“You think attention is love and that is why you suffer so deeply.”
My mindless Instagram scrolling suddenly comes to a screeching halt when these words pop up on my screen. When I read them again, I inhale them deeply and a bowling ball sinks in my stomach.
In five days, my boyfriend’s six year old son, who normally resides in Georgia with his mother, will be flying up to spend the summer here in New York. Part of me is excited; over the last two years, he and I have developed our own special relationship. He’s a brilliant child and I love watching him unfold into himself– a creative, witty, and caring person, which never ceases to amaze me when I remember his age.
And yet, as the multifaceted human beings that we are, there is always room for a pesky contradiction: Despite my excitement, some deep-seated part of me tightens in apprehension at the thought of his son’s arrival, knowing very well that while he’s here, I inherently sacrifice attention from my lover. There will be minimal PDA, less days in the week I am actually able to see him, and large gaps of time between moments of intimacy. Thinking about this makes a primal part of me hold on a little tighter. In a way, it feels like I’m losing my boyfriend.
I too have been suffering recently from mistaking attention for love. Fear is such a funny thing. It blinds us and hinders our ability to experience love in its purest and most infinite nature. My subconscious fears and what they tell me (“He’s going to leave,” “He won’t come back”) are real, but they’re not true. They come from a very real place of childhood abandonment and deserve to be treated gently and with compassion. At the same time, however, they’re not an accurate indicator of what is actually happening in present day life.
Attention is an important part of any relationship, but when it comes to love, attention is just one small piece to the puzzle. There are so many other things love is: Patience is love. Kindness is love. Gratitude is love. Consideration is love. Encouragement is love. Respect is love. And most of all, love just is. It is here and now. It’s all around us in this very moment, beating from its source, and that source is ourselves.
With all of the layers of love that I share with my partner, I will welcome the next two months as a sacred kind of teacher–the one who will continuously remind me that giving my boyfriend and his son some space to enjoy each other is actually an act of love; that appreciating our situation for exactly what is, is actually an act of love; that in loving bigger and loosening my grip, love isn’t lost.