of unconditional love and lay my head down to rest at night knowing that I’m loved No Matter What. And that is my version of love.
What do you think? What is your version of love?