CONDITIONAL LOVE

It seems like a good day to talk about family. Everyone has family struggles in their life. Bad parents. Bad children. Bad siblings. None of the above…the absence of family is still a family struggle, right? But we often don’t talk about how important family is to the general scheme of our lives. Which is perhaps because we take them more for granted than we should. I certainly do.

Then again, family can really be a difficult thing to understand. People love to throw around the term “unconditional love,” which I don’t really understand. I mean, I love my family—both my immediate family and the vast majority of my extended family. But I don’t think I could call love unconditional. I mean, people often say “I love you unconditionally” to their spouse, but if they caught that spouse out with three hookers for a week long cocaine binge, they probably wouldn’t find it in their heart to continue loving them. Maybe. But probably not.

Likewise, family has a similar conundrum, right? We all have that one sibling that gets on our nerves (if we have siblings), but that doesn’t mean we have to cast them out, right? But at what point is the breaking point?

Let’s say they turn their back on everything their family stands for. Like a man from a Jewish family renouncing his faith and joining the Neo-Nazi party. Is that far enough? If love were unconditional, no. How about being betrayed by someone because that person was so desperate in their life, they decided it was worth punishing their family as some sort of…extended blame for their own problems? How about then?

What if a family member goes insane and starts murdering people without justification or anything? As loosely defined as it is, these technically fall under “conditional love.” Not murdering people seems like a pretty reasonable condition to me. But like…not loving someone because they didn’t share their milkshake with you would not be quite so reasonable.

Which leaves me curious about why we choose to use words like “unconditional love” when discussing our relationship to our family. I mean, it might have to do with the hyperbolic nature of human kind, and that’s perfectly plausible…but it is not that entertaining. I think it might have to do with the fickleness of love in the first place. Love, like all emotions, is not entirely sustainable. It ebbs and flows. Think about it. If every minute of every day you were desperately in love with someone, you’d probably kill yourself. Just like if you were constantly enraged with everyone. Or, if not, you might grow bored of them. Pizza is great, but eating the same pizza every day can grow a bit stale. Maybe it takes a week, maybe it takes a month. Maybe it even takes twenty years.

But we don’t eat pizza every day. We have other things. And like with food, we experience other emotions. And those other emotions impact the ones we currently feel. One might say they love you unconditionally, and mean it at that moment. But over time, that love fades and becomes conditional, simply because that’s how emotions work, no? Does that make sense? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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THE HILL

I used to sit out and look at the stars.

They’d twinkle in the infinite darkness

Like the embers of my father’s cigars.

He used to sit with me—he loved to jest

About how each star was like a woman

Whom he had been with. He’d laugh through his beard,

‘Til the cough took hold. He’d call for his pan—

A small bucket that he had pioneered

To both carry and clean river water—

And I would run down the hill to get it.

I’d run past the house of Nat, his daughter,

Who’d sometimes come over to babysit.

Steve, her husband, would often visit dad

Dressed in a white coat. He’d never stay long.

But after, dad didn’t cough quite as bad.

Some nights he would even sing us a song.

But those glorious days are all but gone

‘Cause ma told me his heart went out at dawn.

——

 

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HOT CHOCOLATE AND STORMS

Close your eyes and open your mind

Never forget that you’re one of a kind

 

That’s what mama used to tell me

On rainy days, while we watched TV.

I’d ask her why one guy would say a phrase

That put their enemies into a daze.

 

And she’d tell me to figure it out

Otherwise all the questions I spout

Would cause a storm, like the one outside

And I shouldn’t expect the world to provide.

 

I’d sit in wonder and sip my hot chocolate

And my consciousness would move off it.

But deep down my mind would be turning

To find the answer for which I’d been yearning.

 

And my mind would spin ’til I was dizzy

And I’d worked myself all up into a tizzy.

Then I’d pass out for a minute or two

Seduced to sleep by the warmth of the brew

 

And in my dreams I’d be lucky to find

An answer that was indeed one of a kind.

 

And from that message I’ve brought this to you

A reminder that if, to yourself, you stay true

The storms outside won’t be quite so scary

And a night by the fire will make you more merry.

——

 

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PEPPERMINT NOSTALGIA (AND OTHER HAIKUS)

Snowflakes

The icy snowflakes

Fall like a flower’s petals;

Bring winter to life

 

The Monster

The monster is here

To reign terror over us.

I can’t control it.

 

Taste of Pain

You cannot tell me

What I should do with my life

’til you taste my pain.

 

Bittersweet

She tastes like honey

And she can move like sugar,

But, boy, does she bite.

 

Peppermint Nostalgia

I smell peppermint.

It reminds me of my home

In between the rain.