What Are You Doing With Your Life?

I would climb mountains for the people I love...
I would climb mountains for the people I love…

“How we love determines how we live.”

These words end a remarkable chapter in the book I’m reading, the first of the Grantchester Mysteries, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death.

Do you believe that’s true?

How do you love? And what’s the correlation to how you live?

In my family, we say I love you an awful lot. We always have. Before we hang up the phone, for sure. When we see each other and hug and kiss hello or goodbye.

Dancing with my grandfather, probably 25 years ago
Dancing with my grandfather, probably 25 years ago

I remember my late grandfather’s happy voice on the phone, I could be anywhere, calling to check in, to say hello, and the love dripped through the phone line, before, during, after the call.

Today, it can be as easy as a text, that string of pink hearts to sign off, to indicate the love coursing between us.

That’s saying it. But it’s not living it.

So what does that mean, how we love determines how we live…

I had a boyfriend once whose love was so penetrating, we’d run down streets of our college town, enmeshed but evasive, wanting one another so deeply but afraid of the depth of our connection. We’d pull apart only to draw back toward one another, that magnetic pull of I want you now, I need you always.

He was the man I rode a ferry to when I lived in Manhattan, pulled to his Hoboken apartment just because he was there. I don’t remember the couch or the bed or the kitchen, I just remember him. Or rather, us.

But we said goodbye because the love was too much, too intense. It wasn’t livable.

How we love determines how we live.

When I first became a mother, I held my little precious boy against my chest, skin to skin, breathing in the scent of his soft head, his innocence. I would do anything for him and yet the round-the-clock call of new motherhood was an affront to a long-independent woman on the verge of 30.

Me holding my first-born, Asher, with Gigi looking on, approx. 14 years ago
Me holding my first-born, Asher, with Gigi looking on, approx. 14 years ago

How I loved him … with all of my being, sacrificing, even my own identity to make sure he would have his own. To hold him next to me, cuddle him, we couldn’t get close enough. I loved him so much that I knew I would let him go when he was ready to run off and climb up the jungle gym, or play with friends, and that he would run back when he needed me to kiss his tears away.

And that was when I began to learn what love really means.

To give of yourself without expectation of anything in return.

To be able to invest in a soul that you know will leave you, when he is ready to soar on his own wings.

To say yes when you really want to say no, to let him go on that retreat because his friends are there even if it’s not the one you’d choose for him.

Love, I learned, is selfless. It is knowing how another feels and relating to their heart as your own but remaining wholly separate and alone, as you watch the love like electric current between you waver and connect, waver and vanish, and return eventually.

Which means, I suppose, that my life needs to be focused on giving, on serving, on helping others fly, so that my heart will, too.

If we live as we love, then we had better love for the right reasons and build a life worth living. I can’t see any other way.

With that boyfriend, my self got lost in the loving. That never works. There has to be you and me and the air between us, the mountain trail winding its way up, and us walking single file beneath the scented pine, on the fresh dirt, with the sound of a distant waterfall so vivid it’s as if we are there.

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