Is it an action of self-love if I kill a wasp?

Sitting on the chairs of the second floor of Whole Foods sipping coffee, I ask my husband to brainstorm about articles to write for my website. A baby wasp is droning over our heads never really touching us, but also giving us a sense of unease, like she could sting us at any moment.

“We just finished that Self-Love class,” I say. “Maybe I should write more about that?”

“Oh yea, I’ve been meaning to ask you about self-love,” he says. “I have no idea what that is. For example,” he says making a hand motion trying to get rid of the wasp.

“Is killing this wasp an act of self-love or does love have nothing to do with it? Is it self-love to be “nice” to yourself and others? And isn’t killing really the ultimate action of NOT being nice?”

“Wait, wait, wait,” I say. “One question at a time. The answer to all those questions is yes… and also no.”

I’m going to need a little bit more explanation than that,” he says sipping his coffee, uncrossing his arms and looking me in the eyes.

My memories bring me back 4 years ago when on a chilly January night in Paris, Renaud, a medium and friend of a friend, agreed to do a reading for me that lasted 6 hours. During those 6 hours, a topic would come up often – what is love? As we were letting our teas get cold, I attentively listened to Renaud as he was saying “Look at this,” pointing at the table between us, “This is a table. The whole world has agreed that a flat surface held by 4 legs is called a table. Of course, the table is sometimes round instead of rectangular and the colors differ, but it is generally agreed upon what a table is. The problem with a concept such as Love, that cannot be seen or heard or perceived by our 5 senses, is that it means different things to different people.

“How can it mean different things for different people,” I protest. “Are you saying that if a person tells me they love me, they don’t really love me?

“Well, it depends,” he smiles as he takes another sip of earl grey. “They might even mean it, but it’s very possible that you’re not even talking about the same thing.”

“A simple example,” he continued “if a child has grown up in a violent home, where the parents beat them, but they also tell them that they love them and are doing this for their own good, the child will most likely grow up thinking that love equals violence or that love hurts, because we’d rather accept that, rather than think that our parents didn’t really love us or that they didn’t know how to love us.

As per another child who grew up in a different home, “love” could mean something completely different.”

“Hmm, I think I’m beginning to understand,” I say as I look around me trying to find another example. “We use language to make statements because that’s the way we’ve been taught to show emotions. With complicated feelings such as love, we use more than just speech to convey it. We can also use acts of service, gifts, quality time and physical displays of affection. I remember reading the 5 Languages of Love by Gary Chapman. Sometimes we think that a person doesn’t love us just because they’re not using the same love language as us. But they’re spending all their time with us and are there for us even though they don’t say it often. So sometimes we must look outside of what’s familiar to us to understand love?” I ask.

“Yes,” Renaud agrees “But sometimes what you think is love it’s not love at all. Let’s take the example of the violent father. Let’s say that your father has a very demanding job and every time he comes back from work, he is really tired. You are 5 and you’re excited to see him and show him your new drawing. You yell and scream at him to pay attention to you. In the angst of the moment, he slaps you to shut you up because he needs some peace and quiet that he thinks he deserves after working all day to put food on the table.”

“Oh, so you’re saying that the child will think that love is violence from now on?” I inquire.

“Yes, and also no. It really depends case by case and it’s not that simple. The child might think that love is being absent all day long and spend a minimum time together. If it happens one time only, maybe it doesn’t affect them all that much. In most cases beliefs are created in the repetitiveness of the actions. But also yes, if this happens often, the child might grow up believing that love hurts, that absence and scarcity is love, that they’re not good enough, not even enough for their father to love them, so who will?”

“Damn, this is turning dark pretty quick,” I say, pensive. “Oh, you want to hear what’s dark?” Chances are that the father really loves his kid. He goes to a job he hates, hoping that the child has enough material goods growing up to never need anything. You see, as a child himself, his father used to beat him up with a belt and he wasn’t allowed to cry. Growing up he knew that was wrong, so he never used a belt on his own child, so he doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong. The blind is leading the blind.”

I am speechless for a while. I need some time to process all this information.

“Don’t worry,” Renaud tries to cheer me up. “No everything is gloomy. There are also so many beautiful things that happen around love, so many acts of kindness and happiness. That’s why love can be such a confusing feeling. It can have both good and bad memories incorporated in it.”

Coming back to the present time, thinking about love, I look at my husband and say “Maybe before talking about self-love we should talk about love and understand what love is, to us, what does it mean for us to feel love, to be love, to feel loved. And that changes from person to person. If you tell me that you love me, maybe you mean that you’ll be there for me in tough times, that you enjoy spending time with me and you want me to be happy. And when I say it back, maybe I mean that I care about you and I want to spend more time with you and I am attracted to you. There are so many meanings in such a small word. How can I even begin to describe self-love if I don’t talk about love first and about the self.”

“Well, good thing we have all day,” he says getting up from the chair and leading the way. “Do you want to grab some lunch and talk about “self” next?”

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