“I can’t make you love me if you don’t
You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t
Here in the dark, in these final hours
I will lay down my heart and I’ll feel the power
But you won’t, no you won’t
‘Cause I can’t make you love me, if you don’t”
That is a song by Bonnie Raitt and I realized it was my life song several years ago. It is one of the first songs I ever learned at Karaoke. It is written in the context of a lover, but I identify with it on many levels of relationships. I have spent much too much of my lifetime trying to get people to care about me that don’t, then more time mourning because I’m not loved the way I had hoped to be.
My dad is a stoic German. He isn’t comfortable saying I love you. My sister was always able to be satisfied knowing that he loves us. He is kind, generous, predictable, stable and a provider and so on. But I always wanted (and still do) him to say it as well.
Then I got married in my early twenties. After my husband became an atheist, he also no longer believed in marriage or romance. He told me repeatedly that he had never loved me. He tricked himself into believing in love because he wanted to have sex. We were Christians and believed in waiting for marriage. Therefore, he tried to tell himself he loved me in order to relieve his sexual urges. When I would show him the box of letters he wrote me during our engagement, (one a day, sometimes two a day) he dismissed them as lies.
I dated a guy after Tim died that I thought was a real possibility of being someone I could stay with. He went to karaoke with me and heard me sing my Bonnie Raitt song. When I came back to my seat, he whispered in my ear, “You will never have to sing that song again. You need a new life song now.” My heart soared at the thought. About three weeks later, he left Frankie and I without any explanation or closure.
Later, I dated a guy on/off for about three years. Every couple of months he felt the need to remind me that I loved him more than he loved me, that he didn’t want anything permanent in our future. I didn’t either, but for some reason it had to come up over and over.
Now I have a teenager who I tell I love every few days and I get no response or an “ok” for an answer. Where did that come from? He grew up in a home that has love expressed consistently. Yeah, I know. Normal teenage stuff.
I have a guy friend who doesn’t say I love you to a girlfriend until he is ready to ask her to marry him. Two and a half years of dating but they don’t exchange that phrase.
I have a girl friend who doesn’t think much of saying it at all. Her response is, “Don’t say it, show it.”
Everyone has different perspectives I guess.
The New Testament was written in the Greek language. There are at least three different words for “love” depending on the nuance of the word. That is part of the problem. We only have one word that I know of. It is an incredibly complex subject (love) with millions of meanings, but it is a wonderful thing.
When I say, “I love you,” to someone I met recently but “fell head over heals” for, it means something different from when I feel love for them six months later. It means something different twenty years later. And if I whisper it on someone’s death-bed, it means something different. But it is all love. All of it.
Then there is love as an action or choice. Sometimes we love someone even if we don’t like them very much at the moment. We choose to behave in a loving way because that is just what is needed.
Here is another theme song for me.
“What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.”
Written by Hal David. Yep, that is also the damn story of my life. I tell all my friends and family, 90% of the time, that I love them. At the end of every phone call. I guess when you have lost lots of people (and some very suddenly) you are very aware how important it is. Sure, I understand that it can become meaningless if it is overused. But can you overuse love?
This is my heartbeat, the core of who I am. But my experience has been the first song. Just the way it is. I am going to keep trying to love, in whatever form it is, no matter the response I get back from the world. It gets really, really hard sometimes, but I am going to try.