Love is so many things that it’s impossible for one person to answer that question, so instead of answering this one myself I decided to ask my readers. Here are the replies I received when I posed this question on my Facebook page and Twitter feed:
Spike Aroo: Love is the ability to be vulnerable.
Allison Mcg: Love is the opposite of fear.
Jennifer Ad Meliora Reeves: I think love, real love, means acceptance of the whole person—their faults, attributes, shortcomings, gifts, abilities, inabilities, etc. Love shouldn’t be based on hope or potential, which I am learning the hard way. We would never want someone to say to us, “I love you, but…” and then tick off the ways we could be better or different. We want someone to love us just as we are—here, today. And we need to love ourselves, and forgive ourselves, in this same way. Love is a state of grace.
@Miss___B: Love is something infinite and sublime that can only be made wrong or less-than when you try to box it into definitions.
Jan Cooper: Favorite quote: “To love a person is to learn the song that is in their heart, and to sing it to them when they have forgotten” (unknown author).
Sara Habein: I can’t be the only one who, despite seriously considering the subject, had visions of “A Night at the Roxbury” dancing through my head. (Woah-oh-oh-OH-oh-oh *ahem*) All right, I’ll go back to serious contemplation.
@RumpusPoetry: It’s a song that causes severe neck injury and won’t leave your head once it gets in there.
Terry N Teros: Love is the glue that holds the whole program together.
Carolynne Reina Mielke: Love is thinking of others before yourself!
Bill Mazza: Generosity without expectation and trust without judgment.
Joan Rogers: I tend to think of it as the profound knowledge that the equation is more important than either of its component parts.
@ayse: I just read a beautiful evocation of love by @tracyclarkflory. [ETA: My favorite line from this article was "I suppose that's one definition of love: You do something for someone else and it ends up feeling like a gift to yourself."]
Roberta DiBisceglie : For me, love means caring for someone not despite their flaws but because of them. Love transports us to a better place, not always a happier one, but one that helps us to grow and find balance. Love is truth and it will set you free.
@blandroid (Jason Asher): Acceptance, faith, patience, healing, openness, honesty, cherishing, giving, receiving, growing, and being vulnerable.
SonYa Eick: Love is when you’ve found someone who makes you want to be the best version of yourself possible. To fix all your flaws, yet accept them at the same time. It’s when you’ve found the one who inspires you and motivates you especially when you’re weak and unable to do so on your own.
Denise L. Moore: Love is a relationship without apathy, honesty without judgment, laughter without embarrassment, belief without proof, compassion without end on a road traveling both ways.
@saribotton (Sari Botton): Whatever love is, you can’t experience it until you stop confusing validation with satisfaction. Awesome when you do, but so many don’t.
April Cooper: I have always liked this definition: “Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled. I also think love is the energy that powers the Universe (all of reality) and that it is our life purpose to lose our fearful perceptions of separation and experience Oneness with All That Is as fully as possible.
Brenda Lehman Gorenc: Love is the act of putting someone else first, even when your heart doesn’t feel like doing it.
Ryan Nance: Love is what we have decided to call the world lit by other people.
Amen to that."
I started thinking about all the other various ways to define love ("I wanna know what love iiissss/I want you to shoooow meeeee")-- my first thought (okay second) going back to Tiny Beautiful Things: "Real love moves freely in both directions. Don't waste your time on anything else." That can take a surprisingly long time to learn in life. For so many people it's easier to wait, to hope, to stay beyond all reason for something that was once true but no longer is. Be brave enough to break your own heart. It's not an easy thing to do. I've watched it. I've lived it.
My own definition is still forming, it would seem; for things such as this I believe the best works are a lifelong revision process. I know it has a lot to do with patience and giving, with being a whole woman who acknowledges I still have much room to learn and grow. That you should spend time with those you can learn and grow from and with. To never compromise the parts of you that are silly or loud or outrageous and never expect anyone else to do the same. To understand that even the most silly, loud and outrageous person also wants to be quiet sometimes and wants you to share in all those parts of them, and they in you.
It is something we all have the deepest longing for and often, the least understanding. That is what makes it so beautiful and frustrating and exciting in all its many forms. Love isn't just romantic; it is food. We must learn to feed ourselves before we can feed others.
*This thesis is a labor of love that is the closest I want to come to children for about the next decade or so.