There is a joy that comes from loving someone which goes far deeper than the corresponding joy of being loved in return.
There are two sides of love. One side is the magic of being loved by someone else. The other is having someone to care for and to do things for and to serve. Many people never experience this side of love, but it’s the most important and the most pleasurable of the two.
Most of the time, when people speak of love in our culture — especially in pop culture as represented by movies and music — the theme is wanting to be loved. The angst and hurt that we associate with love is all about wanting another person to give us attention and lavish us with love.
I know that hurt very well, but even more than that, I miss having someone to love. Until recently, I had someone to love. Someone to hope for. Someone to plan to take care of. But now that’s gone — and its absence leaves a hole that’s worse than feeling unloved.
The specifics don’t matter, so I won’t dwell on that part of the story. But nearly five years ago, I had found someone who I thought was my future. We loved each other. We talked extensively about what the future would be like when we were together. The future looked very bright and warm and loving.
Until everything inexplicably changed.
If you really love someone, you don’t give up that beautiful future quickly or easily. Even if you’re alone, you hope and believe that things will change. That you will be reunited with the heart who you so deeply love.
For a long time, I tried to stop loving her, but I couldn’t. So I just nurtured the love in my heart — like a tiny flame protected from powerful winds — hoping for the day when everything would change.
I talked to her all the time, at least in my mind. I dreamed of all the things I wanted to do for her. I thought of things that would make her happy — and I experienced joy at collecting those dreams and looking forward to the day when I could carry them out. To make her happy.
Even though she wasn’t there, I experienced real joy at loving her in my heart and in my mind.
But a flame that doesn’t get proper fuel eventually fades. You lose faith in a person. You stop holding onto her words. You stop believing that she was who you even thought she was.
And that part of the heart finally starts growing cold — and then there’s a gaping hole where the flame used to be.
The power of loving someone is so strong that it was enough to nurture my heart for these years even though she wasn’t there anymore. I wanted her to express love for me. I wanted her presence. I wanted everything we had talked about. But since I had none of that, my heart survived on the sustenance of loving her and believing that I could give her everything she needed.
I miss having someone to love.
Do you remember the O. Henry short story called “The Gift of the Magi”? (If you haven’t read it, click the link. I’ll wait.) In the story, a poor young man and woman who loved each other dearly wanted to give each other something special for Christmas. Jim had a pocket watch, but he didn’t have a chain to hold it. Della had long, beautiful hair, but she didn’t have the right sort of clasp to hold it.
The things they wanted were modest, but they were so poor that they had no money to buy even those tiny things. Each loved the other so much, though, that they were willing to sacrifice what little they had.
He sold his watch to buy the clasp for her hair. She cut and sold her long, beautiful hair to buy the gold chain he wanted for his watch. So each of them gave up the thing he or she already had that would make the other’s sacrificial gift worth having.
A cynic would say that it proves love is ridiculous and that life is unfair. He ended up with a chain he couldn’t use. She ended up with a clasp for hair that she no longer had. The gifts were useless.
But the truth is that each received something far more important.
Jim received the joy of sacrificing his watch for his wife. His real gift wasn’t the clasp. It was the willingness to sell the watch — which had come from his grandfather — for someone he loved.
Della received the joy of giving up the hair that was her pride. Her gift wasn’t the gold chain. Her gift was her willingness to give up something which meant so much to her in order to give to her husband.
In the case of the story, the narrative neatly resolves, because they both love each other — and they’re still together in simple love, even if the Christmas presents are of no practical value for the moment.
Real life isn’t always that neat and heart-warming. There are times when the only thing we will receive from loving someone is the joy in our hearts of what it feels like to express genuine love. And that joy is powerful, even when we’re all alone.
I miss being loved. I miss having a loving friend who cares and understands and wants to be with me. I miss working toward a future with someone. I miss hearing her tell me that she loves me and to never forget that she wants me. I miss all of that.
But lately, I miss something else. I miss having someone to have faith in. I miss having someone to hope for. I miss imagining the joy I will have from doing things to make her happy.
I miss having someone to love.