"woman reading a card with a heart on it"By Roberta Hart

As I grow older, and the grey hair creeps in, I reflect on my life and the meaning of my emotions and their origins. Hallmark has made a killing on one tiny little word. Music has been written and poetry has been born from four simple letters. L O V E.

What the hell does that word mean?

We strive to define that word instead of defining what makes us use that word. We have defined that word right into a tiny little box. We now have a societal standard for what that word reflects. The word itself has taken the power away from what it really is. So now, instead of looking for what that word symbolizes, we look for it’s definition.

When you say, “I love you“, does it not mean many different things in many different situations and relationships? It does in my world. When I say those words to my children, they have very different meaning than when I say them to the person that I want to lay next to at night. So why do we say them at all?

Why not say the meaning behind those words instead of taking a short cut? For centuries, poets have strived to encompass the emotions felt by two people who are overwhelmed at their flooding hearts. Why are we still impressed by “love” being likened to a flower, a storm, or even death? Why does the simple turn of phrase within a lyric, or the cliche crooning of a sensual voice still define such complex emotions?

Each and every “love” that you will experience in your life will be different. No one ever says, “I love you, for now.” But yet, how often do we see that, and experience it in our own lives? To promise another person that you will feel the same fifty years from now, as you do today, is writing a check that your ass can’t cash. Ok, so i lost my eloquence somewhere in that last thought, but it is the truth. We hold so tightly to that word, that we alter the definition as time passes on. We, as complex creatures, continue to change over time. Our emotions, and their triggers change as our lives become more and more developed.

Do we really continue to love the same people in the same way throughout the years? No. I have heard people say that “their love has grown even deeper” throughout the years. Has it? Maybe you have simply lowered the standards, or forgotten what that meant all those years ago. I know that all of the Hallmark store frequenters are thinking that I am somehow jaded or misunderstanding what love is. I beg to differ. I am honest, both with myself, and the people in my life that, for now, hold my heart. I also feel that if YOU think that you have the ability to define “love”, you are selling short the greatest capacity of the human heart and mind.

I do not seek to define that word. Love exists in many forms, and changes with the wind. So, what does it mean when two people are never separated, not by time, not by distance, or by circumstance? Think about that. I said, circumstance. How easy is it to dismiss “love” when the “planets do not align”, and allow “love” to be experienced by conventional means? Does the emotion, or the word take on less meaning? According to Hallmark, it does.

Can a “love” like that remain constant?

I think that it has a better chance of survival than a love that has been defined, contracted, and stamped with an official state seal….you know…a marriage license.

We are complex, why do we need to simplify the greatest abilty that we possess? Can it last forever? I believe that it can, but only if not suffocated by the restraints that our minds put on our hearts.

We need to allow “love” to take it’s natural course, whether met with success or failure, if allowed to define itself, it is now, was then, and always will be pure. Stop being so afraid to allow love to be pure. “True love” may NOT be forever, but is an amazing gift if allowed to exist in the moment it chooses.

I DO believe in true love. It exists only when not strangled by our need to control and define it. When one person truly loves another, there is very little that can be said to accurately express or define it. When you have found the definition, you have strangled it’s purity.

I choose to love. I love for today…not the promise of tomorrow. If love stays with me, it is because it chose to…not because I forced it to. Yes, I see love as something completely, and utterly out of human control.

Do you know when you love someone? It is when you say, “I love you”, and yet you have NO IDEA what that means.

Do yourself a favor…leave it be. Let love be exactly what it is….the moment. Live for that, not for achieving what you think the definition is.

Will it last forever? It will. We destroy it with expectations and demands, both on ourselves and the ones that we say that we love.

So, I will say, “I love you”…and shrug my shoulders, simply because I do not dare try to cage the greatest feeling I have ever known. I use those words simply because i have yet to find ones less threatening.

And you wonder why the word is only four small letters for such a complex feeling….when overwhelmed by love, do you not sigh? Funny…the expression is not even a “word”.

About the Author: Roberta Hart is the mother of three young sons rapidly approaching adolescence. She is a 34 year old Landscaping Supervisor and Freelance Writer residing in Western PA. Roberta’s most recent articles and essays have been published in The Cynic Online Magazine and HealthyPlace.com. She has lived all her life in a middle class, real world, suburban setting, and uses her skills as a communicator and writer to convey a message, purely in the hopes that someone, anyone is listening.