Love Wins / by Michelle Cowan

I no longer live in a world of black and white. I live with options, with ambiguity, which has proved itself a far more difficult locale. Feeling settled or having closure is a luxury, not the norm. I am learning to be okay with situations and emotions, even when they aren't well-defined.

Sometimes, my life's direction is vague. My career isn't following a clear trajectory. Sometimes, I want to do two conflicting things or I am not sure how strong my desire is. My emotions and instincts don't seem to have a clear point or reason. I may not have any hard-set opinions on a given topic. Not being able to label something right or wrong can test my patience because I can no longer accumulate feelings of righteousness by judging from a lofty post.

I can no longer avoid bad things and do good things because "bad" and "good" are not so easy to define and may not even exist! Sometimes, I like a person while not liking certain things about him or her. I live in the gray, a hard area to explain, but a place where I have found immense freedom from rules I had created for myself. I do not punish myself here, and I am not "bad." I am me. And I choose what to believe as I walk along.

However, I still long for definite rules, something that will work every time. If I need to make a decision, and the choice is between A and X, and A is always the best thing, my decision becomes much easier. But in the land of gray, X could sometimes be better than A. Sometimes, it might even turn out that A is B, or that the decision never really mattered at all. It's a rough place here in the land of no absolutes. It's harder, but it's better. And I rely on my higher power much more to guide me. Greater faith is applied here.

But back to the longing for rules, for right and wrong, good and bad, should and shouldn't. I think that today, I may have found a solid rule. We will see if it holds up in the long run. Here it is:

Always choose love.

Now, deciding what loving truly is may deserve some thought in each specific instance. I often think I'm loving when I'm actually trying to control a situation or get what I want. Sometimes, loving means seeing things from another person's perspective. What might feel loving to me might not feel loving when applied to another person, and it's hard to determine what another person sees as loving sometimes. Maybe the most I can say is to aim for kindness.

In every interaction, do the kind thing. Choose not to say the hurtful word. Choose to love exuberantly if it feels good. Love more quietly if your heart does not want to do the elaborate love thing.

Many people have hurt me. However, I do not regret any instance when I chose to tell someone how much I cared about him or her. I have not regretted one cheesy card sent, one kind word, one loving touch. If any of those things had been done out of manipulation, I wouldn't feel so good about them. That isn't kindness; it's reaching for control. And I do not like it when I try to manipulate the behavior of others by pretending to care about them. But when I honestly care for someone and reach out to them, when I am hurt but choose to respond in a loving way toward myself and the other party, I regret nothing.

I may feel pangs of humiliation when I receive nothing back or am rejected. It hurts when invitations are repeatedly turned down or when I am made fun of for being so "dramatic." But the humiliation passes, and I am calmed by realizing that at least these other people know how I feel. At least they know they are loved. That's what I want. And I will give it while remembering that in order to love others well, I must first love myself.

This week, I received some love back. I received some rejection. But what I received love-wise far exceeded anything lost by lack of reciprocation in another situation. Love wins. If I refuse to expose my heart, it can never be loved. If no one knows my soul, they can only love a shell of me.

I prefer that the core of me, not just the surface, be wrapped in pure affection. One day, someone will not freak out at my authenticity. In fact, some people in my life already see that and love me for it. Others are not quite able to embrace my intensity. And this is understandable, for I certainly am intense.

Today, instead of living in black and white, where intensity is bad, I see intensity as a part of who I am, a part that makes me great. It makes me interesting. I may have to deal with additional challenges because of my tendency toward the dramatic, but living as me certainly beats suppressing parts of myself so that I can get through life a little more easily. I don't care about climbing corporate ladders, and I don't have to "snag a man" to enjoy affection. Those things are only worth it if I get them while being MYSELF. To be myself is to love, and I am free to love in big ways if I feel like it.

I could and have felt angry and vengeful toward those to whom I gave truckloads of love while never receiving anything back. Those feelings have always eventually passed, though. And I feel that I am stronger for having loved. If I had played it safe and not tried to love, I would never have known if those people could have loved me in return. The question would have hung over my head, and I would never have touched other people who saw me giving that love. I would have simply stayed silent and still, wondering and feeling unexpressed, depriving people of the affection I held within.

Instead, I feel full and whole, having witnessed the outcome of loving in those situations. I also learned how to love better by practicing love. Loving is worth the work and the risk in the end, when I am able to love exquisitely. Eventually, someone will appreciate my love and want to pay me back in kind. Until that time, I'm paid back in love for myself. After loving, I love myself more. I treasure this person I've become, who can be "bad" and love at the same time, who can be humiliated but also feel prouder of herself than ever. Perhaps love is the absolute authority in this land of no absolutes...or maybe I simply enjoy loving right now.