Halfway Through A Year Of Fearless Love

It’s July, and I’m officially more than halfway through my year of loving fearlessly. A list is in order!

Things the Love Project has taught me so far…

  1. Love is everywhere. Hate is too. And cynicism, and prejudice, and greed, and cruelty. It’s all out there. In the gigantic, messy spectrum of human experience, ugliness is as easy to find as beauty; rudeness and intolerance as prevalent as kindness and generosity. So maybe the best thing we can do, for ourselves and the world, is make sure our own actions tip the scale toward love.
  2. Love doesn’t happen to us, it happens because of us, because of who we are and what we do. It happens because we make it happen, because we choose it. On any given day, we have the opportunity again and again to choose isolation, withdrawal, anger, fear… or love. Love is untidy. It’s unpredictable. It’s often inconvenient and occasionally terrifying. Love happens, I’m convinced, when we are magnificent and badass enough to make it happen.
  3. The smallest gestures count. At the start of this project, I had an image in my head of a hippie girl plopping flowers into the barrel of a soldier’s gun. I wrestled with the futility of that, with the idea that my love project could be easily dismissed, seen as idealistic at best and frivolous at worst.  But there is power in our efforts at connection. I’ve received the most beautiful comments, messages and emails telling me that it’s not just hearts and minds we’re changing, it’s lives.
  4. Self-love maybe the hardest love of all, but it is the most necessary. I am absolutely, totally, 100 percent convinced that your ability to love others is directly proportional to your ability to love yourself, and no matter how you justify it, selfless love is lesser love. When your well is full, you’re more generous, more open, less full of expectation, less clingy. If I doubted this truth before the Love Project, I don’t now. Love yourself… all else follows that.
  5. Hugs are magical. No doubt about it.
  6. Everybody needs love. Even the cynics. Especially the cynics.
  7. Acting on your most generous, loving impulses, makes you feel generous and loving. It’s freaky.
  8. Sometimes choosing love means choosing to stay – through one more day, one more difficult conversation, one more heartbreak. Other times, it means letting go. Sometimes walking away is the most generous, loving thing we can do.
  9. Heartbreaks are the inevitable downside of living a love-filled life, but they are also the proof that we’re doing it right, that we’re staying open – to experience, to joy, to surprise, to expansion – risking our hearts, daring to leap. Truly living.
  10. Love is GORGEOUS. Don’t believe me? Look. And making a conscious effort to capture that beauty (with your camera if you have it, and with your heart either way) will change how you see the world. I guarantee it.

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28 Responses to Halfway Through A Year Of Fearless Love

  1. Estrella Azul July 5, 2011 at 4:03 am #

    A list is always in order, for anything (right?).
    The Love Project has taught me so much as well, and I really enjoyed reading your list.
    #8 had me all teared up. I think letting go is a repetitive process. Just when we think we have fully let go, we need to start all over again – because you’re right, sometimes walking away is the most generous, loving thing we can do.

    • j July 5, 2011 at 10:22 am #

      Yes, around these parts, a list is always in order, partner. ;-) #8 is a tough one. Even in my own thinking, I sometimes find myself trying to apply rules. If love means giving, and staying in the uncomfortable moment, and loving even when it hurts (all things I believe), then how can I walk away? But love isn’t like that; it’s dynamic and complicated and dangerous and beautiful and healing… how can anything so precious and alive be confined to a single set of do’s and don’ts.

      I think love is about staying in when it would be easier to get out… to a point. But as soon as a relationship begins to make you feel small (or trapped, or crazy, or like you’re auditioning for love), then walking away – out of love for yourself and quite possibly love for the other person – may be the absolute most right thing you can do.

      Question any love that makes you feel lesser.

  2. casoly July 5, 2011 at 6:28 am #

    Love this J! “Love doesn’t happen to us, it happens because of us, because of who we are and what we do.” Perfect. As are the other 9 things on your list. I believe your Love Project has made me smile and think so much since you started it. It (and you) remind me that love is a courageous act, not a weakness but a strength. You my dear friend are a strong and courageous person (it must be why you have the cape) ;o) xox

    • j July 5, 2011 at 10:24 am #

      Smiling and thinking is good! And I like your take. I have the cape because I’m strong and courageous (versus being strong and courageous because of the cape). #superherowink xoxo

  3. kaleighsomers July 5, 2011 at 7:05 am #

    J, Did you see Hannah Katy’s video update last night on the love letters? She said something about how there’s so many different manifestations of a love letter, besides just the written kind. I feel like this project is a whole series of different love letter forms.

    • j July 5, 2011 at 10:26 am #

      I haven’t. I’m remiss in my blog hopping. I’ll get over there today.

      October is our month of love letters. I think Hannah is right (as usual). There are many ways to “write” a love letter. I think we should be on a quest to master them all.

  4. Anna July 5, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    Well said!

    • j July 5, 2011 at 10:28 am #

      Thank you! (And, hey, you have a blog! Yay!)

  5. lunaJune July 5, 2011 at 7:47 am #

    Awesome list… so full of truth…
    what resonates for me is the love yourself…because if you don’t.. who will ?
    I am forever grateful to Love…it constantly jumps out and says… Look at me… smell me… feel me.. touch me… be me…..with every sense…be connected to life with love.
    I for grateful for the lessons I learned…and remembering those words from childhood.. ‘ sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me ” and I held that close to my heart..and through all the bullying I walked through… I held not anyone else’s belief… just mine…stubborn I was… willful… busy dreaming all the time… it is only now I see that something deep inside me way back then stood up for myself.. within myself.
    What you focus on is what you see… way back then I learned to let things go
    didn’t always take my own advise where my heart was concerned LOL
    but it is truth…
    Life is a mirror…and if you look with love you will see love everywhere
    if you look with suspicion or hatred or anger or fear that too is what you will see…. and the best gift of all…. free will

    I am the captain of my soul….I choose to live in a world of love…so thank you for inspiring…and offering…and asking…and loving in your fearless way

    feel it… see it…. be it

    LOVE RULES

    • j July 5, 2011 at 10:41 am #

      I love your observation that what you look for in the world, you will see. I think that’s right. Someone I love recently wrote a post in which he wonders if artists are less likely to be able to pretty up their world view (my words not his) to make themselves feel better, and so maybe they wrestle melancholy more than the average person. I wonder that too.

      When I wrote in this post that ugliness is as prevalent in the world as beauty, hate as easily visible as love, I meant it. It isn’t kidding yourself to focus on love. I tend to write stories about grief, loss and loneliness, but they are also stories of hope, stories in which beauty blooms in the midst of ugly. Because I believe that happens all the time.

      We are powerful beings, and as you point out, what we look for in the world, we will find.

  6. Lucy Pollard-Gott July 5, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    A very fearless summary list! Full of love in its great variety. When you write “selfless love is lesser love,” I know you are not excluding the possibility of “unselfish love.” If we fill up the well from which we love (a nice image you made), including kindness, respect, and love for ourselves, we may find it easier to love when putting the other person’s needs first, ahead of ours, is the best thing at that moment. That way of being “selfless” does not injure Selfhood, it seems to me.

    Thanks for your faithfulness in chronicling the care and feeding of love!

    • j July 5, 2011 at 10:53 am #

      I much prefer the term “unselfish love” to “selfless love.” Thank you for that. I agree with you, absolutely. Sometimes, putting another’s needs first is the right thing to do. Temporarily. Punctuated by bouts of beautiful, unadulterated self-love.

      All too often, I think, people live lives of self-deprivation and tell themselves that they are being generous, attentive, caring. They tell themselves that their sacrifice is for the good of the loved one(s) and that everyone benefits. I don’t think that’s true. I think people in that situation think they’re doing a better job of it than they are. I think their loved ones sense the loss of self that happens, the sadness or resentment or emptiness that sets in. I think it makes them uncomfortable. How could it not?

      I think Mother Teresa loved herself. I think if you asked her (and no doubt people did), she would NOT have said, “I put my needs last.” I doubt she thought she did, despite how it looked to all of us. But I hear that refrain all the time from people who talk to me about love. If I could ban a sentence from our love lexicon, that would be it. “I put myself last.” Because it allows people to see themselves as generous and giving when, really, if it’s true that they put themselves last day in and day out, then I believe they are not even scratching the surface of their potential to love.

  7. terrepruitt July 5, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    LOVEly.

    • j July 5, 2011 at 10:54 am #

      Awww. xo

  8. C. Fassett July 5, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    The past six months have been truly extraordinary for me, and even though I joined the love project a couple of months into it, I have to say this project was the very thing I needed in that moment to help me make the final step out of the grief that had gripped my heart a few years prior. It, and you, ALL of you here in the past several months, helped me find my way clear of precisely what j speaks of in that mindset of “selfless love.”

    I discovered the biggest ingredient, perhaps the only ingredient, for why that grief struck me so soul shatteringly hard was because of WHO I was truly grieving…my very self! The person closer to me than anyone in this world! That self that craved to be touched, hugged, lavished with love I knew was available, and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t in the cards for me. I finally saw it…me, putting my needs last…all the time. Truly, I look at it now and it’s so plain and simple I wonder how I could have been so blind, but while you’re in that mind set, and are surrounded by people who agree with it, ( hell yeah, they agree with it! They benefit from it! ), it is the most challenging thing to do, that is, to turn the breaks on, and turn around, and say, “Wait a gawd damn minute!” And to do that without going to the other extreme and turning into being just like them! It’s the tightest tight rope act I’ve ever tried to accomplish. Balance.

    I know this is long, and I won’t apologize :), because I want all of you here to know how grateful I am for you sharing yourselves and your individual journeys here, and how truly extraordinary and significant each one of you are, and have been, and all of your efforts are worth it, because if you touched no one else, ( and I know you touched everyone else :), you touched me on a profound level. And by extension, you touched my mother, my daughter and son-in-law, my friends, all who belong to me. My mother needed to stand back up from a stroke, and I didn’t know it, but by my standing for myself, she began doing the same in her own way. It has been really, really messy, but I can’t help but see the connection.

    In a couple of days, I start on the road to a new life, one in a more loving environment, and in an environment I love. I can’t wait to see what the next 6 months of participating in this project brings to my life. But you can be damned sure, I’ll be right here along side all of you, rooting for you, rooting for me, rooting for Love. Thank you so much, j. Thank you, to all of you. Onward —->

    • j July 5, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

      Wow! No need to apologize, I’m so touched by your comment. Thank you for writing it. And for being here, sharing the journey with me. I’d have given up long ago if not for all of you. xoxo

  9. Pam July 5, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

    Excellent list.

    “It happens because we make it happen, because we choose it.” Yes yes yes.

    Love is grand, but it isn’t necessarily easy.

    Hurrah for the magic of hugs.

    Now I’m excited to see the year-end summary!

    • j July 5, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

      Me too (excited)! ;-)

      Real-life hugs for you soon!

  10. Michael July 5, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    Superj… “Student of Love”. And, also, well on her way to a PhD. Not that titles mean anything, but that’s pretty damned cool. ;)

    • j July 5, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

      Student of love. I like that…. Best. Education. Ever!

  11. Issa July 6, 2011 at 1:10 am #

    I love this post. I wanted to add something in a comment, but I think you say it all. The thing that struck me most is the choice element – and the fact that we can make it happen. This fills me with hope and excitement; despite the risks and the knocks that you also capture so well. They’re worth it.

    And yes, hugs rock.

    xx

    • j July 6, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

      Yeah, i think love is worth it. I’ll take the inevitable heartaches, the bruises to my ego, the times when what gets shaken up is nothing less than my sense of self. It’s worth it for the times when I’m with someone (or a group of someones) and I think… this is how life is supposed to be.

  12. Tall Pajama Man July 6, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    As I read you (and me) in the half way mark.. well, only of the year, but at the beginning of something that grows more wonderful each day, I am struck and awed with just how powerful this project has been, and will be.

    I’m in ponder mode with the list :-) . More stuff later
    (but right now, a big *thank you* and bigger *hug* for having the courage to start this and invite us to play.)

    :-)

  13. j July 6, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    I’m struck by that too. And… there are plans in the work to make it even more so. ;-)

    Thank you for loving along with me!

  14. Joanne Marie Firth July 6, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    It’s hard to believe it’s been 6 months already. I want to reinforce to everyone what difference love can and does make. All of the little ways, the hugs, the notes, the texts. Small expressions of love can go a long way. Participating in j’s Love Project has been a remarkable experience which I shared with my children. It has been very rare that a day goes by without telling them or showing them how much I adore and appreciate them. I did it a lot before the project, but the project made me much more aware of the many different ways love can be expressed. I’ve seen the joy on my kid’s faces from all love. I see it in their confidence and their ability to share love with others. It is absolutely a snowball effect. Love begets love. I simply can not wait to see what the next 6 months brings. j’s Love Project rocked my little world! Thank you Judy, from the bottom of my heart. xo

    • j July 6, 2011 at 10:46 pm #

      Thank you feels like an inadequate response, but I am so grateful not only for all you’ve done with the project but how often you share it. The community that is building around the Love Project dazzles me again and again. You’ve all taught me so much.

      I think we empower each other. I think we’re amazing. And badass. Dear Joanne, Thank YOU. <3

  15. Milliver's Travels July 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    10 awesome points about love and you always do the best lists!

    Your Love Scenes page is stupendous! Thanks for including my pics there. I’m especially happy to see Sweater Bear up there – I just melt with love every time I look at him, he is so adorable. And cuddling him got me through some really hard nights during a very dark period of my life.

    Congrats, you, on doing already more than half a year of the Love Project! And for creating so many ripple effects. And for giving us, your readers, so many ways to participate. ❤ ❤ ❤

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