This Word

So this word ‘love.”

I’ve been told that I display some of the symptoms of Asperger’s, high-functioning autism. I’m sure that’s not entirely true, but I seem to have trouble understanding emotions and I’m not sure I feel the same way as other people.

When I say “I love you” what does that actually mean? Does it mean the same as when you say it? Does it mean the same as when that person over there says it? Does it mean the same when I say it to a friend and when I say it to my daughter, Jessica?

It’s certainly an overused word. We say we love objects, love pets, love friends, love children, love parents and love lovers. I’ve always thought only the last three really count, though some close friends would have to be included.

So where to start explaining what I mean when I say “I love you” to a child or a lover? Talking about emotions is hard. We both understand that the sky is a colour we agree is “blue” and that the body of the Australian flag is also “blue” even though a slightly different colour. When it comes to agreeing about what exactly the difference might be between ‘cross’ and ‘angry’ or ‘like’ and ‘love’ we will have a harder time.

So when I say ‘I love you’ to a lover, close friend or Jessica what is it I’m feeling? What am I saying?

First let’s agree that I have something outside my thoughts that can be described as ‘mood.’ That mood can vary in many ways but certainly has a line with ‘happy’ at one end and ‘sad’ at the other.

There are some people who lift my mood when I am with them. Within that group most would also have their mood lifted when I am around.

There is more. Some people would be sadder when I am sad, happier when I am happy; and I am happier when they are happy and sadder when they are sad. I’d call this “caring for me,” I, too, care for these people. Making them happier, through shared time, help or small gestures, makes me happy.

Yet more, there are a select few who make me happier just knowing they exist. I think of these people at random moments and my mood is lifted. Just knowing that at random moments in their life they also think of me makes me happier. I trust that they care for me and trust that they know I care for them.

So my definition of ‘love’ starts with caring and trust.

There is more. There is a different trust, a deeper trust. My mood, my happiness, is a fragile thing, like a blown glass figurine. I feel most of us are the same. The ones I love are the ones I trust to be tender, to be able to support and nurture that fragile figurine. I trust that they never intend to hurt me in word or deed. Sometimes they might say or do something that gives me a moment of pain, yet I trust that they never intended to cause even a split second.

I also strive to do the same. For those people I cherish I carry them softly in my open hands and never intend to hurt or offend. Though sometimes I am human, far from perfect. Just as sometimes those I love might hurt or offend me a little I sometimes do the same. Usually through my silly, crazy, sense of humour and the absurd. I will tease or say something and offend a little. I hope and trust that those I love know I never intend to hurt.

So there it is. Caring and trust and safety. That’s what, for me, love is.

So who are the select on my list? You only need to know of one person on the list.


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