What If Love Is An Ability?



Trevor, Chris, and I like to listen to the country stations on the car radio. There’s an old Brad Paisley song that sometimes plays, called “Then.” I’m always touched by the lyrics because the song describes how love grows over time:


And now you’re my whole life
Now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you, girl
We’ll look back someday, at this moment that we’re in
And I’ll look at you and say
And I thought I loved you then -Brad Paisley


I always think about Trevor when I hear those words because I felt the most incredible explosion of love when I held him in my arms on the day he was born. AND I feel like I love him now more than ever.

Have you noticed how love seems to expand?

And maybe that’s one of the great gifts of parenthood: it teaches you how to love. When I think back to the newborn days with Tru, I remember that he’d sometimes cry so loudly and for so long. Nothing I did would make it stop. I’d have such a strong impulse to throw open the front door and take off down the road! But of course, I couldn’t do that. I had to continue to hold my baby and see each challenge and struggle through. Even during the most overwhelming and difficult times.

Parenthood turns love into a daily practice.

The world doesn’t teach this though. My experience is that the world does everything to teach us the opposite message. Every time I’m scrolling through Instagram, I’ll see ad after ad about how to improve my appearance or my home or my financial situation. Every message seems to convey the idea, “if you could just look like this, you might finally earn love.” Or, “if you just follow this program, you might finally achieve the level of status or wealth to be deserving of others’ (and your own) approval.”

Tru is only in kindergarten and I’ve noticed that he’s already absorbing the message of the world. He can be so hard on himself when he doesn’t score a goal in his soccer or win the highest score in our family Yahtzee game.

The world doesn’t teach us that we can find love within ourselves and follow daily practices to make that love grow. The world teaches us to zero in on everything that’s “wrong” with us. Everything that we need to fix in order to become a person who deserves love.

I’ve taken a few meditation classes with Sharon Salzberg, and one day she gave a talk on the idea of love as an ability. She gave us a beautiful quote from the movie “Dan In Real Life:”


Love is not a feeling, it’s an ability.

-Dan in Real Life


Here’s an excerpt of what she said in her talk:


If I think of love as a commodity, it’s in someone else’s hands to bestow upon me or to take away from me. And if they take it away from me, maybe I’m nothing. I’m just bereft, like the UPS delivery person standing on my doorstep with this package of love and glancing down at the address, saying, “no, I don’t think so. I’m going away.” Then I have nothing. But if love is an ability, it’s inside me, it’s a capacity within me … And so it’s a very different feeling … If you think of love as the antidote to fear … then it starts to be intriguing, even in a time like ours. And so I come back to that again and again and again … a sense that love is within me, that it’s mine. – Sharon Salzberg


Her words rang really true for me.  If love is something that has to be deserved or earned, then love becomes a really scary concept. What if I wasn’t born with the correct requirements? What if I can’t even figure out what the standards are? What if I figure out the standards, and just can’t measure up?

But if I think of love as an ability that I can practice and grow, that feels really empowering. It also gives me a lot of hope. Because if I’m looking out at my world and it seems pretty dark and hopeless and bleak, I know there’s an answer within me. And if I’m looking at myself and can’t see anything that I approve of, I can remember that there’s an inner journey that I can take to change that.

If I practice every day, I can become more loving over time. Even if I don’t feel very loving now, I can begin to make new choices and develop new abilities to give love and receive it.


So that’s one of the questions I’ll focus on as I develop this new direction for my website: 

What if love is an ability?


There is only one question: how to love this world.

– Mary Oliver




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