Music Monday – Remedial Love Edition

Hello. Today is February 13th. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.

I’ve learned a lot about love in the last 10 years. I’ve learned some about what it is, and some of what it isn’t. I’ve done well, and failed, I’ve made good decisions and bad, I’ve had noble intentions and no intentions. A decade ago, I had an idealized notion of love, that kind of left me out of the equation. I thought, maybe, I could be good at loving someone without particularly liking myself. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work well.

After spending thousands of dollars on therapy, hours stacked upon hours in thought, prayer, grief, and meditation, I began to see things a little more clearly. The last year has felt like a remedial course in love.

Disclaimer: I’m not a guru, I’m not about to dispense The Truth of The Ages about human relationships. But I am about to tell you what’s true for me. You can take it or leave it. Also, I’m not here to rain on your Valentine’s Day, or your new relationship, or whatever your situation is. If I’m aware of your situation, I’m probably genuinely happy for you. This isn’t about you, but it might be true for you some day, so remember it.

Love is shit. Love isn’t butterflies, or giggling, or promises. It is promises least of all. Love is awful, in its every aspect.

What you’re asking for, when you ask for someone to love you, is for a person, with their own history, their own desires and problems, to care enough about you to tolerate your bullshit. I don’t know about you, but sometimes it feels like I’m stumbling through life, messing up everything that I put my hand to. I fail more than I succeed and for every good thing I manage to do, I wanted to do the bad things along the way more often than not.

Love isn’t a kiss between two people who just started dating, love is a kiss between two people who both know all the lies the other has told them. Making love isn’t a beautiful physical culmination of joyous and unblemished admiration. Making love is this only: deciding to give yourself bodily to someone who has asked you for something no human deserves: to have their emotions regarded as equal, worthy, and acceptable, by another. Making love is knowing someone’s ugliness, and giving them your holiness.

Love isn’t to blame. I am the problem. I know myself, how petty I can be. How angry, how vengeful. How wrong. How insecure. Love accepts this flawed person, unreservedly and with no thought of recompense. What answer can there be to that? Shame, guilt, and fear are possible answers. Fear that love is conditional, predicated on the subduing of those baser instincts. Shame at accepting something for which I am not worthy, something that I’ll ruin. But to even get to these reactions, it’s necessary to receive real love, which requires some revelation. The revelation of my darker parts, the admission and ownership of them. Without which, I’m walking in a different kind of fear, the fear of discovery. And I haven’t allowed for the possibility of love at all. It’s possible to be in a relationship, and claim to be in love, and never allow for its birth.

No, that isn’t love. You can have lifetimes of that, and think it love. We’ve built entire genres, film and book and song, around the idea that it is love, to care for someone without knowing their darkness. The lie is that superficial things like “meet-cutes” and talking about art or beauty, or having families, are love, or are themselves alone enough to stimulate and sustain true love.

An episode of Sex and The City has the main characters deriding the foolish “Complete honesty in love” that they identified as a trait of 20-somethings. Maybe in 10 more years I’ll be writing a blog post that says, “Lie your ass off. Just do anything you need to do to make sure the person you’re sleeping next to can tolerate you!” It’s possible, but I doubt it. I think there’s a point, or a million points, where we’re faced with Turning Away. We can abandon the dream of finding true acceptance and love, and the reward is that we get to stop risking rejection of ourselves and of our emotions. We can stop trusting the ones who love us, we can stop needing to, we can just pretend to be worthy of love because we’re fine, and we buy flowers on Valentine’s Day, and we do the things they want, sometimes.

That sounds pretty mediocre. I’ve had that, and it sucked. It leaves you wanting, doubting, alone and afraid.

Love is the worst, because being loved requires me to be honest about who I am.

Love is simultaneously the best, because giving Love freely is a feeling with no parallel. Seeing someone in their darkest moments and giving them your heart is the counterpoint to all of love’s shittiness. You risk being hurt in different ways, in new and unique ways, but you gain this: The only opportunity in life to truly surprise and bless someone.

The fairy-tale love that Disney sells, that Valentine’s Day cards talk about ad nauseam, is pretty. The electric buzz of falling for someone and the overwhelming power of infatuation are certainly part of a lovestory, but they’re only meant to be the first part. They should just take the edge off of the hard work, the dark stuff, the revelation. Those things are not themselves love, though we call them love.

I said all of that ridiculous, self serving nonsense so that you could understand the “lovesongs” that I chose for Music Monday. I don’t think true love is true if it isn’t apologetic, a little ashamed, and a little broken. That doesn’t mean that relationships based on true love can’t be happy. I think they’re the only relationships that have a chance of being happy, but they’re hard, because love itself is hard.

I have for you, three songs, which I consider true love songs. I guess all that means is that they’re love songs about flawed people. I’ve linked the lyrics, because lyrics are what make a love song.

First up, “Reservations” by Wilco:



“How can I convince you it’s me I don’t like?” and later, “I’ve got reservations, about so many things, but not about you”

Next, “Time Has Told Me” by Nick Drake:



“And time will tell you, to stay by my side, to keep on trying, ’til there’s no more to hide”

Finally, “Of Angels and Angles” by The Decemberists:



“Here’s a hand to lay on your open palm today”

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6 Responses to Music Monday – Remedial Love Edition

  1. Kristi February 13, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    That was very honest. I think looking at love can be found at loving children. The pure and honest emotion of loving them, worrying about them, worried FOR them.. even when they behave like little jerks. 🙂 However when I examine that statement, while you know they do love you – you have to grow up with them and reach the point where they finally realize you are a ‘real’ person, with flaws. I remember reaching that point of looking at my own parents and saying, hmm… they are not infallible.

    But to put that on true love between two adults, well… yes, it’s hard and can be ugly. It can also be easy and perfect.

    I think everyone is different. (Is that a cop out?) 🙂

    • David February 18, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

      Everyone being different isn’t a cop out, it’s kind of life. Thank you for your comment. I think our children’s love for us is beautiful, and pure in ways that we can’t recreate. That is because of their innocence, but I don’t think that makes it less valid…you know? It’s just a totally different thing, like you said.

      I like the idea that loving someone is like loving your kids, you can do it even when they take a crap on you (literally and figuratively). That’s a beautiful goal.

      I think Easy and Perfect comes out of not being afraid of Hard and Ugly.

  2. Sarah February 14, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    You’re very depressing! You sound like me. :p Except just a different angle of “depression” (read: realism) in relation to love. I like your writing and I’m glad you’re able to open up and be honest for the entire internet to see. It’s quite refreshing and therapeutic, isn’t it?

    • David February 18, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

      Hahaha. Sorry to bring you down. Thank you for your comment. I wasn’t actually expecting any replies to this post.

      Not really. Opening up and being honest is terrifying and unpleasant, but I’ve spent years not reflecting my genuine self, and I’m not going to do that anymore.

      It just feels like I’m being selfish, talking about stuff that’s so personal and that is only from my own viewpoint.

  3. Dad February 18, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

    Jean-Paul Sartre had a good *beginning* to a philosophy, or rather a good prep for starting to develop your own. Throw everything out first. Become an Existentialist…and then realize you’re on the “GO” square and now you have to start rolling the dice. And yeah, you’ve seen people play the game before, even played it yourself. But it never works out the same way twice even if only because *you* are never the same person twice.

    All that being said, after using Jean-Paul to clear the decks, but not getting stuck there with an empty ship is indeed useful, to a point. Which is a tidy way to dismiss nearly everything he said except this one thing I totally get now, and weirdly got watching my parent’s do it too. “Day labor, day labor” is what he called love. And he was right.

    And all that disney stuff is about hormones and brain chemicals. But you get closer and closer to grasping the shiny perfect soft-focus true love *only* as the decades pass. And day by day you labor to fill your daily quota with ore that’s more valuable than the dross…because the dross outweighs the gold dust by tonnes to the ounce.

    It’s kinds like that movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Bogie is all hormonal about finding GOLLLD!!! And half way to the mountain he’s ready to give up because the search for gold is so hard. But just as he’s beginning to adapt to the hard hard work of hacking his way through the valley jungle…the arrive at the mountain. There the Old Man who Knows is dancing around on the unremarkable dirt insanely happy he’s found a rich find. The newbies think he’s nuts and he is.

    But, much encouraged they climb the mountain and achieve their goal…they have discovered a gold mine. Except that’s where the *actually* hard work begins. Up to now they’ve only just been hacking their way through bad dates. And the work of climbing the mountain is only just the thrilling part of *getting* married…courting, prep and honeymoon and newlywed year. Now..and only now, does Bogie begin to clue about how hard the day labor of hard rock mining.

    I am approaching the end of my second decade of marriage. The dark parts have killed us both. Mine have killed her more, of course, because if I m honest I was not nearly such a “catch” as she thought I was. And I was such a good liar she didn’t really get a clue how dark my darkness was for years and years. But now things are (he says sarcastically) so much easier.

    But now, gradually, and for the last 10 years or so the shiny soft-focus stuff has been eclipsing the “world as a hall of mirrors” thing we all stay so stuck in all our lives. I imagine now I will still be thinking way too much about me, being as I am the center of the Universe, than I will of my God, or my Wife, or my Son, or his Daughters.

    But now I can honestly say, the day labor aspect is becoming the familiar. the comfortable. Even if it’s no less difficult. And I pray I am learning to make it look as easy as my Dad made it look like loading his quota of 360,000 pounds of freight a day for 20 years. But I am glad I raised a son who has realized so young that love is awe-filled, and awful all at the same time.

    • David February 18, 2012 at 10:47 pm #

      I completely relate to everything you said. That center of the universe phenomenon works in funny ways.

      I love the awe-filled and awful turn of phrase.

      There are a lot of things that are easier than loving people and letting them love you, but there aren’t any things that are better.

      I love you, dad.

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