Love takes so many forms, but lately I've been particularly interested in the love of friendship, and that between lovers. So it was something of a surprise to me that last night at a dinner party I was side-tracked into thinking about family love. I was surrounded by women who were mothers, all talking about their experiences of childbirth and childrearing--and although they never used the word, they were all talking about motherlove.
One of the major choices I've made in my life is not to have children. I made this choice for many reasons. But the two things that were most influential would have to be my brother's long illness and death, and my writing.
I know it's an old metaphor, but in many ways my stories are my children. They fill that same space in my life that children would have filled. They take up most of my energy and worry and thought. I send them out into the world to have their own lives in other people's hearts.
But they are strange children. Or perhaps the metaphor is just too weak to really explain their place in my life. Because unlike real children, my stories gain most of their power from the people who read them. Real children are complete unto themselves. But until I send my stories out into the world they aren't complete.
I feel passionately about my stories, but my stories have shorter lives than real children. After a certain amount of time, they die. I no longer experience them as something that I need to make real. They just become artifacts.
Anyway, all those mothers so passionately involved in motherlove made me wonder in what other ways my love for my stories was different. And if it was a weaker, or lesser love than the one they felt. Perhaps the two strangest aspects of having stories for children are narcissism and the lack of heirs.
Writing is such an inward looking thing. And for a while now I've been worried about the negative aspects of that. I mean, we all know what happened to poor Narcissus when he became too enamoured of himself. But last night I had this wonderful conversation, and the woman I was speaking to pointed out that my experience with my readers (that's all of you :) made my writing a dialogue rather than a monologue. That struck such a chord with me--it's exactly what I was trying to get at in my rant about intimacy. Because the dialogue we have on LJ makes the self-reflection needed for writing much less self-indulgent; it removes so many of the negative aspects of Narcissism. Mainstream publishing, unless you're a very successful writer, tends to be much more of a Narcissistic monologue because you never get to have a conversation with your readers. No wonder writers like Neil Gaimen and William Gibson have embraced the whole blogging meme.
I'm still hestitant about some of the parallels between motherlove and writing though, even when the writing is less narcissistic and more about bringing joy to others. There is still something, at its core, that is selfish about writing. I think that I can live with that, but I feel very strongly that's it's something to be vigilant about. I don't want to become so absorbed in my own creations that I don't connect with other people in any way other than through my writing.
The lack of heirs
It's a strange thought that when I'm old (assuming I live that long), the only direct blood relative in my life will be my brother. I think children make age less lonely, and I wonder what comfort my strange children will bring me.
I mean, can stories bring me love from real people? Can they bring me help, and confort, and a casserole if I'm too sick to cook? Or will I be lonely?
Even with this vague discomfort at the back of my mind, I can't regret my choice. After all, it isn't yet too late for me to change my mind, and I really don't want to.
Different types of love
A friend and I recently started to talk about how many people we'd been in love with, and how it was different from other types of love, and whether we'd been loved back, and what it was like not to be loved back.
My friend said that after re-reading W.H. Auden's wonderful poem "O Tell me the Truth About Love" she'd had a radical re-think about love. She'd always thought the poem was a kind of funny nonsense poem, and now she thinks that it actually has quite a serious point.
So, of course, I went and read the poem. And she's right. It's an amazing desription of the confusion and the sense memories that are associated with the different types of love. Go and read it. You'll see what I mean: "O Tell Me the Truth About Love".
Isn't it amazing? Some of those images crop up in fiction about the nostalgia of childhood, when we love our parents so passionately. In fact, I just posted a story like that yesterday, "The Handyman". Some of the images are about passionate love between lovers. Some are of friendship or of sibling love. It's such a wonderful jumble.
Love just fascinates me, in case you couldn't guess. Thinking about it now, I've come to the conclusion that my stories are often about the ways in which love forms and dies and the ways that we respond to it.
Anyway, I've rambled on enough now. But I'm curious to hear your thoughts on love, if you'd like to share.
And because this post has been all about love, the icon I've chosen is for my own favourite lovers, and was made for me by sweet sarren.