“I don't do romance,” I stated early on to Michael, when we were just getting to know each other. Something he mildly, with a bit of a jest, reminds me of on a regular basis.
So, I'll admit, I softened up a bit on the “not doing romance” over the years. Romance can be a neat thing, if done right. I think that what I really meant, is that I have little faith in the classic, western world idea about romance. After all, the most well-known story about romance we have, is about two overly tensed teenagers who die at the end. Which is telling. Western culture overall, seems to have a very vague notion of what romance means, and especially what it's supposed to lead to – love. There's usually a sunset, a marriage, or death, and not much else.
The idea of romance, and its correlation to love, as described in the western world, is seldom enlightening. The idea of love, it seems, is often confused with egocentric, overcharged longings and desires. Love, if separated from these childish notions, must be something grander, obviously. But what is it?
One of my favorite books on the subject matter is written by activist and feminist Bell Hooks, namely All About Love: New Visions, published 2001. In it Hooks makes the case that the idea of love is so confused in the western world, and so inter-meshed with power-structures, that it can include totally inappropriate behaviors, such as control and abuse, which can't possibly have anything to do with the concept of love per se. We would be better off, means Hooks, if we thought of love less as a feeling, and more as action, less as a noun, and more as a verb.
One of my favorite descriptions of love is made by M. Scott Peck in his book The Road Less Traveled, first published in 1978. He defines love as: “... the will to extend one's self for the sake of nurturing one's self, or another person's, spiritual growth.”
Thus, if we embrace this notion, it means we have to put aside our carefully crafted plans of what we want someone to be for us, and instead concentrate on what they want to be for themselves. At the same time, we have to surround ourselves with people who want to nurture our spiritual growth. That is, who want to help us become as much as we can be.
Somewhere in the tension between the nurturing of other people's growth, and our own growth, is where the great adventure begins. Somewhere in the space of mutual support there is room for love. For me.
To see people you love take on the world, and grow and prosper, to celebrate their victories, and hold them close, body and soul, when they struggle … could there be anything more satisfying in the world? Not for me. And I'm a rich woman, having people in my life that do the same for me.
Perhaps, one of these cold February days, I’ll even buy some oysters, pop that champagne, and play Aretha Franklin's “Natural Woman” on repeat. Because romance, if done right, can be a great way to show your appreciation for that one person who shares all your victories, and all your defeats, every day, and every night.
From Your Editors - February issue of The Echo World
By Sofia Karin Axelsson
Photographs: top and middle - courtesy Pixabay. Bottom - Sofia Karin Axelsson, coverpic for The Echo World, from ceremony at Rachel Mann PhD.