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The Burden of Love

Monday, May 27, 2013
Love can hurt, as we all know. But not having someone to love can hurt, too. I think this one of the similarities between being Single and being childless by not-choice.

Of course, it's more complicated for Singles. Our world seems to be absolutely obsessed with pair-bonding, or a very least with the power to attract the opposite sex. The more admirers you have, the better. The more deeply and sincerely they care about you, the better. There's an amazing scene in Fellini's 8 1/2 where the hero imagines all the women he ever admired in his life living in his childhood home, telling him he is wonderful and kicking and screaming rather than be expelled from his god-like presence. The female version of this is Scarlet O'Hara in the party scene in Gone With the Wind. Of course, not even Scarlet can make all the men fall in love with her for, annoyingly, Ashley likes good little Melanie better.

Since the world has always told women that we can find our ultimate value in the eyes of good men who love us, it can hurt like absolute hell to be Single. We have to remind ourselves again and again that we find our ultimate value not in the love of human men but in the love of God. Mother Teresa was never a looker, not even when she was young. Do you think she cared? No. But when Elinor Roosevelt, who was as famous and almost as beloved a celebrity, was asked if she had any regrets about her life, she apparently said, "Just one. I wish I had been prettier."

Well, no wonder, poor lamb. Her husband cheated on her like crazy.

So on top of wanting someone to love, there is a terrible need to feel loved, and if we listen to the world and its obsession with sexual attraction, we don't think the love of God, the love of family and the love of friends are enough. In fact, the love of God, the love of family and the love of friends can seem like a hollow mockery when we don't have what the world says is the ultimate love: sexual love. Many women even hold the love of their dependent children as nothing compared to the love of a man, as is quite obvious from the women who consent to live with nasty bruisers who are a danger to their children or grandchildren.

Happily married women do not feel starved of love. But we can feel frustrated love anyway, if we do not have enough people to love. Most happily married women have a baby or more, and that does the trick, although I have come across mommy bloggers who are sad because they even though they have had their eighth baby, they would like another, and Baby Nine hasn't made an appearance.

It's interesting, this hunger to love. I am sure Single women have this, too, for I know Single women who throw themselves into service and are never happier when they are doing something for someone else, expecting nothing more than thanks. And sometimes just having the opportunity to express love is sufficient thanks because not being able to do so is such an intolerable burden.

I felt quit frustrated during my Ph.D. years when I couldn't find a way to serve others that did not conflict with going to my favourite Mass. That's why this blog exists. And I think it is a good solution. Do-gooding is only a problem when it makes others feel oppressed.

And that is the terrible thing about the burden of unexpressed love: it can make others feel oppressed, as you might if a besotted auntie kept knitting you ugly jumpers that she expected you to wear. Poor you, and poor auntie, trying to unburden her heart by way of wool. Germaine Greer writes about this in The Whole Woman, and although I am not a Germaine Greer fan, I was deeply struck by her thoughts in this book.

What is the solution? I have more ideas about fighting the inordinate need to be loved than I do about about fighting the inordinate need to love. I suppose on a spiritual level, the solution to one is the solution to the other: to pray to God for remove the inordinate feeling, every hour on the hour, if necessary. There is volunteer work, if your work is so badly needed that you know you are making a difference. And after that, there are, of course, pets.

Dog people know they are loved by their dogs. Cat people do not know they are loved by their cats. I will go out on a limb and suggest that cat people have a greater need to love than to be loved. Ditto rabbit people, I imagine. The human instinct to have pets suggests that human beings will love any order of creature rather than to have nothing or no one to love at all.

Sadly, my domestic circumstances are such that I cannot have any animal pet. I accept that: it's the price of living in the Historical House, which I dearly love to do. But having grown up in a home that was packed to the rafters with relations (and the occasional cat), I feel extremely frustrated in my maternal instincts.  So I have bought a basil plant.

This is a big step for me because I have always have a brown thumb and terrible luck with plants. But this time I am taking the survival of my basil plant alive as a challenge. I realize that this sounds extremely pathetic, but a basil plant is better than nothing. Also, unlike a cat or dog, a basil plant is very useful in that I can use some of it for seasoning meals and it doesn't mind at all.

Well, sound off in the combox.