The Call

by | May 8, 2023 | Mysterious Musings

Love can be reborn each day.
But we are the ones who have to give birth to it.

Have you ever given birth?
It is an act that consists of a strange mix of active participation and total surrender.

Giving birth is excruciating. It rips you open. And it always results in blood.
But it is also the most natural thing in the world.

None of us would be here without it.

 

These words came to me while I was visiting my parents house a few weeks back. It was the house I grew up in, the house I lived as a curious child and an turbulent teenager, and the house where I spent the first months together with my own newborn child. But I will get back to motherhood at a later time – I am not yet done with my teenage memories and will continue on that path for a little while still.

When I was seventeen years old I made the choice to love another person, in a way I had not done before – in a way that was answered. In a shared love. I say choice, but there is something about that wording that doesn’t ring true to me. More than a choice, I think it is a call. Or a calling. Being called to love. Hearing the Call and answering it. Perhaps that is the essence of the choice to love: choosing to answer the call.

What does it mean to make a choice like that? What led to me choosing to answer the call, instead of turning away from it? And how does one live a life where you keep making that choice?

Even though I made that choice, it didn’t mean that I was actually able to carry it through fully, at least not at seventeen. I was only starting to learn to love. Well, to be honest, I still am. And will be, probably for the rest of my life.

I guess you could call love the ultimate practice of learning by doing.

When I was in my early twenties, my mother gave me a book by Peter Lauster titled Rakkauden myytit (though originally written in german, I read the book in finnish. In english the title would be translated to “The Myths of Love”.) I was equally fascinated and confused by a concept presented in the book: that you can’t chain love. Love is one of those mysteries that is built on a kind of paradox: It is most fully manifested through your activity, of loving, but it is an activity to be carried out in a gentle manner. If you are seeking to control love, you lose it. You cannot force love, since the act of forcing is not in accordance with the very nature of love and will only cause to scare it away.

Only by letting it flow freely can it flow in your life. But this flow still requires your active participation. It needs you to answer the call through activity. The notion of love as an act is nothing new, but it is a message worth repeating so I will do my share here. In his book, The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm writes:

 

“One attitude, indispensable for the practice of the art of loving, which thus far has been mentioned only implicitly should be discussed explicitly since it is the basic for the practice of love: activity. I have said before that by activity is not meant “doing something,” but an inner activity, the productive use of ones powers.”

 

As Fromm writes, the practice of loving is more of an inner activity, a productive use of ones energy. The action of loving does not have to take the form of any grand gestures (though it can). I see it more as action based on sense of awareness, so that you can direct the energy of love outwards and make it available to the world. In the end, what matters is the approach, and the choice to engage. This approach to love is wonderfully succinctly described by Bell Hooks in her book All About Love:

 

“The word ‘love’ is most often defined as a noun, yet we would all love better if we used it as a verb.”

 

My first shared experience of love was not what I expected that it would be. At first, I did not accept it. I turned my back and tried to ignore its existence. I spent half a year actually ignoring the person that I loved, since I could not face the emotions that they brought up in me. I remember that at the time I felt trapped in a hopeless situation where I was at the risk of losing not only my friends or my reputation but my whole identity and sense of self, which, at 17, was not on the most stable ground to begin with. Such was the state of my conditioning, that it was a struggle to open up to loving this person, just because they were of the same gender as me.

I had thought of myself as an open-minded person, but being hit by the matter so directly and personally forced my unconscious fears and judgments out into the light. Looking back on those times, I notice a bitter taste at the back of my throat. I am still ashamed for how coldly I treated the person I most loved, and I am still awed by their capacity to love: They still accepted me, and received me open-armed, when I was finally able to answer the call.

I have only recently noticed that there are sides of me playing out the dynamics of that first blueprint of a relationship in my later relationships as well. I am still carrying a sense of guilt, a feeling that I need to prove my worth to be deserving of love. Deep within me, I feel undeserving of receiving love, since I treated the first person that I loved so coldly at the start. It is as though my mind easily gets stuck in that mode of guilt, focusing on the dark parts and ignoring all the love we shared after that initial struggle, and all the love in all other forms that are a part of my life today. That sense of guilt still affects me and my relationships to this day. I notice instances of self-sabotage where I can delve deeply into destructive beliefs: that I am unable to love, that in the end I’m just going just destroy what I love and should leave everyone alone since I am only going to hurt them, the way that I hurt my first love.

Collage consisting of photographs taken by my seventeen-year-old self, placed in layers bleeding into each other: a human hand is caressing green grass, with its shadow leaning over the grass, on a layer of a dark forest scene, and behind that, the light of the moon shining through the trees.

But isolating myself and “leaving everyone alone” would be a terrible loss, both to myself and the world, as I know there is a lot of love to give, through my lifetime, through my existence, through my awareness and active participation in this life. I am grateful to my first love for giving me the incredible gift of forgiveness and showing me that there can exist love and forgiveness even after going through a painful beginning. And I am grateful to the seventeen-year-old version of me, for opening up to the experience, for doing my best in the midst of all that emotional turmoil. Love was being born in me, and however beautiful, it was also a painful process. And more than judging myself for my shortcomings I want to celebrate that I did answer that call. I did open up in the end, and I did have an experience of a first love, where I did practice loving to the best of my ability. I do not think that I could have acted in another way at seventeen, being in a situation where I felt myself being torn open and my identity shredded into an entirely new shape. Into a person that could love another, simply because I loved them, and thus overthrowing the conditioning within me that stated we were somehow wrong together, because of the bodies we were born into.

There was nothing wrong, and there never is, when it is love.

 

This is an excerpt of a post published on Minnamari’s newsletter/ publication Mysterious Musings on the Substack-platform. If you want to read the post in its entirety, visit Mysterious Musings on Substack.