A good friend of mine recently broke up with his girlfriend. “The trouble with love,” he said, “is that it has so many different meanings.” And the trouble with that is that when someone says “I love you,” you interpret that according to your own definition. And the trouble with that, is that your own definition of the word is almost always entirely dependent on the degree to which you are experiencing love.

I think I take it for granted that when Levi and I say “I love you” to each other, we mean the same thing. Of course at the beginning of our relationship—three weeks in—when Levi started saying it to me, I dismissed it. “He uses the word differently than I,” I said. But as soon as I started falling in love, I assumed that the two of us used the word exactly the same way. Which is to say: it wasn’t until I was feeling love for him that I truly felt love from him.

It {love} can be a complicated thing. So complicated that at times, I want to dismiss it altogether, which of course, I can’t do for the very fact that I’m in it. Actually in it, like I’m in a swimming pool and I’ve plugged my nose and gone under. Still, at times I wonder if Levi and I have any idea how the other person actually feels, or if we just have a heightened sense of how we ourselves feel.

And yet, I’m convinced that when our love is at its best, we are feeling the same thing. This because when our love is at its best, I don’t think the emotion is something created from inside of us, so much as something given to us. 

I went to a reading last night by Nicole Kraus, author of a fantastic piece of fiction called The History of Love. She talked about her main character’s approach to loss and said that when the woman he was desperately in love with did not want him, he decided that even though she was the cause of his love, he was the source of it. With that, he decides to keep right on being in love with her. It’s the kind of story that makes you want to cry when you realize, at the end, that he spent an entire life in love with something that wasn’t real.

I’m beginning to think that as long as we ourselves are the source of the love we feel, we’re utilizing a lesser definition of the word. The most powerfully I’ve ever felt love was the minute Adelaide was born. My mother and sister warned me to enjoy the feeling that would come with the newborn, as it doesn’t last. “It literally feels like a piece of heaven is in your home,” Ann Marie said.

I thought we’d feel close to heaven with the birth of our daughter because of what the poet Wordsworth wrote, “Heaven lies about us in our infancy.” As it turns out, that was only partially it. I was overwhelmed to realize that we felt closer to heaven because our hearts expanded to allow a portion of Divinity in. “If we love one another,” John says, “God dwelleth in us.” In that moment, I’m sure Levi and I felt the same thing (i.e. we were using the word love the same way), because there could be no doubt about the source of the love.

To feel your heart swell with the most Godly of emotions is heaven indeed. My mother and sister were right; the feeling didn’t last in our home. Not because we stopped loving her, but because we got used to it. It’s one of my favorite things about love: as soon as you have it, there’s room for it. And another favorite thing: you don’t ever have to give it back. When you start to love someone new, you don’t have to subtract that love from anywhere else. You just get more of it.

It’s another reason I think it comes from God: there’s no earthly way for me to make enough of it.

At the outset, I’m sure my friend will read this, wonder how I could give myself permission to write about his heartache, and wonder even further how I thought it was a good idea to write about the magnificent wonder of love the very week he thought he lost it.

But I hope he’ll also read it this way: love is out there.