Tag Archives: love

Love and other feelings

Love is generally presented as a reaction. It is styled in books and films as an unexpected, uncontrollable thing that just happens in response to one special person. As someone who loves plurally, I’ve always found that part of our stories about love rather difficult. And of course what just happens mysteriously can also be assumed to just go away, equally mysteriously. If we make ourselves powerless in face of it, can’t control it, can’t control ourselves… very little good comes of this.

Attraction can be very sudden – a simple animal desire based on the appearance of the other person. I chalk these up as entertaining but have never acted on it. Desire can be fleeting, and isn’t reliable. I have always been more interested in what a person has going on inside them than how they look.

It’s usually what people do that affects me – what they create, how they think, what they share of themselves, what I can do with them. Love, in all its various shapes and forms can take root in this kind of soil.

Then there are the others, the remarkable, life altering love affairs that have shaped me, and continue to do so. The people whose fingerprints remain on my soul. Looking at those relationships I am conscious of how important deliberate choice has been – mine and theirs. The choice to be vulnerable, to offer something of self, to care, to be open to care in return. Stepping deliberately into more involved ways of relating. Undertaking to love.

The most important love affairs in my life haven’t been accidents of attraction. They’ve been choices. Not just the choice to have a go, but the day by day choices about how I deploy my time and energy, what I pay attention to and what I choose to give. It isn’t something I’ve thought about in quite these terms before, though. I do not belong in the conventional narrative in which love is an accident. Love is something I choose to experience and bestow, and that people dealing with me choose to accept or reject.


Working with Fear

Fear is a difficult emotion to experience, and is harder to work with. All too often, what we do with fear is to take it out on someone else in the form of anger. When you do this, you get a brief sense of having power and being in control. This can be uplifting in the short term because fear is usually underpinned by a loss of power, or the expectation of powerlessness. However, venting it as anger on whoever is to hand is a quick route to more stress and less emotional support. It also doesn’t solve the original problem.

Unprocessed fear can also turn inwards, and become an anger we take out on ourselves. Self-blame, shame, obsessing over what we can’t change, obsessing over the risks and spiralling into every more despairing thought patterns doesn’t really solve anything either.

Our bodies do a very short term fear response when we need to get out of situations. Fear should kick in our flight/fight responses to get us out of trouble. When we’re dealing with something other than immediate, physical danger, it needs a bit more thought. However unattractive a prospect it may seem to be, the best thing to do with fear is sit down quietly with it and examine it.

Fear is most often underpinned by love and pre-emptive grief. That love may be directed towards ourselves – we are afraid of suffering or dying. We are afraid of what we may lose that we value. We fear for that which we love – be that people, landscapes, wildlife, cultural features… Conscious that we are threatened with loss, we can enter into pre-emptive grief processes. We can go through grief stages over things and people that are not yet lost to us but probably will be. Sometimes this can turn out to be a useful coping mechanism, sometimes it brings the reason for fear into sharper focus.

I think the best way to deal with fear is to get to grips with what you are afraid of losing. What you’ll find there is what matters to you. Your love. And if at first glance what you find seems selfish and all about you, then it is simply your love for your own life and experience that you are afraid of losing.

Fear isn’t a simple thing. It isn’t a ‘negative’ emotion to try and avoid. It can teach us about what matters most. It can show us the truth of what we value. It’s easy to lose your real values under layers of social conditioning, but fear can cut through that bullshit at a terrifying pace to tell you what is most important, least bearable and in that insight, is the scope to find your heart.

In the end, we all die, we all lose everything. We’re all on that trajectory together and there’s not much point being afraid of our unavoidable destination. But along the way, we can take care of what we love, make the most of it, cherish it while we can.


Relationship assumptions

The dominant stories we have about the kinds of relationship shapes available to a person, are, from my perspective, unhelpfully narrow. Emotionally speaking I’m polyamorous – I can choose fidelity, but it is fundamentally in my nature to love. I’m attracted to pixies and wizards – gender has never really been a factor. As someone with wizard and pixie attractions, it makes no sense to me that one set of genitals equates to potential lovers and the other to potential friends and that you shouldn’t be friends with people who have different genitals to you.

I find the hard lines we draw between friends and lovers a tad perplexing. It doesn’t leave me much space for adoration, for people I want to hold and kiss but maybe not shag. It doesn’t allow for my massive and very intense creative crushes or for what happens with me when people inspire me.

Conventional relationships tend to assume similarity of age. Again, this has never worked for me. There’s a huge age range across my love/friendship relationships.

For me, entering into a relationship with a person has always been about finding the shape that is right for that particular exchange. That may, or may not be sexual, it may be affectionate, it may be a creative collaboration, or something else entirely. I’m interested in what might happen, and not in getting an interaction with a person to fit a pre-determined shape.

I’m also entirely comfortable with unbalanced relationships. I often love people who do not feel the same way about me, and I’m fine with that. My emotional response does not create an obligation. I might want things that aren’t available – again I’m fine with this. I am confused by people who expect balance. I am very confused by people who think I should feel about them something that reflects how they feel about me! I am largely convinced it’s because we tell each other so many stories in which two people fall in love with each other at the same time and to the same degree that we assume this is normal. It’s never worked that way for me.

I want there to be more room. I don’t want to be told what I am allowed to feel, or be cut down by the limited nature of other people’s stories. I’ve had more than enough of that already. I want space, for all of us, to be who we are, explore who we might be when dealing with each other, and to engage on whatever terms actually make sense.


Druidry and Love

Many spiritual paths include the idea of spiritual love as a goal – a love that transcends and overcomes and isn’t conditional and doesn’t discriminate. It’s never worked for me.

The Druid’s Prayer introduces the idea of love alongside the idea of justice – and in the knowledge of justice, the love of it. What is love without justice? Love without some kind of fairness, can simply be the facilitation of terrible things. Unconditional love for the polluter, the exploiter, the corporate greed destroying the planet? I don’t think so. Unconditional love for the politicians and business people who put profit before life and sell the future for a quick buck? No bloody way.

I suppose it works if you’re all about spirit and transcendence, if this world is a means to the next or something to overcome. Loving everything in much the same way might work well if your true goal is to leave it all behind.

Druidry is of this world. It is spirituality rooted in nature. Love without the love of justice doesn’t make as much sense in this context. If we undertake to love beauty, truth, honesty, honour, community, and all that is wild and natural, we cannot truly also love anything that devotes itself to destroying that. I think it’s really important that we do not love in that way, in fact. With humans trashing the planet, aiming for universal love may make it harder for us to stand up to other humans and demand better from them.

There are merits in seeking and seeing the best in each other. There’s something very lovely about seeing the sacred and divine in every other human being. But not if that makes us feel like we don’t need to act. Not if it makes us complacent and overly comfortable. Druidry is of this world, and this world is suffering. I do not believe we can love this world, and extend love to those who are deliberately destroying it. We need our rage and resentment, we may well need our hatred to motivate us into acting. I do not accept that these so-called negative emotions are something to overcome. They have their place. If we’re all peace and light and love, we may never do what is necessary.

And at this point it isn’t about nice philosophical ideas and personal goals for spiritual growth. It’s about who dies, and how many species become extinct and how much is lost forever.


Ideals in love

Teenage me didn’t just want to be understood. I wanted someone with whom I could entirely merge and in whom I could lose myself. I wanted my twin soul, my soul mate, my one true love, the one perfect person who would be all the things. It would be fair to say that I did not find these qualities in any of the people I fell in love with.

Twenty something me wanted a sense of connection, an intuitive bond that would bring magic into my life. At that point I was very much more interested in the possibility of a wild and fulfilling sex life, although a fair way from achieving that. I was much more interested in who I could love than who might love me in return.

In my thirties I started to learn what it could mean to have someone love me in return with the same kind of depth and passion I bring to my relationships. I stopped wanting the ease of automatic understanding and became much more interested in the work of understanding people who are not like me, and loving people in a way that includes much more room for difference.

A few years into my forties and I note how far away I am from that young human who wanted a magical connection to just happen. The separation from others that once felt so desperately lonely, now seems like the starting point for adventure and discovery.  I’m very relaxed these days about doing the work to former deeper relationships with people – in all kinds of contexts. I’m more relaxed about how I love and less worried what anyone will make of that. I’m interested in what can be shared and exchanged, not so much in what was similar to begin with.

I have no idea where this journey will take me next, but that’s part of the fun of it. I’ve experienced more recent shifts as moving into states that are more open and less loaded. Oddly this hasn’t dialled down the intensity, instead it’s made space in which far greater levels of intensity can be safely held and explored.


Sexy paranormal creatures

If you read folklore or fairy tales, you will find that the paranormal creatures are more dangerous than they are sexy. If they seem sexy, it’s just as bait to lure you in so they can eat you. Mermaids, sirens, alluring maidens sat near ponds – they’re just hungry. Vampires, werewolves and zombies used to be grim, grotesque and horrifying. What happened? Somewhere in the 20th century, the dangerous supernatural creatures of our folklore turned into objects of desire.

For me, those paranormal creatures have always suggested the wild and the wilderness. They may be the un-tame hazard inside us all. They are the things we find monstrous about ourselves as well as the things we fear in the dark, in the woods and in the wilderness. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that sexy paranormal stories come at a time when we’ve pushed wildness to the margins. With deforestation, everything mapped, and wild places exploited for profit, where is there left for paranormal creatures to haunt your imagination? And so, just as the wild places are commodified and exploited, so the paranormal creatures become sex objects.

There may be social aspects too. We’ve broken down a lot of taboos around the world about who can love whom. There’s still a lot of work to do. It’s no longer comfortable to present people of a different ethnic background to your own as the exotic, desirable mystery. Romance depends on the beloved being difficult to obtain. As the barriers to human love come down, keeping the story shape alive calls for new challenges. The paranormal creatures slot neatly into our desires for certain story shapes.

As we become more alert to gender politics, the bad boy archetype of many a romance novel becomes less attractive. Women writers may be less keen now to sell us the aristocratic male with issues of authority and entitlement. He’s a bit old fashioned. Werewolves on the other hand have much better excuses for anger management issues, and are the ultimate bad boy you might want to tame.

For me, there’s a process here that goes along with a lot of other human processes. We see everything as existing for our use, benefit and amusement. We no longer imagine anything is more powerful than we are. The monsters of our old stories can’t continue as monsters any more. We turn them into sex toys. If I thought this was a case of replacing violence with love, I’d be a good deal more comfortable. To me, it seems like yet another expression of how we like to knock mystery and hazard out of the world in order to better own it, tame it and contain it.


Scruffy for the love of the earth

Being scruffy is something we can all do for the good of the planet. It’s a low cost, low effort response to cutting carbon, cutting plastic use, cutting the impact of the fashion industry. I appreciate that in some jobs and contexts it’s simply too high a risk, and that the more affluent and comfortable you are the fewer implications there are in looking a bit ragged round the edges. If you are poor, people will judge you – but they will also judge you for not looking poor enough.

Scruffy clothes – anything a bit worn, or faded, marked from use or obviously repaired falls into this category. Wearing old clothes is something we can celebrate as an assertion of loving the Earth, and I think if we can re-enforce those choices for each other, there’s a lot of good to be found in it.

It’s also a way of pushing back against all that glossy new age rubbish full of improbable dresses in fields and things you’d never wear for a decent walk in a wood because it wouldn’t last five minutes. And for the guys, and the non-binary folk there’s very little visual content out there. That’s something else to push back against – if we are going to be spiritually glamorous, there should be room for everyone, not just young, thin, white, female-looking people.

I find that if I’m outside for a while, my hair becomes messy. I find that if I don’t wear makeup this impacts on how I look in photographs and videos alike. But, getting makeup without getting throwaway plastic is hard, and animal testing is back, and makeup is expensive, and I don’t think those chemicals do my skin much good… and maybe my face is ok without it. Your face is definitely ok as it is, I feel sure of that. I take no issue with people wearing makeup creatively and playfully and for fun, but if you feel like you need it… you’ve been had by adverts. (I have been had by adverts, but I’m pushing back).

A Pagan aesthetic that is scruffy for the love of the Earth is available to everyone. Body shape doesn’t matter, nor does age, or gender or our ability to conform to ‘beauty’ standards. If you live closer to the Earth, you won’t be able to keep your clothes perfect anyway. Crafting, gardening, walking, doing things from scratch – anything physical like this causes wear and tear. You can only have pristine new looking stuff if you don’t do much with your body while wearing it!

For too long, a ‘Pagan’ look has meant velvet cloaks. Impractical shoes. Flouncy shirts. What happens if we start dressing as though we’re going to walk everywhere? What happens if we walk everywhere and start to look like that? What if looking like you spend time outside is the most Pagan look you can cultivate? What if you make actual crafts part of your Craft?

Changing the surfaces of how we present isn’t superficial. It calls for a massive change in what we value and celebrate and treat as appealing. Show me your dirty Paganism. Show me the love that goes into keeping clothes out of landfill, and I will show you mine…

Here’s an old photo of me in the kind of clothing I can walk in and sit out in. Not especially attractive, but I wasn’t doing it for the camera…


Love and understanding

One of the stories we tell each other around romance is that your true love will understand you. They will get you. If a person doesn’t get you, it seems like they are not your true love, or worse still, that they understood what you meant and didn’t bother. Leading to the two great clichés of hetronormative relationship  – the woman who says ‘I’m fine’ when really she isn’t, and the man setting out to have an affair with the words ‘my wide doesn’t understand me.’

In my experience, understanding another human being in any relationship, takes time and effort. You have to really listen to them, and you have to be open to the many ways in which they are not just like you. We find reassurance in similarity, to the point where some people will ignore difference rather than admit it exists. However, when we refuse to explore those differences, we shut down any real scope for mutual understanding, and the perfect love who understood us won’t turn out to be that at all.

What if we told each other stories about love involving a willingness to work? What if true love is the quest for true comprehension? What if understanding was something we built together for the rest of our lives? What if, within that we even had room to change, grow and re-negotiate? What if we didn’t feel threatened by not currently being able to understand someone we love? What if figuring that out looked like an adventure, not a threat?

I can’t count how many times people have told me that significant other people in their lives didn’t understand them. And every time, there’s been a feeling of total unwillingness to even try to fix that. As though working to fix it somehow defeated the object.

I’ve spent most of my life feeling like a bit of a social outcast. I’ve never expected anyone to understand me, and at this point I see this as a tremendous asset. I’ve always expected to work at things. I have found that many people do not share these expectations. With the ones who do, it is possible to form deep bonds and powerful states of mutual compression. Where there is no expectation that understanding will magically happen, there’s also more resilience if either party changes in any way.

I’m tired of stories that present love as something effortless and suggest that effort implies it isn’t real love. I think we need to change this. And they all dedicated themselves to doing what it takes to live happily ever after – even so they weren’t always perfectly happy because life doesn’t work like that. But mostly it was good, and they took care of each other and did not take each other for granted.


Romance, passion and consent

It’s a popular scene in romantic tales… One person is passionately in love with the other and acts on this. In a sudden, overpowering move (likely to involve kissing) the one who is in love emotionally overpowers the object of their desire and afterwards nothing is the same. The object of desire is persuaded to fall in love, too. They may change sides in the conflict central to the story. They may betray their family and friends, or give up everything they have known. I am seldom persuaded by this bit, but that’s a story to take apart on another day.

We’re all creatures of reason and emotion. However, our considered choices about who we are and how we want to be can be – especially in the short term – totally derailed by our emotional and physical responses. Is that love? Or is it just a short term chemical response to stimulus? I’m pretty sure it isn’t consent. We’re shown persuasion of this kind in films and novels, where it’s usually presented as a good thing. It goes with the story that women say ‘no’ when they mean ‘persuade me’, that women find it hard to say yes to sex and passion and need to have their boundaries overcome, and that overcoming those boundaries by force of desire is romantic, and not rapey. If a man seduces a woman it is most usually depicted as a good and romantic thing. When it’s the other way round, the woman is more often depicted as evil. I do not like these stories.

In a seduction scene, we aren’t often shown the focus of desire being given chance to properly express their consent. For me, consent is both romantic and sexy, and verbalising desire is exciting. I find willingness to wait rather than overpower is much more romantic than seduction and that emotionally overpowering someone who has expressed an interest in that happening is much more engaging than using sexual power to strip away someone’s defences.

Power of course is a big part of it. There is power in being able to make it difficult for someone to say no to you. There is power in being able to persuade, to get someone else to submit to your desire or be so overwhelmed by what’s happening that they can’t figure out how to say no to you. To have the looks or the skill set to compromise someone else’s decision making ability seems a lot less attractive when framed in those terms. What we often see presented as romance has a lot more to do with power and persuasion than I feel comfortable with.


Contemplating Love

Love – at least in the romantic sense – is something we tend to treat as a mystery. How and when it will happen, no one knows, and who it will direct you to is unpredictable. Although, when you look at most people’s partner choices, you’ll see comparable age, class background, educational level and more. We’re more likely to pick people who are much like us and of course in doing this we’re more likely to have a daily life that requires few changes.

Love is a choice, not an accident.

Lust can be a bit random, but I’ve never considered lust on its own a good basis for a relationship. So many of our films and books show us people experiencing lust and getting it together, with this presented as romance. Romeo and Juliet are a classic of the form – two kids who do not know each other but really fancy each other and act on it. Love calls for more time, more depth, more involvement with each other.

Love is the choice to be open to something or someone – because of course romantic love isn’t the only option. Relationships that remain good (not habits or battle grounds) depend on choosing to keep loving each other. It’s an everyday choice, expressed in the tones of conversations, the small, affectionate gestures, the making and doing together that builds a life. Love is not something that happens to us, it is something we do, and the more deliberately we do it, the better the results are.

If you treat love as incomprehensible mystery, you are at the mercy of your desires and you can’t build anything. If you treat love as a deliberate choice, you can create it day by day. And quite possibly you can find some one(s) to co-create that with, making a life, a family, a relationship, a home, a network, a community or whatever else you want it to be. Choosing to invest deliberately in the people who love in return, who enrich your life, who delight you and who want you to be part of their existence means you have more scope for more good stuff. When love isn’t a random act of God, you can more readily walk away from what doesn’t work out, and pick where to invest your energy. The results are much better than ascribing it all to fate.