Love

The Story of Love

Never in the history of writing is a word more polarizing right? Okay that’s a generalization, and sure a lot of words might fit into the category, but love is the one that comes to mind today. I think of the little boy played by Fred Savage who hates that the book his grandpa is reading has kissing! Love stories are romance stories in most people’s minds. Love songs are sappy. Again generalizing but I think as a society there are people who love love and people who don’t.

I’ve seen love in all forms

Having spent this past weekend with my nephew who was working on a story of his own I reflected on myself at his age. When I was ten I also began writing. While I wasn’t the natural born storyteller my nephew is, I used writing as a way to express myself when I found words difficult to say out loud. I wrote because Grandma was a writer and I was like her. You could say that writing is in the blood. Each generation seems to have a writer in our family.

While he is writing a story of children’s make believe adventures, when I started out it was always in the quest for love. Poems about love, not only in a romantic sense but love in all its glory. I’ve seen love in all forms. I’ve experienced many types of love or lack there-of. I think the one I’ve lacked the most is philautia, or self love. I’ve been blessed with eros, philia, ludus, storge, pragma and agape. Storge was also a source of love I searched for, unconditional love. Because it always seemed to me that love came with strings attached. I love you, if you are perfect. I love you if you are kind. I love you but you have to change this or that. Unconditional love is still hard to come by for the world at large.

Till Death Do Us Part

When we talk about love there is often a sense of beauty, romance, longing, hearts and flowers that come to mind. When we don’t have love looking at those in love fills us with pain. When we have love we feel bulletproof. When love ends we hope to reclaim it, and when love is lost with only the hope that we rejoin them on the other side we yearn for what was.

While writing throughout my youth, into my teen years, and beyond I felt a story of love was necessary. I am drawn to stories of love. I love love. It is my style of writing to tell those stories. I am a hopeless romantic. I wore out my copy of Romeo and Juliet looking for answers within in about the nature of love. Was it true or fickle. Was it kind or only full of heartbreak.

And they lived… but was it happily ever after?

I looked to my favorite Disney movie for answers as well, and ignored the criticism that it was just Stockholm syndrome. A heroine who saves herself but also falls for her “captor” by seeing the good, kind, cursed person is not a bad thing. People were just missing the point of it by making it about imprisonment. Don’t we save each other in love all the time. Couldn’t each choice we make be one leading us down a dark, sinister, beastly path? Do the ones who love us the most save us from ourselves and our darkness?

It was important to me to look at all sides of a story regarding romance. They don’t always end with happily ever after. Sometimes tragedy strikes before we have a chance to hold hands and walk off into the sunset. When Pixar’s Up! came out I found the first 8 minutes mirrored my own love life. We knew each other since our early twenties instead of childhood but we hope to die together in our 80’s so neither had to live without the other. With no children of our own we could hope for a life like Carl and Ellie.

Waiting for Love’s First Kiss

In Love I’ve been blessed. I may not have a great many things I thought I would when I was that shy, quite, ten year old with her nose buried in a book or scribbling on a pad of paper, but I have the love of my life. He is all the Greek words of love in one imperfect package.

Together we have grown and fought and cried and screamed. We’ve been broken by each other, by the world, by life. But it has only bound us to each other more. It takes work to make relationships work. It takes a commitment. It takes storge, unconditional love. It takes agape, empathetic universal love. It takes philia, intimate and authentic friendship. It takes philautia, self love and pragma, committed love. Eros and ludus, playful, flirting, romantic, passionate love.

Without understanding love when writing a love story does it fall flat? I think the best writers of love stories understand it is not just about passion and sex, although it seems to be what sells these days. Don’t get me wrong I love a good steamy romance, but it is only once in a while I turn to those books. A quick read, a filler while waiting for other books.

Failure in love happens.

What I long for from a story, what I searched for in life, the reason I got into wedding photography for a few short lived years, was because I wanted to see love up close for all it’s beauty, wonder, amazement. For all it had to give and could be. Failures in love happen, heartache, tragedy, it is all written in the best love stories. But so is the triumph of love. Which I think readers long for because so often, especially in this era, love is missing.

Early in my published career I had the slogan “Dark Tales of Love and Adventure.” I did away with this because too often a single word turned people away. LOVE. I heard “I don’t read romance.” While I am a multi-genre artist love stories are and always will have a place in the stories I tell. So I pivoted and still found that people didn’t appreciate my brand of stories. But that’s okay. I love what I do and I love what I write and love will always be a part of each story that makes it to the pages. When you find something you are passionate about, write it. Love happens to be my passion.

Reflections

Reflecting on that September morning 20 years ago is something I do in solitude. I don’t talk much about it, other than to recall where I was. It had been my dream to attend college in Manhattan. I’d considered a number of schools. Julliard, AMDA, Columbia, Fordham, NYU. In the end I chose Albany University. Far enough from home but not down in the city. I wasn’t ready to transition to NYC just yet though Broadway was my goal at the time. That choice was made in the spring of 2021 when I accepted and submitted everything for Freshman year of College.

My college schedule was vigorous. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings I was in class by 6 am. If you were late for the 6:15 start of English you missed the quiz at the beginning of every class. It was a class I enjoyed. I loved our discussions on poetry the poetry of Sylvia Plath and song lyrics of Ani DiFranco. From that class, which lasted hours, I would race across campus to my music theory class. That class began at 9. On that Tuesday morning I was talking with a girl who’s name I can no longer remember. Another student came in just before the professor and informed the rest of us that they’d heard on Howard Stern that a plane crashed into a building in NYC. Most of us familiar with the shock jock dismissed it as either a fluke or some new scheme of his to shock the world. We continued with the lessons of Music Theory. Another long class, but when it was over I was done for the day. The girl and I walked out of class wondering about what the student had said. The walk across campus to our dorms was strange. People were everywhere but no one was hurrying to classes. A massive TV was set up outside in the quad. I said my goodbyes and went to my dorm room. My roommate was already there with the TV on. It was after 11. They were only showing repeats of the day’s events. By the time I knew that the four planes were hijacked and crashed the entirety of 9/11 had played out. Thousands were dead. The world was in a state of shock and I had gone about my entire morning unaware of the historic tragedy.

The hours after my return to the dorm are still surreal. I had tons of messages on my landline. My mother and family had been trying to reach me all morning. They’d heard reports that one of the planes had flown over Albany when it turned and Albany’s towers are a prominent feature. While we were in no danger, no one really knew that when it was happening.

My computer was slow to connect even on University internet. I had tons more messages there. In the days before cell phones and 5G the only choice was to keep dialing home. I couldn’t get through. The lines were busy. It was too much for my roommate who went off to reflect in solitude. They were replaying the images of the mornings events over and over.

I know when I finally reached my mother she was as hysterical as I felt. But we were safe. The sound of her voice made me cry. I didn’t even realize how terrified I was not being able to reach her until that moment.

In the days after my father would speak of how lucky it was that I chose not to go to school in NYC. He wondered if I could have been lost that day, had I gone, imagining a nightmare scenario where I had time off from class and decided to visit the top of the towers (as I had done in high school just years before). What if I had been there when it happened. What if became a big thing for a lot of people. But he was fearful of losing his daughter and grateful that Albany had been my choice instead of Broadway.

For me 9/11 was all about the aftermath. My mother drove to get me that day. The drive home was eerie. We were mostly silent, her and I, with the radio on listening to the president speak, or news updates. The roads were empty. The few tractor trailers were driving in groups. The sun set without the tell-tale signs of planes crisscrossing the sky. I slept fitful that night, but felt safe at home just weeks after leaving for college. That Tuesday changed me though. When I returned to class I was unfocused, depressed, struggling to connect any more. I attempted suicide and decided to leave school to move back home. I didn’t lose anyone I knew or loved that day, but I lost something else. A sense of security. A belief in the power of good. An understanding of empathy in the world. Hate was all the rage then. Hate for Americans, hate for freedom, hate for terrorists. Hate became the focus and I had too much of that all my life to want to continue with it. So I choose to leave behind my dreams.

The world has changed in those 20 years since, as I have changed. But that day is one that I remember with confusion, regret, fear, and sadness. We all lost something that day. Some paid the price with their lives, others were left to carry the burden. It was a world changed and a paradise lost, and yet I wonder now if we truly learned anything at all.