In my journalism capstone and ethics course this morning, we were studying alternative storytelling.
My professor presented us a piece from This American Life (if you click the link you can listen to the podcast) but long story short, it’s about a 90-year-old woman who falls in love with a 62-year-old man.
But the catch is that he is blind, one-legged, and African American to her traditional New Jersey Italian, and 28 years younger than her.
The speaker details his grandmother’s life and how she resented the concept of men as a whole, and how it is so shocking that she fell in love in a nursing home considering the multiple advances of men she turned down throughout the years.
So, like usual, I got to thinking.
As a young person, I know “the drill.” You avoid emotions, you save yourself up for that one “special” person, and you hold your love in close to your heart where it’s protected from vulnerability and potential hurt. You refuse love in the name of independence (I’m calling myself out, here.)
You love selectively. You love with restrictions.
Restrictions because someone else might not “approve” of your relationship, restrictions because it doesn’t fit your “life” plan, restrictions because our culture glorifies the cold-hearted and aloof approach, restrictions because it’s not the “right time.”
It’s easy to believe that through not expressing our emotions we’re saving ourselves heartache and the inevitable hurt when expectations don’t meet reality but in all actuality, we’re depriving ourselves of some of the most basic human necessities–feelings of comfort, acceptance, and belonging.
If only we could love freely like the 90-year-old woman who doesn’t care about standards and judgments.
If only we could be comfortable enough with feeling not only grief and despair but with elation and love.
And in the end, to be extremely cliche, it’s better to have loved and lost than to have not loved at all. The world will never suffer because you chose to love in the face of adversity.
Love the sick, the broken, the culturally unacceptable. Love those who might hurt you. Love those who cannot love you in return. Love yourself above all. Understand that much like the ocean, feelings of ebb and flow, other’s judgments aren’t adequate representations of your own reality and the more love you give, ultimately the more love you receive.