by Mirra Kardonne
Love: the ever expanding and diminishing phenomenon of the living. The contained reservoir from deep within, sometimes sleeping, sometimes robustly alert. The shared bond, the found jewel. The merciless master, the intrepid explorer.
Love brought me to feminism, as a matter of fact. The entrances of Love and then the exits, the aftermath and mourning of a once-living Love. The demises of Loves that I thought were unbreakable, I suppose because convention taught me that some types of love are designed to last. You know the kinds… the ones you find early, like family and childhood friends. Later, the Loves that seem to be qualitatively similar, so it’s like you’ve known them forever. An old love right from the start. Walking hand in hand with love from its infancy, to its maturity, then to… its end? Realizing, the hard way, that Love may in fact be conditional.
If you are a girl, you learn through repetition that you ARE full of love that can’t be dissuaded, the real task is tempering the fever of your love throughout your life. A girl loves foolishly, a woman loves wisely. A psycho woman loves too much, a frigid woman doesn’t love enough. All women are all susceptible to the pitfalls of Unconditional Love, a Love that will haunt them no matter what! *cue lightning*. The kind that will trespass on their boundaries or make a ‘good’ woman stay, even if it looks, smells and feels very unlike Love. A culture that tells women that their value is measured by how well they are loved and how well they love is the same culture that tells women that they can’t escape their Love Destiny, that they must keep the search for Love alive, that they are doomed to love in spite of no one being able to explain what exactly Love is, or how it might be different for everyone.
Am I transformed by Love? Well, when someone gets in there and pushes the soft spot, I can’t help but feel it extra. Anyone can do it to me, if I love them: a family member remembers to call you a name from your childhood; a friend finishes your sentence; a partner surprises you, just to make you happy. It’s a wonderful experience.
But I am irreversibly and essentially transformed when I abandon love. Every time I do (as I have done, quite often) I sever a living part of myself, the part that felt love for the beloved. It’s a conscious, deliberate process of stopping Love. Like too many programs running in the background of your computer, one needs to get into the control panel and start forcing software to close. Just when you think you’ve shut everything down, wait look! It’s popped up in another setting! Get in there, turn if off! I don’t know how, it’s complicated! Then ask for help, dummy! NO only I know how it’s MY system. Well you’re doing a bad job, it’s still running and it’s gumming up the works. Ok I got it all this time. No, there it is. Fuck. Wait, ok wait….
Severing a living part? It means death. Indeed, when something alive stops living, it’s dead. (whaaaaa????) In a flash, and even before it happens, when I know it’s coming, I’m waiting for the moment to arrive… or, take a more decisive route and euthanize it—death is still sudden, even when it’s not sudden. But that’s not the scary part. The scary part is the mourning that follows. When you’ve eradicated from yourself the Love that you nurtured into life, saw it grow and then witnessed every stage of it’s death, one can’t keep the body from mourning, even if the mind runs screaming in the other direction. We’ve all experienced it, in some way: we are estranged from family, a best friendship has imploded, some brain-altering breakup, yet we remain ‘fine’. We rebound with activity, with people, with sex, with career changes, with vacations, with drugs, with purchases, with every kind of enthusiasm for life that should, in theory, jolt one’s perspective on The Big Picture back to life.
I’ve done this many times, with every variety of loved one. Love’s surface gets scratched. It gets scratched again. Trying to dull the edge of the thing scratching Love doesn’t help. Soon it’s scraping a sensitive, open wound. Eventually, the surface splits too widely to be sewn up, the centre is damaged, and thus begins the end.
I don’t always see it coming, but…ah yes…there I go again—I start closing all the programs, one by one. Shutting it down is now more familiar to me than trying to repair Love. It feels automatic. If it once started as a choice to reject Unconditional Love, it certainly seems to be on auto-pilot now. Something usually has to happen to push it to the ‘point-of-no-return’ moment, when I can feel the connection snap and Love dies. It’s not sad, just like an elastic band snapping isn’t sad… I simply know it’s broken, the instant it happens. Life-long friends—friends no longer. Family members—titles with memories attached. Old lovers—names and factoids. What can I say? I’m not into faking it. I have zero interest in proving anything, such as for instance, how fine I am. Snore.
Beyond the drudgery of keeping up that charade, not feeling the pain makes it twice as hard to move on. When I weigh the temptation to anesthetize myself against the dangers of getting into the habit of not-feeling, I always end up preferring the torturous path of authenticity, however reluctantly. And the reward for feeling the pain? Why, the return of Love of course.
I don’t think Love is created. It’s more like energy and matter; always conserved, but seeming to appear or disappear as it changes form. Love exists in me: I can express it, I can direct it, I cannot be deprived of it, because I am a source. Some people meet my love with their own more than others, but what I’ve got is a part of me. You can love a lot, a little or not at all, but no person can create Love in you that isn’t already there.
I decide to keep love alive, and I decide to kill it. For me, there is no Unconditional Love. My love is 100% conditional. Conditions being: you have to behave in such a way that would cause me feel love for you. You cannot behave in a way which would compel me to feel not-love. For example, emotions such as Rage, Betrayal, Disempowerment, Sorrow— these are not love-inducing. Recipient of Love–friend , lover or relation: don’t be lazy. Remember the terms of agreement: I don’t give unconditionally. You earn it. I will cut your ass loose if your variety of love depletes my joy or costs me more than I can spend on you. Our years of knowing and loving one another is no refuge, you will not find safety in our memories built together. Everyone is expected to behave.
Do you know what I mean? Can you see why I’m a feminist? I don’t know which is true, and which is worse… that only some people are brave enough to love conditionally, brave enough that they can abandon it, let it die and be reborn when it doesn’t measure up, knowing that their source is not susceptible to running dry? Or alternately, that only some people have the capacity to love unconditionally, and so take what love they find uncritically, without definition or a clear idea of what makes it Love? That they’d rather distract themselves from the pain which necessarily goes in hand with Love, because Love lives, and all living things die?
We can learn and improve, mend gaps in our own education and expand our experiential knowledge base. That’s the other thing that comes with letting old Love die and new Love enter… it gives us another chance to love better. Idea: let’s unshackle everyone from the insane lie that the job of women is to love and the job of men is to accept Love graciously. Let’s be finished with the idea that a subversive woman doesn’t search for Love and that a subversive man actually wants it. Of course, I acknowledge that reformatting the scope and influence of Love is itself, painful. Resolving remaining feelings, feeling ‘love’ when it’s no longer present… I’m sure many people are adept at negotiating their insides very well, and without needing to come close to challenging the branch of love understood to be ‘Unconditional’. I think it would be useful, though, to separate Love as a verb from Love as a feeling. I’m really only concerned with the former: one’s feelings aren’t subject to judgements. At least not by me.
These days, I find myself full of Love, and of a quality I haven’t known, (but it was always there…just unripened). I do, at times, share it with lovers, friends and family, but it’s all the time for myself. More and more, I discover that Love can flourish and feed on itself, that it can’t ever truly be killed. Love enables you to sever ties, bitterly mourn, feel loss and, most importantly, keep loving.