Give a person a word – home, charity, book, dog – and they will associate it with a hundred different meanings. The beautiful part is that this person can interpret a word completely different from the way you do. When we associate a word with anything other than its literal meaning, it is called ‘connotation’.
While you might associate ‘home’ with the house you grew up in with your parents, someone else might imagine home as being in the arms of their lover. And another person still may imagine a faraway country they have never been to. There are no right and wrong connotations.
So I decided to ask people, “What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘LOVE’?”
I got some pretty reasonable responses: trust, loyalty, commitment, happiness, bliss.
But then I got some answers that went along these lines: pain, suffering, loneliness, regret, sorrow, lost.
But for myself personally, I have an entirely different connotation when I associate that word with different periods in my life.
When I was younger, I thought love meant your mother’s embrace and your father’s laugh. I thought it meant crying when your little brother was in trouble because you felt his pain. I thought it meant crying for hours when your beloved dog was diagnosed with cancer. I thought it meant innocence.
I grew up and discovered a new meaning for love. It felt like new beginnings and unexplained butterflies. It felt like hope when you saw that cute boy from the grade ahead of you, even though he didn’t even know your name. It felt like aching in your chest and a longing in your heart. It was like the world spun a little quicker. Love meant insanity.
And then cruel reality struck and I entered into my first relationship. Love to me at that time meant sacrifice and hurt. It meant lying to try and calm the storm of anger directed at you. It meant that he told me he hated me only because he loved me so much. Love meant confusion.
Years later and I can no longer feel my heart fluttering in my chest during a first kiss because I know there will be a last one. I can’t bring myself to smile when someone calls me beautiful because part of me wonders how many others have heard those words from those lips. I deny love because I know what it is capable of; I’ve lived through it in all its glory and all its horror. Love to me now is foreign.
But I know that one day I will have a new meaning for the word. When I find someone who traces the lines on my hands and maps out the road of my future. Someone who invents constellations in my eyes and who listens to my heartbeat and tells me it matches his. Someone who reminds me about the raw kind of love I used to feel, but pairs it with the everlasting kind of love that only the luckiest of people find.
To me, love would then mean forever.