On Monday I was feeling so lovey-dovey.  I think I was ovulating. Tuesday, not so much. Today? I’m really loving kettle corn. Love, it seems, is complicated.

I blame the Catholic Church.

I went to Mass this past Sunday (St. Vincent DePaul Church). I wasn’t really feeling up to it, but much like you have to do when you don’t feel like exercising, I made myself go. The homily, based on the Book of Luke, was on love. The message was essentially that we need to love one another. That Sunday, however, I was actively hating on people. Like the woman who wouldn’t let me get up and step outside the pew but insisted on crawling over me to get into the pew. Or the man behind me who decided to kneel and pray right into the back of my neck. I was not feeling the love, but it got me to thinking: Where is the love in my life?

Lately, it’s been coming up everywhere.

Love of Self
This past Friday night I was out on the town and a man, a photographer, presumably trying to get me to go out with him, started up conversation. He asked me why I didn’t like having my picture taken. I said, “Probably because growing up I rarely had my picture taken and it just isn’t anything that I am used to, blah, blah, blah.” I didn’t really say “blah, blah, blah.” I can’t remember now exactly what I said, but I sure remember his response.

He proceeded to tell me that the reason I didn’t like my picture being taken was because I didn’t love and accept myself. Mind you, this was a first meeting and we were in a bar. Really – not appropriate bar banter and not a way to this girl’s heart.

Still, I had to ask, do I love myself? Truth be told, I haven’t always been sure what that means. I have come to recognize that part of loving yourself is essentially having a sense of self worth. What is that? Respecting your feelings and wants enough to make them known and expect that they will be respected. To wit: setting boundaries.

So as luck would have it, the next morning, the universe posed the question directly to me. The universe’s messenger was a pocket-sized man who insisted on parking under a No Parking sign in my alleyway right outside my door. In fact, he does this often. Usually, I say nothing, feel pissed off, grumble to myself, and leave it at that. This Saturday morning, however, I loved myself enough to stick up for myself. So I told him that if he didn’t move his car I’d have it towed.

Oh sure, like a toddler, he squirmed at my wish – precisely because it wasn’t his wish, but by holding firm I got what I wanted and he moved his car. I was a little nervous after – would he come back and extract some sort of revenge? But eventually I relaxed into an ease I didn’t think I could feel. So do I love myself? Let’s just say, it’s getting easier and maybe that’s why I am starting to see more love in my life.

Love of Mankind
Like the love I feel for Umberto, the Italian man who has cut my hair for over 15 years. I am closer to him than my own father. He is the man who once swiveled me in his hair cutting chair to face the mirror, told me to look into it and said, “You have you and that’s all you will ever need.”

Or the love I feel for Eric. He’s my trainer. Eric challenges me not only physically, but also mentally. He’s helped me to open up as a person: to be myself when I’m pushing iron and feel really comfortable doing it; to stop when I’m tired; to complain when I need to, to laugh, to be proud. No matter my mood, emotion or reaction, he’s the man who gives me a big smile and says, “Don’t be weak!”

Umberto and Eric are two people who probably don’t even realize how much I love them and admittedly, I’m a bit shy about expressing it, but they are regular reminders that the world is full of love.

Love of Family
Which is especially comforting now that my 3 ½ year-old nephew is in it.

Saturday night I had a dinner date with my nephew. We played nerf guns, construction workers, and fire fighters. We paused only to eat a quick meal his mother made us. Then it was back to the skyscraper we were working on in his parent’s office. He was, of course, the foreman and I was his worker. He even made me wear a hard hat. He’s very concerned about workplace safety.

Then we went to his room and I read him two stories. After which he said, “Tia Licia, let’s cuddle and talk.” So I climbed into his big boy bed with him, he put his little face right up to mine and he said, “Let’s talk about dangerous things.” So we talked about knives, swords, fire, etc. He wants to be a transformer when he grows up. (Don’t we all?)

Finally, it was time to sleep so I gave him a big squeeze, told him that I loved him and then I proceeded to plant besitos all over his face. Tia Love. It’s like getting to be a grandparent when you’re in your thirties. I get to just love him up. And the sillier and more expansive my demonstrations of love right now, the better. He just consumes it and it is wonderful.

Love of Friends
It’s the kind of freeing love that I also feel for my dear friends, like my friend Beth.

On Monday, I was brought low by an article, that like the return of 80s shoulder pads, recycled the Let’s Scare Women over 30 About Marriage trend. 

Reading the article thoroughly depressed me. The author’s entire approach struck me as fear based and unfortunately, fear is contagious. She seems to be doing the inverse of what she cautions against. Her comment, don’t not go on a date with someone 5’7” is eerily similar to I only date someone who is 6’1”. Both statements are focused on the wrong thing. Where does love factor in?

I forwarded the article to Beth. She’s a very busy married woman with a toddler but she fired back an immediate response, steering me to another take on the topic that was decidedly more life affirming. 

My spirits were immediately lifted. She gave me hope – a more loving gesture, I cannot devise.

Love of a Man
What about romantic love, you ask? Well, I’m still working on that one. But in the meantime, I realize that love is all around me and it’s the various shapes, colors, and forms of it (okay sometimes even in kernels) that make my life whole. While it's complicated, this is simple: I love and am loved. And for that I thank God.