Together, then apart. Together again?

It’s slightly snowing outside. The small gentle flakes are falling in whimsy: no pattern, no rhythm — dancing on the wind. Wind is arrhythmic as well, still then gust then back to slow breeze. The temperature is sinking, Winter retreating from Her recent hint of Spring.

Today I am thinking about love.

I love the snow. I love the stark bare brown of tree branches swaying. I love the crisp cold air as I inhale. I love the crunch of snow under my boots, the squawk of snow under my ski pole. I love Winter.

I also love chocolate. I love the creamy richness. I love the bitter tang of a good slice of deep cacao. I love the way it melts into smooth, slick brown waves.I love to roll it on  my tongue and breathe deeply.

But this is only one kind of love. The love I am pondering today is not about chocolate or snowflakes or walking in Winter. It’s a different love, not better or worse, but intense and impassioned and fierce and painful and crazy.

See, there’s this girl …

I know. It is a classic line, one I am certain I myself have repeated hundreds or maybe thousands of times. It is silly and giddy and twitterpated and even a little goofy. But what if it’s more than all that?

What if we could meet a person and in an instant be radically altered? What if one person’s mere presence makes our entire assembled reality crumble? And what if, over the course of getting to know this person, we find our own selves? What if we love her?

The last nine months have given me the most incredible shift of mind, body, and spirit. The journey has been intense, overwhelming, awesome, terrifying, and exhilarating. I have gone so deep into my soul, dismantled the mainframe, and re-surfaced a new being. I will not attempt to describe that experience. Which should tell you a lot.

As with every journey, there comes a fork in the road. When we walk alongside another person, we don’t always make the same choices. Some days we are so close we’re touching. Others, so far we can’t remember that touch. But when we choose to take a journey with another, we make a commitment to being present, to honesty and trust and love and a willingness to take risks. Not everyone can make those commitments on every journey, and so we go down separate paths. Perhaps we’ll meet up again sometime soon, but nothing is ever certain except change.

We must be careful with our hearts. We must be gentle with one another, as hearts are muscles with fragile tissue and should not be treated without love.

Love. The emotion of the heart. We must be careful with love.

There are so many kinds of love. Love of things, love of ideas. Love of family, of friendship, of company. Love of another, one special, certain human being.

And then there’s being in love.

Somehow this is different. Being in love is what makes us crave another’s touch. Being in love is what makes us long for kisses, for snuggling, for sex, hungry for another’s existence. Being in love is what makes us date, keeps the spark alive, turns women into panthers in bed. Being in love is what we think we all want.

What if you love someone, but you’re not in love with them?

So, there’s this girl. And I love her. I can imagine being together no matter what. Her presence in the world makes me smile. She treats me with kindness, tenderness, respect, joy. She treats me with love. I look forward to being around her when we’re apart. She gives me reasons to laugh. She dances with me, and it is good. I’m also IN love with her. My skin aches for her touch. My lips quiver when she comes near to kiss me. Her body next to mine is the reason I can sleep peacefully at night.

And she loves me. She likes having me around. She enjoys my cooking. She appreciates that I do the laundry and clean the litter boxes. She adores my cat. She likes to dance with me. She is glad to have someone waiting when she comes home from a trip.

But she’s not in love with me. She’s still looking for Ms. Right, for the woman who looks more like her, acts more like her, is more like her. The woman who will sweep her off her feet, on the dance floor or anywhere else. The woman she’s in love with. The woman who isn’t me, but someone else.

So love’s a fickle thing. You can love someone so deeply the roots would take years to dig up. You can love someone so intensely it burns. You can be in love with someone, you can commit to being together through good and bad, you can take the contents of your heart and spill them out on the table to be sifted and picked through.

You cannot make someone be in love with you. You cannot do or say or be anything that will force someone to be in love with you. You cannot change a person’s spark.

Call it desire or passion, it’s part of being in love. Being in love is like a rollercoaster ride, like the edge of a hurricane. It whisks you along, makes your head spin, makes your heart flutter, makes your breathing race. Being in love is a whirlwind, like the tunic of a Sufi dervish it spins around you and you are caught up in it. Being in love is a wonderful feeling.

But being in love can’t sustain you. Being in love isn’t the basis of a lasting relationship. When you’re in love you don’t have all the tools handy to work through disagreements, arguments, fights. Being in love won’t help you through the death of a family member, the loss of a job, a move across the city or the world. Being in love is like a fancy dessert. It is so wonderful to the taste, to the touch, to the essence.

It’s Love: deep, abiding, nourishing love that gets you through.

It’s the kind of love that means no matter what. Love that gives you safety, trust, honesty. Love that tells you that when you argue about something, once you’ve both cooled off you can still have a hug. Love that means you can wake up screaming from a bad dream and she’ll hold you until you fall back asleep. Even if it happens every night for a week.

People who are in love but don’t love one another don’t stay together.

Love lasts a lifetime. Love is what we celebrate at a 50th wedding anniversary. The honored couple is in love, and has been on and off throughout the years. But it is Love that gets us through the wars and the fighting and the births and the deaths and tears and the laughter and the in and out of being in love. Love is what we come home to at the end of the day. Love is what we kiss goodbye as we head for work.

Love is what makes a family, a home, a life together.

So there’s this girl. I love her. I’m in love with her. She loves me. But she’s not in love with me. And I don’t know if I should say goodbye, or hello. Maybe we’re not meant to be together. I would be lying if I said I thought we were forever. Forever is longer than she or I.

But I would not be lying if I said that I believe we have a chance for a really long time.