To write about love is humbling because, no matter how much we learn about it, aspects of love are still mysterious. Perhaps that’s why love, specifically, romantic love, is one of the most explored topics in literature, art, music and, increasingly, in the social sciences. We dissect it, try to understand it, long to find it, and yearn for it to stay alive when we do. We can’t live without it.
Every love story is a snowflake. No two are exactly the same because—surprise!—no two people are exactly alike.
My new poetry book, String of Miracles, started out as a project commissioned by a Director for her feature film. The lead character in the movie was a poet, and my friend wanted a published book to go along with the film release. When the film was shelved, I continued work on my book and it led me down interesting paths.
I started out writing from my own experiences and from stories I knew or had witnessed, but quickly realized that those would not give a well-rounded picture of love. I listened to love songs, watched movies, read stories, but nothing really resonated with what I was trying to put on paper. Then I decided to interview people about their experiences in love and finally started making headway in writing substantial poems.
Love is a mystery. Although scientists have examined the chemistry and biology that cause two people to gravitate towards each other, we can all agree that it takes a miracle for two people to truly be on the same page at the same time, even when sparks fly.
After the initial sparks, love requires work to keep it alive. I hope we all know this in some way. I personally believe love always requires work. It’s just that the euphoria of initial attraction can make it feel like the things we do for love are not work.
Here are some of the most important things I learned about romantic love from interviews conducted with couples and individuals over a period of about 6 years:
- Love is beautiful. Don’t hide from it, don’t give up on it. Allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to experience it.
- There are as many expressions of love as there are people on the planet.
- Love takes work. If you find love with someone wonderful, put in the work to keep it fresh and alive.
- Love is a two-way street. Only one person working at it is not enough to keep it alive for the long haul.
- Love is messy and hurts like hell when things go wrong.
- Sometimes love lost is “gone with the wind.” It cannot be regained despite our best efforts.
Above all, I learned that love goes through seasons. It ebbs and flows like ocean tides. And so my book explores love in the seasons of fall, winter, spring, summer, and the pleasantly surprising Indian summer.
I highly recommend this podcast from On Being, where Krista Tippett interviews Alain de Botton about love.