Tag Archives: love

This Summer: Love not Hate

Reminder: my blog is moving to elizabethsyson.wordpress.com. All my content will be both here and there for another week, but starting in August, this blog will no longer be active.


This is a summer of heartache.

I find myself grieving afresh almost every day—Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, five police officers in Dallas and three in Baton Rouge, hundreds of people in Baghdad, Istanbul, and Nice, and, I know, more—probably hundreds more that I never see, hundreds that the media never takes notice of.

taken from Wikimedia commons

a memorial for the Nice victims

Around this time last year, I wrote a blog post about love, hate, and opposing beliefs. Today I find myself thinking again of the strange juxtaposition, the way love seems to inevitably give way to hatred, the way the lines between them grow hazy and thin until we can hardly tell one from the other.

This is a summer of blood, and voices cry out from every side. We are angry. We are frightened. Most of us want the same thing: we want the violence to end. We want lives to be valued above hateful ideology. We want equality and safety and hope.

We are angry because we love—because our hearts bleed for the innocent ones caught in the crossfires of conflicting beliefs. We are angry because we feel helpless—because we see no solution in the face of unchecked hatred, blind oppression, and ongoing violence.

But when our pain and outrage turn our love to hatred, how are we better? Suddenly we look back and realise that we’ve been so focused on righting wrongs that we’ve forgotten to love the wronged. We’ve so desperately battled against injustice that we cannot fathom allowing justice for the other side, whether that other side is political, racial, religious, ideological…

This is a summer of people—individual humans trying to live through the horrors. We weep over the tragedies, we rail against the unfairness, and we shop for groceries. We protest injustices, we question motivations, and we balance our budgets. We cannot stop the world spinning no matter how ghastly the news.

I knelt at my granny’s feet this morning because she can no longer put on her compression stockings or shoes by herself. Kneeling there, I thought, This is the kind of love we’ve forgotten. Not the kind that fights, but the kind that serves. This, I realised, is the kind of dedication we have lost—the kind that proves itself not by destroying opposition, but by creating goodness.

My granny is difficult to love well. Despite her years of loving me, I find myself resenting the restrictions her helplessness places on my time and freedom. I find myself wishing she could understand or acknowledge the sacrifices we make to care for her. And this, I finally understand—this is what love truly is. To kneel at the feet of someone who cannot see the gift to appreciate it, giving without expecting return, without bitterness.

With new clarity, I see that the fine line between love and hate is merely this: to stand, unequivocally and unflinchingly, not against something, but for something.

I cannot right every wrong, but I can weep with the grieving, and I can stand with the suffering, and I can kneel with a pair of elderly feet in the early morning.

This is a summer of hatred—but I am learning love.

feet-102454_640


On Heartbreak

“Any boy who breaks your heart never even deserved it.”

That’s what the article said—you know the kind, those “things you learn in your early 20’s” types, filled with advice that reads like the verbal equivalent of a hipster Instagram feed. The kind you scroll through because you have five minutes to kill and don’t want to entertain any difficult thoughts.

Except I hit a difficult thought: this idea that anyone who hurts you should be shut out of your life.

That nobody could possibly hurt you and also be part of a healthy future.

I’ve had my heart broken. By close friends. By boys. By books. By parents. By circumstances. I’ve lived my life running toward endings, drifting out of lives when relationships became too risky, avoiding goodbyes and moving on to the next adventure, chasing the dream of an impervious heart that never breaks.

My friends, people fail. It makes us human. It makes us beautiful.

Every boy will break your heart. So will every girl. Every friend. Every person you let close. To love at all is to open your heart to pain—to know that you will see your soul shatter and grow back together a hundred times over, and that every time, you will lose something. And every time, you will gain something.

dead

Love is not the absence of pain; it is not the absence of heartbreak or the promise never to fail. Love is a promise to fail together. To fight not to hurt each other, but to hurt each other anyway—and then to forgive each other, to hold each other through healing.

Heartbreak will happen. Healing will happen.

We are defined, not by the pain we cause, but by the ways we react in the aftermath of heartbreak.

Goodbyes will happen. Endings will come. Don’t run from them. Don’t consign them to bitter memories. But don’t precipitate them simply because you’re afraid. Don’t say the words “not meant to be” and move on because you can’t face the heartbreak.

Running will keep you safe, yes, but running will keep you lonely. Running away will take your mind off your wounds, but standing your ground, fighting for someone you believe in—that will bring healing.


Love is Blindness (or is it?)

I didn’t come to New York City expecting to fall in love. I’m a country girl through and through; I like dirt roads under my bare feet and brilliant stars above mountain ranges’ evening silhouettes. But as I near the end, I realise I’ve come to love the endless kaleidoscope, the constant change and yet sameness of the people on the streets, the subways running like (broken) clockwork, the engines and sirens sweeping the streets day and night.

NYC rooftops

I binge-watched Daredevil this weekend, and out of the muddled hours of flashing guns, impressive ninja moves, and dramatically-whispered conversations, one line stuck in my mind:

Growing to love something is simply forgetting, slowly, what you dislike about it.

Wow. What a hit-and-miss theory of love. If you happen to stop noticing the bad things, that’s love, and if you happen to keep noticing them—sorry, not for you. It sounds pretty, but this version of love removes all intentionality and turns love into partial blindness. I would argue that love is a choice, not to forget what you dislike, but to emphasise what you like—to acknowledge the imperfections but focus on the perfections.

Loving a city is a little like loving a person. You begin as strangers, every corner and angle a surprise, and you slowly explore, growing more and more familiar until you don’t have to ask directions or read signs. You know what you can say and do and when you should go home and close the door. And as your acquaintance continues, you have the choice: will you focus on that bag of rotting rubbish on the corner, or will you look past it and see the windows glistening like jewels in the sun? It isn’t a matter of chance—it’s not sitting around hoping you’ll notice something positive before you see the negative—it’s a matter of choice, of looking for the positive and keeping your eyes on the good when the bad crowds in.

I’ve come to love New York, not because I’ve stopped noticing the dirty streets and jam-packed subways, but because in the midst of those I notice rooftops gleaming under the setting sun and ancient elms rustling in hot afternoon breezes.

You can’t love on condition; “I’ll love you when your faults stop bothering me” is not love. You have to love unconditionally, the dirty with the clean, the broken parts with the whole. You don’t love someone by not seeing what’s ugly; you love by choosing to look past to what’s beautiful.


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