Sunday, December 8, 2013

Love is a Verb

As I fall in and out of romances and friendships, I find myself having deep conversations with friends about their relationships with others and with me that force me to define my beliefs about love and articulate them.  Here's where I'm at:

Love is not some ambiguous feeling that no one can describe.  Love is a verb.  Love is the actions we take towards the people in our lives.  I love my family.  I love my friends.  I love the men I get involved with romantically.  Loving them doesn't necessarily mean that I want or intend to spend the rest of my life with them and no one else.  Loving them means that I care about their feelings, their desires and goals; and that I want to help them when and how I am able and that I want to see them succeed in being their happiest, most-fulfilled self.  I love plutonic friends with the same intensity that I love romances.

Most often in my relationships with men (romantic ones), they begin with sexual passion and later down the road, develop into friendship.  I don't always find these friendships to be deep and lasting; nor do I always find the passion to be deep and lasting.  I have yet to find a man whose friendship and passion with me are unceasing.

We often speak of "soul-mates".  I don't believe that there is just one person in the world for every other person.  I think we find and connect with many soul-mates in our lifetimes, and not all of those soul-mates will be people we want to marry and/or have children with.  For example, there are several people in my life with whom I would consider myself a "soul-mate".

Tiffany: my oldest (longest) friend.  She and I have been through a lot together, and we know one another through the traumas we've witnessed and supported each other through, and we are intensely loyal to one another.  Although our lives have not always followed the same path, and it's not always easy to understand the others' perspective or desires, we have a mutual respect for one another and there is always common ground to fall back on, and a sense of true sisterhood between us.

Andrew: my ex-boyfriend.  He's broken my heart (more than once) and has not always been the "best friend" I once considered him to be.  Yet he and I once had that passion I described earlier.  He and I lived together and learned one another's habits and flaws and virtues and values and goals, and despite having lost that early passion and gradually coming to realize our incompatibility, we still love each other (and I think we always will).  Of anyone I know, I can still count on him to give "tough love," to listen to my troubles and to commiserate over similar family-drama-type situations and to be kind and well-intentioned.

Lauren is my cousin.  She and I are 2 years apart and have been peas in a pod since we were kids.  I think we've both been each other's role model in some ways as we've grown up together.  She understands our crazy family like no outsider does.  She is sensitive and kind and we share a lot of traits, as well as a passion and talent for music.  Lauren is family; and family is as loyal as they come.

These are just three of the people in my life who I would consider "soul-mates".  I imagine (and hope) that someday, I'll find someone who I can call a "soul-mate" and love and share mutual sexual passion and deep trust and understanding.  I want that person to be a true partner and to share in my life with me and allow me to share in his.  I want that person to accept me in all my beautiful, flawed ways, for who I am and who I was and who I will become.  I want that person to have fun with me, and I want to have fun with him.  I want him to be beautiful and flawed and fascinating.  I want loyalty.  I want friendship.  I want compassion and understanding and affection.

Commitment is just not that important to me.  I think if two people love one another, are loyal to one another, are friends; care about one another's desires, goals, values and success, then what good is commitment anyway?  To me, it takes away from everything else.  It turns loving someone into an obligation, instead of a desire.  It turns loyalty into an obligation, instead of a desire.  I don't want someone to fear the guilt they'll feel if they don't treat me with love and loyalty.  I want someone to want to love and be loyal to me, just as I want to love and be loyal to him.  If I can have that, who cares if he's my "boyfriend" or my "fiance" or my "husband"?  I'm not even sure it's natural for us to be monogamous anyway.  How many other mammals are?

I want verbs; not nouns.

On Mortality

On Friday, I learned I have stage IV metastatic melanoma in my rib, lungs and shoulder (and maybe hip).  Having previously beaten a lesser stage of this disease 3 years ago, I feel much better prepared to handle it this time around.  I have a deep knowledge and understanding of melanoma that I lacked the first time around, and I have developed relationships with wonderful people who can help me now.

With the exception of my fractured rib (caused by the melanoma that's growing there), I feel physically normal.  I'm realizing now that the emotional impact of this cancer is affecting everyone in my life as much, if not more, than it is affecting me.  It's much scarier to consider someone you love having a disease about which you know very little and for which the statistics are not promising, than it is to be positive and assume that everything will turn out fine.

Here's the thing: statistics are just statistics.  I have a lot in my favor - I am young and otherwise healthy, and I am positive and have an army of friends, family and other resources who are standing beside me through this ready to fight for/with me.  Every case is different, and the treatment options are growing and becoming more and more successful with every day and dollar of research.

I told my roommate my diagnosis on Friday night.  He went to "take a nap" and emerged from his bedroom an hour later looking like he'd seen a ghost.  He had been reading those statistics and learning about melanoma.  After we talked about it a bit more, he started building a Bucket List for me (and him) to work our ways through; a great idea, but a morbid one.

The fact is, we all have limited time in this life.  Making the most of that time and doing everything you can to enjoy whatever you've got is a great way to live.  I could get hit by a bus and die tomorrow from that, or I could live another 80 years.  I could die from melanoma in the next 5 years, or I could live another 80 years.  I can sit by idly and let my quality of life slowly deteriorate until I die of melanoma, or I can attack this cancer with the best treatment available and buy some more time in this life.

I'm dreading the side effects that will accompany whatever treatment I end up choosing.  None of it is easy to go through, physically or emotionally, and all of it reduces quality of life for the duration of that treatment (and often beyond).  All of this is in exchange for a little more time at the end.  I feel like I'm trading time for more time - it's like any financial investment: give up a little cash now so that you can have a bigger return later.  But there's a risk in doing that.  You could lose.

The problem is, either way I'll lose that time - in treatment with awful side effects and hope of a healing cure, or in doing nothing and letting myself slowly and painfully die.  So I've got to try and hope for the best and just get through it.  And in the meantime, I'm adding to my Bucket List and making plans to most enjoy whatever time I have left in this life, be it 5 or 80 years.