Archive for December 4th, 2012

What is love?

It’s near 6am. I’m staring at the screen ruefully, wondering why the heck I am awake when I need to be up for work  – oh, later today.

It was my own fault. I picked up the book of my one of my favorite Chinese authors, 席绢 (Xi Juan), right before I was about to sign off and go to bed, and went from possibly sleeping at a not-so-great-but-still-not-that-crazy 3am to being awake three hours later. Speaking of Xi Juan, I’ve been reading her since about 1997, and I’ve been following her ever since. I’ve slacked off on reading every single one of her books since I left China eight years ago, mostly because I discovered English fantasy and sci-fi novels and because language really is something that degrades the more you don’t use it. Also, hard to buy Chinese novels when you’re no longer in the area.

However, I found tonight that Xi Juan has grown with me. Her books have more depth than they did before. She’s moved on toward new and interesting concepts, not content to rest on her laurels. As she said in an author’s note at the end of one of her books, she gets fans who ask her to go back to writing the stuff she used to, but that’s not what she wants to do. She wants to challenge herself, and if the book isn’t well received, then it’s because she didn’t execute the idea well, not because the idea wasn’t a good one to begin with. The only reason why I’m not clapping right now is because my boyfriend is asleep and I think he’d be pretty peeved if I woke him up.  Someone remind me to write Xi Juan and tell her that she’s my role model forever and that I love her challenging herself, and me by extension, and that she should never stop.

Tangent? I love that Chinese romance novel writers almost always have a foreword or afterword by the author where they just talk about their life, their writing process, the novel, what went into it, etc. It’s lovely, intimate, and sometimes heartbreakingly inspiring. Like when they tell you that they are challenging themselves to write better books because writing formulaic stuff is dumb and retarded.

But back to why I’m awake at 6am in the morning.

The question that she spent an entire book asking, and answering.

What is love?

I love this book because it makes me think, and it’s such a good reminder to rethink what love means and how one enacts love.

Love isn’t a soft thing. It’s not made of words. It’s not a thing with feathers.

But it’s also not a weapon. It’s not cruel, or hard, or passive aggressive.

I think, too often love is about what the other person can do for me, the narrator. Love isn’t and shouldn’t be unconditional, but I think sometimes it’s too easy to wander a little too close to the other extreme, where we start thinking about if the reciprocity is balanced enough.

Love, right now, for me, is about being courageous. It means being strong, but willing and able to bend if that’s what is needed. Because sometimes the strength to bend is much, much more than the strength needed to stand firm and be broken. Because anyone can be broken, but not everyone can bend till they cannot even recognize themselves and still come back to being them. It means tenderness, soft words, an encompassing embrace. It’s also about protection, about the grit needed to go to sleep every night exhausted and still wake up the next morning ready to fight for a better tomorrow, about pushing yourself to the outer limits of your ability because it’s what is needed at the moment. It means not wondering if there is going to be a good return on investment (ROI).  It means that I’ll love until I cannot love anymore, but until the day that I don’t, I will do everything in my power to give as much, as freely, as unconsciously as I possibly can. It means that if my heart should ever be broken, that I should never consider myself a failure because that chapter of my life ended, because I will have done nothing to regret, either in giving of myself or in how much I chose to give.

Because love is a gift. It is a gift to be able to love. It is a gift to be able to give within the confines and in the name of love.

I do not mean that love can never be twisted. That love cannot spawn terrible, tragic, breathtakingly bad things — but love, true love, isn’t that. It’s never that.

Love isn’t perfect. It isn’t perfect because no one is perfect.

I also happen to believe that our current media obsession about how one person is supposed to be the plumber/chef/CEO/CFO/therapist/masseuse/handyman/maid/babysitter/sexpot submissive/ alpha male dominant/ ALL THE THINGS in our lives is completely crazytalk, but that’s another post.

It’s not about perfection.

To a certain extent, love is something you do for yourself, and not necessarily for the object of that love. Take writing for example. It’s one of the loves in my life that really make me think I must be a masochistic pain slut.

On that note, I got to thinking about it the other day, and ultimately Phoenix is about love.  I suppose it’s why I think about it so frequently now, the various meanings, iterations, and enactments of love. It’s what drives her. It’s what drives me to write her story.

What is love to you?