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Hanging Onto Love

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Although this is the first post of the new year, I’m straying from the typical calendar themes and this month I want to write about Love. After all, this blog is the place where I get to write about whatever is on my mind, and today Love is the topic.

What is it about love that drives us to seek it out? I’m not just talking about romantic love, but love in general. What is common among the various forms of love? My co-author of this blog, the fabulous Susan Hammonds-White, is a licensed counselor. She likes to say she helps “mend broken hearts,” so she’s basically an expert on love. Susan teaches about how love affects our brain chemistry, explaining that in the early stages, our brains are awash in hormones. I’m not sure if it only refers to romantic love, but let’s assume it’s the same for all types. Those early stages can be addicting, for sure. Why else are there people who seem to fall in and out of love on a regular basis? According to Susan, over time, our brains adjust and that is where real, deep, lasting attachment begins. I guess the goal is to hang on long enough to get past the “drunk with love,” stage so we can build something real.

Sometimes hanging on is built into the system. For example, when my daughter was born, I fell madly in love with her. I could not stop looking at her, holding her, drinking her in. I was, to be honest, infatuated with her. As the years pass, my love for her has grown and deepened into something even bigger and hard to explain. I’m still pretty obsessed with her, and of course she is no longer dependent on me in any way. But I honestly feel love and admiration that is real, and infinite. The early infatuation carried me through some difficult times while she was growing up. And this experience was the same for her two younger brothers. As each baby boy arrived, it felt like my heart just kept expanding. Today, my children remain the three most interesting and captivating people I know. Our love for each other helps us though good and not so good times, and bridges the gaps when we disagree.

But what keeps us longing for, searching for, and hanging onto love that is free from parental responsibility and biology? What about siblings? Of course, biology plays a role, as well as family loyalty and shared history. But we all know we don’t choose our siblings and close relationships might just be a matter of chance. Still, many of us continue to pursue love from our siblings, even when they push us away. And what about our friends? I’ve had friends through the years who I’ve tried hard to love, but I’ve had to let go of the friendship for one reason or another. I know sometimes friendships outlive their place in our lives, but it’s still painful to say goodbye to someone you’ve loved and shared really great experiences.

And now for the obvious, romantic love. I know a young couple, recently married, who are struggling to find their footing. On paper they don’t look like they’d be a good match. They have some major obstacles to work through, but they clearly love each other and want to make things work. I’m praying they hang on. I, too, was a very young bride, just 21 years old. After four years of college together, we married just before my husband went to graduate school and I went to work. It was hard. But by the time we got married, we’d spent four years getting to know each other and despite our youth and inexperience, we passed through the “drunk with love,” stage and were ready to build something real. We hung on long enough.

So, what do all these love affairs have in common? I can’t speak for everyone, obviously, but for me, love feels like home. The people I love and who love me are those with whom I am the most myself. I recently attended a family reunion with cousins I hadn’t seen in many years. In fact, it was the first time in a long time that we’ve all been together. Despite the years and the age differences between us, I felt loved, I felt seen, and I felt at home. My closest friends are those who not only like me, but who work with me through difficulties and differences to build something real. I see my children, despite some of their differences, reach toward each other for love and support. My husband and I are now moving into a new stage of life and it’s precisely because we hung on that we continue to learn from each other, to challenge each other, to comfort each other, and to love each other. To me, that is both the definition of love and of home.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org . and follow her on Instagram @barbdab58

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