Love can be a loaded word. And for one that is supposed to carry so much weight, it gets tossed around like nothing more often than not. For example —
I love this song. I love those shoes! I looove this slice of pizza (No? Just me?).
Now before I lose you completely, I promise this isn’t going to be some lecture on how we need to put an end to all casual use of the word and save it exclusively for the moments we really mean it. Quite the opposite, actually.
This is going to be a nice, long, cliche post about what love means to me in all its various constructs. From the affection we feel toward that slice of pizza, to the self-love we all hope to procure, to the unconditional love of our family — I’ll hit on all of it here.
The Slice-of-Pizza Kind of Love
We’ve all been there… staring longingly at some inanimate object — that drive-thru burger, the overpriced latte, the dream car we’ve happened upon while out running errands. No matter how trivial it may be, that thing that brings us a fleeting touch of joy should be celebrated!
The slice-of-pizza kind of love (a name I’ve assigned from my own regard of a good late-night slice) is a love that happens regularly but briefly, and is something we might not always think to reflect on. I’ve only just recently been made more aware of it from my time writing in The Five-Minute Journal. Let me explain:
Each morning, I’m prompted to think of three things I’m grateful for. Simple enough, right? Well, not so much for me — at least not in the beginning.
The first week, I wracked my half-sleeping brain for a trio of highly meaningful items or ideas to write down. Because I wanted this experience to be as profound as possible, I set out to only write down the most important things I was thankful for (or what I had believed to be the most important). I came up with tangible things like clean drinking water and a lovely apartment, and more abstract ones like mine and my family’s health and the security I feel at having a great job. After just a week of scribbling down what I thought were the most significant blessings in my life, what I thought was my sizable bucket of considerable matters was emptying. It wasn’t too long before I struggled to write even one thing down.
I was more than a little disappointed in myself. I live a very full and charmed life. So why couldn’t I think of more things to be grateful for?
After some quick reflection, I realized that it was okay — more than okay, actually — to take note of the smaller and seemingly less-significant things in my life and treat them with an equal amount of weight. Don’t get me wrong — those matters mentioned above (the water, the health, the job) are definitely things to be extremely thankful for. But not everything that I appreciate in my life has to be at the scale of having a roof over my head. Once I recognized this and started to assign importance to the little things, the happiness I felt each day steadily grew.
I love my pillow. And I loved that peach I ate that one day from the farmer’s market. I love the pair of Frye boots that I splurged on. And you sure as heck bet I loved that slice of late-night thin-crust pizza from Dominos. And I’ll continue to love these little somethings as much as the big somethings. I’ll be a happier person because of it.
The Moments-and-Feelings Kind of Love
As important as loving tangible things is loving the intangible ones, too — the special moments and the feelings derived from those special moments. I’ve found that feeling this moments-and-feelings kind of love is a direct result of doing the things I love (writing, reading, exercising) or doing things with the people I love (friends and family).
It’s important to nurture the the matters that lead to this nonphysical form of love, as they tend to add up to something much larger than we anticipated. I’ve written about this exact sentiment countless times. In those seasons of life that I’ve ignored doing the things I love, I am easily at my lowest. And when I’ve taken the time to invest in the things I love, I am operating at my absolute best, happiest, and fullest.
I love spending time on my balcony, whether it’s writing, enjoying a glass of wine, or just listening to music. I love sitting at a table at the cafe down the street, drinking an iced almond-milk latte and catching up on my favorite blogs. I love getting into bed early and sneaking in a few pages of my latest read. And as of late, I love the excitement of waking up on the morning a friend is coming into town. Or the anticipation of sitting on a flight that is about to take off toward home in San Diego.
These little moments fill me with a simple joy — an intangible feeling of love — that’s hard to measure. I’m a happier person because of them.
The Maybe-Our-Girlfriends-Are-Our-Soulmates Kind of Love
This is probably my favorite kind of love that I’ve experienced. And one of the most important. The people that surround me (both girls and guys — don’t let the section title fool you) have no doubt molded me into the person I am today, and I will forever be indebted to them because of it.
At 25, I’ve experienced quite a lot in the friendship facet of my life — profound happiness, disappointment, tragedy, triumph, betrayal, forgiveness, altruistic support, the list goes on… — and through the years the number of friends I’ve kept close has ebbed and flowed. I’ve gained and maintained a number of relationships while simultaneously forfeiting some. Whether it was from simply outgrowing them or due to some level of toxicity, I’ve come to learn that losing friends is just the nature of life.
But then there are those friends that stick around no matter what; no matter how often you mess up. They are the ones that lift you up but aren’t afraid to ground you when necessary, too. The ones you’re certain were supposed to be family, but somewhere between the Big Bang and the here-and-now, something went awry and they became the next best thing — your soulmates.
Once you find them in this big messy world, be sure to hold on tightly. Don’t let them go. You will come to depend on them more than you can begin to comprehend.
Maybe it’s due to the absence of the real-deal kind of love in my life (more on that later), or perhaps it’s because they really are my soulmates, but my friends are quite honestly the loves of my life. In any given hour of the day, I want to be hanging out with them, laughing with them, crying with them, supporting them, loving on them hard. Now that I’m thousands of miles away, I wish it more than ever. And I miss them more than ever.
I love my friends. With every teeny fiber of my being, I love them. I’m a better person because of them.
The Real-Deal Kind of Love
I think we all can pinpoint that one #couplegoals relationship that set the standard for what true love is or what true love should look like to us. Maybe it was between your favorite make-believe characters in a book you once read, or perhaps the two leads in that rom-com you’ve watched too many times to count.
But as much as I admire a good romance-novel relationship and enjoy watching love blossom on the big screen (looking at you Lara Jean Covey and Peter Kavinsky), it all seems a little fantastic to me. And not the “fantastic” that is synonymous with wonderful but more the one that implies fanciful or imaginative. Many of these relationships are literally fantasy, even the ones “inspired by” real love stories. In many cases, we are only granted access to the fluffy, idealistic parts of a growing relationship. Not the many complexities of maintaining a successful one.
Because of this, I’ve sought out a more realistic (but no less romantic) #couplegoals relationship to one day emulate. And I’m one lucky gal to have found it right smack in the middle of my life.
My parents — good ‘ole Tom and Julie — set the bar extremely high for how I understand the real-deal kind of love. They met in college, got married, had two daughters, and somehow, after 31 years together, preserved the love they feel and respect they have for one another. There is no doubt in my mind that it wasn’t always easy. But their marriage has taught me that no successful relationship doesn’t come without a few bumps in the road, to put it very candidly. The most meaningful ones, instead, are the ones that are fought valiantly for. It’s easy to pack up and call it quits. It’s harder to face it head on and push through.
The better part of my 25 years on earth has been spent single. If the first thing you felt was pity, please stop that. Stop that! I am fine. I am more than fine, actually. I have learned to treasure my independence. And, surprisingly, being alone has helped me realize what I want in a life partner… probably more so than being with someone could have. And there’s no doubt in my mind that I will be the best version of myself because of it when I do meet Mr. Right.
I know I’m worthy of this real-deal kind of love. What I’ve learned, though, from observing, admiring, and learning from my parents own real-deal love, is that even if I’m worth that level of respect and affection, not everyone is worthy of that with me. So I’m allowed to be picky when seeking out the person I want to spend the rest of my life with (read this article from MyDomaine). Because when I do find them, it’s going to be a forever thing.
As much as can’t wait for it to happen, I’m willing to continue waiting if it means that it’ll be the real-deal kind of love when it does come around. I’m sure it will be better because of it.
The Unconditional Kind of Love
Speaking of Tom and Julie, let’s chat about the unconditional kind of love — the love of one’s family and the love for one’s family. This kind of love is not one to be taken lightly. It is absolute. It is unlimited. On the hierarchy of all the kinds of love, I’d put this one at the bottom. And not because it means the least, but because it’s the foundation of everything. Everything we do and everything we learn to love is born out of the unconditional kind — or the absence of it.
I, myself, am very lucky to have felt the immensity of unconditional love. I’ve received it and I’ve given it — and I can’t imagine my life without this type of love commute. Even so, it has taken a decent amount of time to recognize its infinite reach.
Growing up, I knew that my mom and dad loved me. Their unconditional love showed when I made mistakes and they still had my back; when I was hurt and they comforted me; when I royally pissed them off but they’d wake the next morning seemingly unphased. And even when my sister hated me the most, I didn’t doubt that deep down, past her scowl and her irked hand-on-hip stance, she really did love me. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — this love was there. It still is.
But it took my grandfather’s passing back in December to fully grasp the concept of unconditional love and its boundlessness. The idea that even when someone isn’t there physically — when they are no longer of this earth — and you can still feel their love? Man. It’s heavy. And it’s delicate. And it makes my eyes all watery thinking about how truly, truly lucky we are when we get to feel that level of love and no I’m not crying you’re crying!
But, in all seriousness, love without condition is the root of all good things. And whether you’ve felt it or not, you are all capable of giving it. So go do that. You’ll be better because of it.
The Most-Important Kind of Love
And finally. The most-important kind of love: Self-love.
If unconditional love is the foundation of how we love, then self-love is the pinnacle. It’s what we should all aspire to.
It’s also at the top because it’s not an easy kind of love to come by. In fact, I feel like most of us are wired to self-loathe as opposed to self-love. We hate the way our hair looks. We loathe how loud our laugh is. We hate our job. Our car. Our waistline. We loathe our empty saving accounts. Our clothes. Our skin. We hate this and hate that and we hate, hate, hate.
I recently stumbled upon an inspiring self-love campaign thought up by actress Jameela Jamil (please go look at the Instagram for it and try not to feel motivated). The initial goal of this movement was to put an end to fat shaming, but as it picked up momentum it blossomed into so much more. The basic idea behind it is that the number on the scale doesn’t mean sh*t. Our worth is not directly correlated to our weight or what we look like on the outside. Instead, we weigh all the wonderful things we are. It goes something like this:
I weigh . . . Writer. Dreamer. Doer. Daughter. Sister. Friend. The courage to pick up and move halfway across the country. The hope to inspire. College educated. Full-time copywriter. Lighthearted. Dependable. Honest. Learner. Leader.
Yes, I have a body, and yes, it does weigh something. But I am so much more than that. And if we all sat for a minute and thought about all the things we are rather than what we weigh, we’d be surprised and then pleased at how resilient, brave, and truly spectacular we all are. I think we’d all really love ourselves.
In the second-half of my post on moving to Nashville, I wrote about how I was finally on the other side of this years-long battle of trying to get to this exact place in my life, and how at the end of that fight I uncovered a level of respect for myself I had never had before. Finishing up that post, typing those last few words, I had real tears in my eyes and a knot in my throat as I finally recognized that, after nearly 25 years, I truly, really, wholly loved myself. Not just some parts. I loved all the bits and pieces, pretty or not, that make up who I am.
And as life continues to throw more curve balls at this uncoordinated girl who doesn’t quite know how to catch them, I’m sure I’ll have to re-learn to love myself. Over and over, I’m sure of it. But now that I’ve procured this pinnacle of love and felt how great it can be, I’m willing to go into battle to feel it again.
Now go practice some self-love by doing the thing you love to do most, then call your family and text your friends and share your favorite memory with them. Tell them how much they mean to you.
Go sprinkle love around like you sprinkle parmesan on your personal pizza: generously.