Love is a complex, wonderful thing. If you aren’t too stuck on pigeon-holed definitions, you will admit to yourself that the emotion is not as rationed and militaristically single-minded as you are sold by the powers that be. The ‘powers that be’ being Society, a nebulous term for our collective nebulous insecurities. It’s safe to say that whether you’re comfortable admitting it or not, you love many things. It is also safe to say that in most cases, you haven’t done anything about it.
The meaning of Love
What is the sense of Love we’re referring to here? What you love attracts your attention beyond the simple mechanics of stimulus and response. You respond to what you love even when it is nowhere in your immediate vicinity (real or metaphorical) to be responded to. What you love makes you want to be better and also makes you want to bring out the best of it.
Love fills you with gladness. We speak of all the high philosophies and deep emotional bonds, but we discount how rare a gift it is to have a recognised source of that simple and beautiful thing called gladness, warmth, fun. What you love gives you something to look forward to in the morning. What you love is something you know well. You have to know it to love it; From afar and with no direct contact is mere fascination. What you love makes you feel loved.
Everything I’ve said here applies equally to the inanimate or abstract things you love, and also to the people. Since we’re talking about people, let me clarify that my question in the title is as unbridled as the definition of love I’ve just given you. When I mention “doing” whom you love, it’s not limited to doing them in the colloquial and Biblical sense. That could be one aspect of engaging with a person you love, but it’s not the only one I’m talking about, and it’s certainly not always the one you seek.
What do you love?
The most important question to ask yourself then, is what and/or who do you love? What is your personal list of things, activities, hobbies, pastimes, friends, people, lovers, humans that you love? Your natural, or rather socially-programmed, inclination will be to come up with a list that is either too short or too long, depending on what lies you’ve learnt to tell yourself.
Realistically speaking — though it’s only human to have exceptions — it is unlikely you love hundreds or thousands of people or things. Since human beings can barely keep that many concepts in their awareness at any given time, the chances of that are low. Other than by the wonders of denial, or the sheer closeted nature of your current life, it is also unlikely that you only love one or two things or people.
The objects of your love are most likely somewhere between one or two and hundreds in number. All you need to do is to figure out which of the hundreds you are considering or the two you refuse to look beyond, make you incredibly glad, among other previously mentioned things.
Once you’ve figured out what you love, I have to ask …
What is stopping you from doing them?
When we’re talking about people, the answers get more complicated, of course, because the objects of your varied affection have minds, loves, insecurities, biases, opinions, and tastes of their own. It is also true that in the case of most things you love or want to do, indulging in them involves other people, and hence all the mentioned complications come into play.
For all complications involving things you love to be part of, your first and cleanest solution is to find a way to do it yourself. Failing that, you must negotiate other personalities and motivations. For that, perhaps the general advice for dealing with rejection holds true, whether you are rejected by a who or a what.
Besides such direct antagonism from who or what you love, almost every reason you are not doing them is some variation of “It is not practical.” Practical is not so much the enemy of love, as it is the chaotic, trouble-making, trickster sibling of love, and usually that’s bad enough.
We’ve answered the big question, so we could stop there, of course, but then I wouldn’t have helped you any further along this road than you have stumbled by yourself. This would be a very short and ineffectual guide to your own loving, but scared psyche, so let’s press on. The best way forward is often in asking more questions.
What do you mean by “not practical”?
Articulation is the Sun that makes day from the night of fear. So if we’re all scared of doing the impractical, let’s chalk out what that actually means. Question deeper and you’ll find that when you say “I can’t do that because it’s not practical”, you mean one or more of these things:
The 5 ‘T’s
- You don’t have time
- You don’t have the tools
- You don’t have traction
- You don’t have talent
- You DO have “them”
You don’t have time
This is a popular one. It’s an older and more universal excuse for throttling your desires and ambitions than you imagine. I’m sure we can find clay tablets from Babylon complaining about how the world is now too complicated and rushed and there is no time for anything. The fact is, the world is always rushed, but there is always time to be chiselled out of its clutches for the important things. What can be more important than what you love?
The way to deal with your time shortage is two-fold.
First, realise that no matter how rushed and set-upon you are, honestly, there is some time that is either wasted or not really required to be spent, which you are spending on some pointless thing. Maybe it’s Facebook, or reading every page of the newspaper, or outraging over cute kitten videos. What ever that expendable thing or things are in your life, you have to dig deep and realise what you love is more important than kittens, and lo and behold! You just found yourself 15-30 minutes a day you thought you didn’t have.
Second, and even more crucial in ending your perceived lack of time, is to give your fear a small first step to take. Feeding your love in the smallest initial morsel gives you the best chance to build a stronger habit and work ethic with doing what you love.
How, you ask? If you think you found an extra 30 minutes in your day, decide to work on what you love for 10 minutes. It’s a minuscule commitment, very doable. Do that consistently and maintain it until your own interest grows. Don’t binge and set yourself up for easy failure, start with a morsel and make easy progress on your time crunch.
You don’t have the tools
Tools and tangible resources, or the lack of them, is an excuse we use often. It’s an excuse that we are further fed and brainwashed into believing from every direction. Each day you are exposed to thousands of marketing messages and they can all be reduced to “Buy our product or you will not have what you need to be cool/sexy/beautiful/successful/whatever it is you vaguely imagine wanting to be.”
I say vaguely imagine because a clear love of something and wanting to do something is not as easily swayed. If you love photography, truly, all the nuts and bolts of it, chances are you’ll find a way to practice it no matter what equipment you are ideally missing. If you just vaguely imagine being a glamorous photographer, you’re more likely to buy into all the elaborate ads and the brainwashing “experts” who tell you you can’t do it without a Something-D full-frame professional DSLR from only the 2-3 culturally cool camera manufacturers. That is utter rubbish.
Do you know what tools and resources you really need to do what you love? Whatever you have at hand. The greed for tools and fixes is never satisfied. That’s not love, that’s mere consumption. Make creative use of what you have. Test its limits. Push those limits more than you think is ‘practical’. Not only will you be astonished by the results if you put your heart and brain into it, but you will likely learn more, grow more, and improve more from the constraints than all the approved equipment, toys, fashion accessories, cool clothes, fancy cars and a perfect house could possibly bestow upon you. You are the most crucial resource in your quest for love.
You don’t have traction
Traction is, in various guises, one of the most silly excuses we use to not pursue what we love. What is traction? Some sort of existing foot hold, position, habit or condition which we will convince ourselves we must already have to start pursuing what we want to. Most of the time, it comes down to saying that we must already be successful to be successful, or that we must already know everything to learn things, or already be known to people we love to get to know them, and on and on. That sort of circular logic is just ludicrous.
You can’t claim that you can’t start because you haven’t already travelled far enough along some imaginary path of progress to start. The excuse that lacking traction is not practical is the most impractical of all the excuses we make. It is based on self-talk that imagines everyone who gets anywhere in life and love had some sort of magical head-start to make it work.
The fact of the matter is, we all start from scratch, at various levels of doing. Even with the variance of pure chance, we must all build our own traction, fight the same inner demons of doubt, brave the same external adversities and discouragements, and tackle the same personal foibles and shortcomings to get started on things and not procrastinate in the name of some benefit or advantage still to be found. Now is the only best time.
You don’t have talent
Talent is the crutch of the lazy and scared, to make excuses for soothing our fragile egos about why we aren’t doing something and why someone else is achieving what we didn’t have the courage to attempt.
The idea of a divine talent that is dropped fully-formed and with no effect, straight into the brain, mind and hands of some fool who never lifted a finger to hunt it is a lie and a con.
Talent is the result of starting and trying and working at it. Talent is the result of a lot of bravery and persistence in the face of not feeling very talented or producing in a very talented way. Talent, being good at a thing or gifted at doing the ones and things we love, comes from a desire to work at it and improve after that start from zero.
You gain talent by making the time, using what you have to its best capabilities, taking many first steps, taking them repeatedly and adjusting your gait with the results and what you learn along the way.
If you don’t have talent in engaging with what you love, you better get started right away so that you can start chiselling out a talent for yourself from that misshapen rock of possibility which we are all given for free at the start of our path.
You DO have “them”
There’s always a “them”. People in our lives who we feel are incompatible with, or will in some way prevent or disapprove of, our pursuit of love. Now, if we’re talking of a love of a person and this involves outright unfaithfulness to “them”, I’ll leave such matters to your own council because its a matter of law in enough places in the world and about a very personal relationship which only you, and “they”, know the boundaries and parameters of. For almost every other situation, personal or abstract, engaging in what you love need not always be hindered by whoever “they” are.
There are many who we allow to play the permanent role of bogey-man in the drama of our desires and loves. They could be friends, family, authority figures, neighbours, strangers, and very often they’re an abstract “people” who we insist will “talk”. This is somehow always supposed to be a bad thing.
This is a long topic that deserves more exploration, but here’s the short version. If you are held back by such thems, you must learn to ignore them, renegotiate whatever understanding is getting in the way, bring them over to your side by framing what you love in terms they will love or tolerate, or simply adjust your actions and aims so all parties are satisfied. Most of the time though, we fear “them” in ways that are inflated, imaginary and ridiculous. Don’t let real loves be killed by imagined fears.
So I will ask you again, why aren’t you doing what you love? What lies are you telling yourself to remain unhappy and unfulfilled?
The thing is, love, like talent, is not a magical creature in the rainbow forests of a fantasy world. It isn’t bestowed and spelled into existence. Love is a human thing, and human beings and all we are comes from directed effort. Like all great human abilities, love and our sources of it come into their own only in proportion to the effort, attention, interest, and faith we apply on to it.
Love is extremely practical. To get to it, you must practice above all else. If you think you don’t have the time, make some, just a little. If you suspect you don’t have the tools, find out what they are actually for and bend what you have to get to what you need. Build your own tools if you must. If you think you lack traction, the answer is very simple, however difficult it may sound in the fog of your dire imaginings. Plant one foot firmly at the starting line and take the first step. Traction comes to those who grab it. If you believe other people are holding you back, articulate who and why and tackle them practically and humanely, within reason, or else recognise they don’t exist and carry on.
Above all else, take those first steps and keep working and reaching, and for heaven’s sake, enjoy the view. What you love isn’t waiting at the end of the road but is walking with you, hand in loving hand.