Liberating Love

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone;
It has to be made, like bread;
Remade all the time, made new.”
  • Ursula K Le Guin
You may be wondering if all the love gets eaten up over the course of a day or two or three, how do you make a new loaf? The recipe is in Love 2.0, Barbara Frederickson’s book on the science of love. It starts with attention. Simple attention.  Then there’s eye contact, real eye contact. And then comes a “mutuality of understanding.” This “mutuality of understanding” means something clicked, something connected between the two of you. When you feel that zing of common energy passing between you and the other person, you know you just made some bread.
Frederickson calls that connection a moment of “positive resonance.” Love, in other words, is a moment of positive resonance. It’s not a lifetime of positive resonance; it’s a moment. That lifelong thing we have pledged to our partners and hold for our children and other loved ones is a bond, a commitment inspired by love. But the love itself…that is something that gets created in the moment. And then it passes. We create it again. And then it passes. Love is there and then it’s not. What’s more, it’s not just getting created between loved ones; it’s what we are exchanging when we have a moment of positive resonance with that person we sat next to on the plane. This, too, is love according to Frederickson.
Liberating love in this way explains why it can feel so oddly wonderful and heart expanding to share a laugh with someone you may never see again. This is both beautiful and unnerving…beautiful for how much bigger our circle of “loved ones” gets on any given day; unnerving for the active responsibility it puts on us to keep love alive with those we value having relationships with.
Yes, it is most definitely unnerving to think of love running out. But on the other hand -- perhaps especially in relationships that feel fragile – it can be reassuring because it isn’t actually such a big lift to aim for a simple moment of connection. After all, to cook up a new loaf of love, it just takes a few moments of full attention. Some eye contact. And the openness to allow for some mutuality of understanding to pass between the two of you. You’ll know you connected when your heart lifts.
The holiday season is all about lifting hearts. But there can also be a lot of spending, a lot of food and a lot of pressure to create picture-perfect holiday cards and memories. It’s a lot to hold up. While there is a lot of fun and yum in all of that, maybe it doesn’t have to be quite so all-consuming if we know that the love we are really after is made of much simpler stuff.
To positive resonance, to the mutuality of understanding, to the click of connection and to love,