Let’s talk about love.

Valentine’s Day is next weekend. It’s a time for lovers to celebrate each other and “this thing” they share together.  Florists will deliver hundreds of roses.  Hallmark will make a mint on cards.  Children will head off to school with little valentines for their classmates and candy hearts printed with notes like “Be Mine” and “Friends Forever.”

But…let’s talk about love. I discovered 21 definitions of love in Webster’s Dictionary, all of which alluded to the traditional Valentine’s Day, movie-script, goo-goo-eyed kind. You know, kisses and adoration and the feelings of “being in love.”  Research into synonyms of love hinted at a slightly broader way of thinking about this quest that drives most of our human decisions and actions.  “Love may apply to various kinds of regard: the charity of the Creator, reverent adoration toward God or toward a person, the relation of parent and child, the regard of friends for each other, romantic feelings for another person, etc.”  (Dictionary.com)

The word love is tossed about in our society so casually its meaning is vague.  I love my husband. I love my dog.  I love Light Grey- I Heart Denton Frontfried chicken. Love for a person may well lead to marriage.  I love my dog, but marry her?  No, it’s a different thing.  I love fried chicken, but marry it?  Of course not.  It’s a different kind of love.  There are degrees of love, kinds of love the English language doesn’t differentiate.  Love has nuances and levels that we just innately “get.”

People often tell me they love Denton.  What does that mean exactly?  I know what it means to me.  I love the original, independent spirit that fuels our sense of place.  Creativity, diversity, openness to new ideas, acceptance of life perceptions different from my own and the freedom to express those without fear of ridicule and retribution.  That’s what I love about Denton, the collective us, different yet one.

The proverbial “they” say for every action is a reaction, for every emotion an opposite just as strong, springing from the same place deep inside.  I think they are correct.  We’ve all experienced it.  Bright, happy, fulfilling love in one moment and dark, jealous anger the next –within the same relationship.  This love conundrum is feeling.  It rides the tides of circumstances that we either like or not.

Is this really love?  I don’t believe so.  I would posit that love is a verb.  More than a noun, an emotion or feeling, it is a decision.

Someone recently shared with me a saying passed down in her family.  “Love is what keeps you together until you fall in love again.”  In it, we see two very different definitions of love.  One is a decision to remain committed, even during seasons when the other definition, the feeling, isn’t there.  I challenge you to find a couple that has never walked through the valley of blah.  That’s life!   But they kept on keeping on even when they didn’t feel like it, and they’re still together on the other side when love the feeling arrives back on the scene.  Love the verb kept them together.

We say we love Denton and all those differences that combine to make us special.  But let’s be honest.  Those differences of opinion, politics, religion and expression can really grate on our last nerve sometimes.  We get snarky, even mean towards each other.  Walls are erected.  Factions form.  We start operating from the position of my rights versus yours.

I heart Denton pillow, the DIME StoreLove the verb can still win out.  When we decide to love anyway, in spite of our differences, we the people and Denton our city will emerge stronger from the struggle on the other side.

My dad used to say about someone with whom he had a philosophical difference, “He has the right to be wrong.”  That’s how we all feel when challenged.  But, when the verb love is exercised, Dad’s little joke is solid truth.  We each have the right to our own opinions, beliefs and expressions – until they tramp on someone else’s.  The verb love seeks compromise, agreeing to disagree and find the place in between where we can dwell peacefully and keep moving forward until the day arrives, and it eventually will, when we are in love once again.

Our earthly journey is short and time too precious to blow it scrabbling about the very thing that makes life beautiful – us.  We, weird idiosyncrasies and all, are Denton, a brilliantly-colored pallet and work of art.

It’s Valentine’s Day and the season for it, so let’s talk about love.  And let’s resolve to make it a verb.