When I was sixteen, I asked my mother the usual questions about life and love, especially love. At sixteen, love is more important than money in the bank, SAT scores, or even living until next week. My mother said, “When you’re in love, you’ll know it.”
My mother was right. But there was one problem. How do you know what your feeling at sixteen, or eighteen, or even thirty-five, is love, unless it is love? There are a lot of startling things masquerading as love, which aren’t love. There’s the I’ll die if I don’t get him thing, there’s the he’s offered me a ring and it feels like time to nest thing, there’s the lust thing…it’s so easy to identify these impulses as love.
My mother was right, but I wish she’d given me more information. Maybe she didn’t say more, because it was so easy for her. A love relationship is easy. Over time I learned that if it’s difficult, it probably isn’t love, at least not love on both sides. Tolstoy said in Anna Karenina, “All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Because I believe in love and the enormous power of love, I believe that is true, probably for all relationships, a couple, a family, a business, a nation. I believe in love as a fabric woven by two people, or a group, or a nation, with various materials, chemistry, fidelity, laws, enlightenment, humor, energy, sacrifice, and, ultimately grace. My parents did not live to meet my true love. That is my one sorrow in life. They would have loved Jim, too.
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