While the genesis of love itself belongs to happenstance, nurturing and protecting it is a choice we make day after day.
Love is a continuum, a series of decisions, some conscious and rational, others purely subconscious and heart-led. Together, they form the foundation of a bond that endures over time and has the power to carry you through thick and thin.
For example, the love between my father and stepmom is a force of nature. When she received a death sentence in the form of a stage 4 cancer diagnosis in September 2018, my father allowed himself exactly one phone call to mope. He entrusted his vulnerability to the only person he knew could handle it — me — then picked himself up off the floor, dusted himself off, and got on with life.
He is fully conversant with his wife’s illness, treatment, and the dizzying array of pharmaceuticals involved. He takes care of all the admin, from filing health insurance claims to managing her complex schedule.
And these days, the man who used to joke he had never read an entire book from cover to cover spends all his free time immersed in scientific literature. And medical reports. He may remain allergic to fiction but has always been technically and scientifically minded. As well as practical, resourceful, and creative to a fault.
My father is love in action, he never stops because love never stops.
Save for when my stepmom is too weak to accompany him, he is always by her side and yet she is constantly on his mind, too. Whenever we have one of our epic transatlantic phone chats, he always talks about her even though she’s right here, but he never talks about himself.
This is why I picked up my life and have been living out of a suitcase between the US and the EU since December 2018. My father is on the verge of burnout, but you can’t look after others if you don’t take care of yourself first, can you?
As an only child, caring for him so he can care for his beloved wife is my job. But because five years worth of depression and hardship have destroyed my life and livelihood, being present is a lot harder than it seems.
In practice, it means a lot of writing at a relentless pace to try and keep a very modest momentum going.
Because love always finds a way.
Love is the reason you’re reading these words today, and the force behind them, too.
I’m lucky enough to suffer from a very practical affliction called vocation: Writing is as vital to me as breathing. But when my writing voice went AWOL for five years as a result of major depressive disorder, I almost disintegrated.
Once I stopped being afraid of my truth or the need for radical honesty, my love of words carried me. But I wobbled a lot at first and still do, I fell flat on my face time and again, and I came close to giving up innumerable times. And yes, it keeps happening — it did again yesterday.
With every setback, I am terrified I will never write again.
And if I don’t write, I’m done for.
If I shut out love and let distress take over again, everything collapses. Instead, I’m forever wrestling with depression behind the scenes, mostly on my own as I still can’t afford therapy. Sometimes, it makes for raw, harrowing copy where I must wrench every word, comma, and full stop out of depression’s maw.
Other times, love sits on my shoulder and dictates what I write, word by word.
In this context, making life easier for myself could easily mean cutting words loose and shedding the weight of a calling that is often a curse.
Why would anyone in their right mind torture themselves this way day after day? When writing means blood letting, isn’t it time to quit?
When every new dawn starts with a deafening knock on insanity’s door, wouldn’t it be sensible to walk away once and for all?
I could make that choice but it would amount to abdicating love and throwing away everything that makes me me. Then again, the only constant in life is change and I’ve reinvented myself countless times already so I could do it again.
However, I’ve also considered putting an end to my existence more than once, and still occasionally do. But rest assured the only action I’ll ever take is to write about it.
The pen and the page are my bomb squad and how I deal with the many undetonated landmines in my head.
My commitment to my craft is all encompassing and my commitment to my family is unwavering. Meanwhile, my commitment to life is a genetic legacy, as is ailing mental health but even if the two cancel each other out, I’m still here.
And despite spending the last five years in darkness and silence, the love that binds me to the page is still alive. Fueled by curiosity and an insatiable appetite for knowledge, it prompts me to keep thinking out loud in the hope that I might find a way out of this mess.
Love seeks and builds solutions while constantly adapting to new parameters; love does not destroy.
But can love survive and thrive under adversity?
This is where we, human animals, often go wrong. We’re risk-adverse by nature, and lazy. We’d rather follow the path of least resistance than put our heart on the line on the off chance we might attain self-actualization.
But my hunch is that we’re always more capable than we give ourselves credit for. Although still a mirage at this point, I’d love to find out what balance and fulfillment look like. For these are two of the many rewards of a heart-led life: contentment and a deep-seated sense of security you can always lean on when the going gets tough.
As my father and stepmom are currently doing.
I may be the stubborn type but much of my attitude is borne out of extreme circumstances. In other words, I probably wouldn’t fight as hard if I didn’t need to. Owing to having had a strange life to date, fighting became an ingrained habit at an early age.
Even though it was dormant for five years, fear reactivated it. Anthony Bourdain’s death may have saved my life and forever altered it, which is a little odd considering I had never met him. In short, his untimely departure made me understand that silence kills and led me to advocacy work.
What’s more, he was a formidable writer whose words often echo the way I look at life and at my fellow humans: I am a great fan of humanity in all its guises.
There’s nothing more spellbinding than someone brave enough to shed all pretense and trust you with the contents of their heart and mind.
This is how deep, meaningful bonds grow between us.
To experience such a connection is a precious gift that isn’t guaranteed in our lifetime. To nurture it is therefore a duty, whatever it takes.
Because the end result always ends up being greater than the sum of its parts: Love can lift you up, make you soar to unprecedented heights, and transform you. But first, you must allow yourself to surrender to it in the hope you might transcend the unknown and create something that wasn’t there before.
You can’t fly if you’re afraid of falling, can you?
When love works, it’s a constant exchange of unstoppable energy that only seems to grow the more all parties involved give of themselves.
True love is hard-won and demands bravery but it will eventually reward you with steadfast symbiosis.
Like us, love changes but has the power to endure until our last breath.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.