Dear Dee,

How do I know if I’m in love?

– Lost Louie

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Dear Lost Louie,

Love. Just think about that word for a minute. Ignore what you are reading and just let your mind flow. What does love mean to you? Do you even know? (I know you’re unsure “Louie,” but this is meant for reflection for the other readers.) Can you picture anything in your mind? If you can picture something, how can you truly know if it’s love or not? You’re in high school (“Louie” is at least). That means you’re young, inexperienced, immature, and experiencing new things all with raging hormones.

That means differentiating true love from other feelings that just resemble it can be nearly impossible. Even if you’re not in high school, it’s still hard to know for sure.

This is my favorite question so far. It’s intriguing, unique, and most of all, challenging. Given the type of love you speak of (or at least my interpretation of what you speak of, romantic love), I have to think about what it means. Hard. And I mean really dwell on it; not just let it cross my mind for a second. I mean really think about it.

The reason I must think so hard is because, simply, I don’t know. The closest thing I’ve felt to this kind of love is something that falls short, or at least is something that I hope falls short. What I felt was a notably strong feeling, probably stronger than any I’ve ever felt for this specific category of love. However, after discovering this feeling was not mutual, it was easy to move on and shut it out of my mind. It didn’t intensely upset me.

I didn’t think about the situation very often, and that makes what I was feeling a feeling that was very short-lived. It went away easily. Therefore, it wasn’t a very intense feeling, nor very influencing on me, nor very mesmerizing. It was weak. It was shallow, not as deep as it should be. That’s why I think– no, know– that it wasn’t true love.

When I look back on my feelings for this person, I sometimes question why I even had them. True love can’t be like this. If you look back with question or with disdain toward the person, you couldn’t have felt true love. If true love were this way, where such “strong” feelings could be whisked away like a leaf in the breeze and drift high over the mountains through the cool air to softly and quickly dissipate, I would not have words for how pathetic the range of human emotion would be and for how saddened I would feel.

True love has to be, or better be, something more. It needs to be something more and should be something more.

Love should be something that does not go away, that does not weaken, fade, nor shatter. Love takes time. Love has to develop. Love has to be shared; it must be mutual. One does not feel true love if they are alone in their feelings for the other because true love requires a deep and intimate bond. Love takes a lifetime. It is always faced with new, unexpected challenges. It is dynamic. True love slowly blossoms out of an initially strong attraction; but, this love, this beautifully complex flower, is very slow and very meek to bud.

This flower is a rare breed. It is hard to find, but no doubt beautiful to the eye. The roots of perfection and insanity come together underneath the soil to sprout the most hideous plant you’ve ever had the displeasure to gaze upon. However, you know somewhere deep down that the flower this plant blooms is sheer beauty. One glance and your heart melts, your eyes water, and your stomach churns.

If you want to see and experience that flower, though, you have to deal with the repulsive plant from which it blooms. You have to put forth time, commitment, effort, energy, and most of all, care.

That, I believe, is the most important aspect of love: overcoming all of the problems and all the challenges that love imposes in a partnership, and not losing sight of what truly matters.

The flower of love is a cacophony of the brightest, most attractive colors, swirled into the most breathtaking patterns imaginable. But the plant from which it comes is stale brown, poisonous and armed with thorns. Love is beautiful, joyful, and pure ecstasy. But it is also ugly, saddening, and heartbreaking. Love is time well spent together. But it is also a struggle. Love is staring longingly into each other’s eyes and sharing the warmth of a smile.

But it is also seeing those same eyes and that same smile lie to you, become upset with you, become angry with and yell at you. Love is sharing beautiful moments, such as holding hands on a walk, getting close together while watching a movie, or opening up and talking deeply for hours. But it is also becoming annoyed with any and everything the other says and dealing with misunderstanding, arguments, isolation, and regret.

Love is yin and yang, give and take, stop and go, and I’ll throw in “walk and run” just for good measure. (All right that’s enough opposites.) Love is like a vision, but it’s safe to say that it’s the vision of someone with poor eyesight, at least when they don’t have their glasses on or contacts in. It’s blurry, is what I mean.

True love is ultimately a feeling that starts when two people together make the other feel things they’ve never felt before, and what that feeling is exactly depends on the person. After that initiator, love never stops evolving. It is a lifelong feeling and a lifelong endeavor that must be approached with both caution and the mentality of “full speed ahead.”

Seriously everything about love is an oxymoron. It’s an infinite weave of tightly wound possibilities that are the opposite of each other; therefore it’s infinitely complex and interesting, but good golly Miss Molly is it ever tiresome.

The joys of love are nice, but the negatives are stronger. You can call me cynical, but this is just an observation based on human behavior and psychology.

Remembering negative things over positive things is what we do because of how we feel negativity and how we experience it. The pain of negativity leaves a much bigger trace than the joy of positivity. The smallest joy brings a slight smile to once face, and is forgotten soon; but the smallest emotional pain still leaves a lasting wound that takes time to heal, and every now and then still opens up.

True love is getting through the negativities. It’s about closing up the other’s wounds after you wielded the instrument that caused them. Even if you don’t understand how the wounds cut them so deeply, you have to realize that their wounds are there and you have to heal them. It’s about sewing up your own wounds and getting over them if your partner’s are deeper than yours. Sometimes there’s a knife in the room and there’s no way someone’s not gonna get sliced. So love is also about picking up that knife and turning it on yourself.

Love is about indulging in the joys you share with each other, but more importantly, it’s about getting past the pains that either the individual or both feel. If you can dwell on the positives, and get past the negatives, no matter how devastating, and still take a deep breath, feeling the love of your partner deeply fill your lungs, then exhale and still see love wafting around, forever becoming a part of the air, then you will see the beautiful flower that blooms from that hideous plant. Love is patient, love is kind and caring, love is forgiving, but most of all, love overcomes and dominates the demons that try to slander it.

I wish you peace and I wish you luck on your loving journey.