the interview, overheard

I was watching from the side, pretending not to notice but completely attuned. The young girl held the recording device up to the older woman’s mouth to catch every word. And every silence too. The girl held a sheet of questions in her hand and after asking the older woman to state her name and age, the two paused a little awkwardly. The young girl wanted to press forward but she could see the older woman was a bit nervous.
“Are you ready?”
The older woman smoothed her hair into place and took one long, deep breath.
“Yes. Yes, I think so.”
“Ok, let’s begin.”

Interviewer:
What words or ideas do you think of when you think of love?

Subject:
Um….Complicated.  That’s the first word I think of. I used to think – or maybe wish – that love could have a fairy tale ending. It’s certainly what I hoped for. But as I got older, I realized that love is much more complicated than those romantic notions.

Interviewer:
Why is love important to you?

Subject:
{sigh} Oh, this is a difficult one. Uh, let’s see…..

Interviewer:
Do you need more time to think about the question? We can come back to it at the end.

Subject:
No, no. It’s just …. Difficult. I want to find the right words.

Interviewer:
Oh, ok. Well, let me know if you need more time.

Subject:
No, I just want to make sense, that’s all.

{long silence}

Subject:
Alright. So. I think that people can flourish when they are loved. 

I mean: knowing that you are loved for who you are ? That is the greatest feeling in the world. And it can give you a really good foundation for going out into the world and taking chances. And making change happen.

And, well, I believe that love is at the bottom of charity and generosity and empathy – and it is really important to me to have a life full of these things. I always wanted to help other people and sometimes it is love that makes that possible. I don’t think I’ve done a very good job all the time in my life but I tried. It’s a struggle every day to find that love and to live it.

Also: love pushed me to be a better person for my family, my friends.  I wanted to do everything I could for them …. out of my love for them.  Sometimes I showed my love in a language they didn’t understand but it was my way. It made me work hard; it made me set priorities; it made me do things I never imagined I would do.

Interviewer:
Describe a time when love played a significant role in your life.

Subject:
Oh…..I think I need something to drink.
{laughter}
Well, probably love played a significant role in my life when I became a parent. It was only at that moment that I realized how deeply I could feel it.  Once you have a baby, you feel forever connected to this tiny little person you are holding in your arms – and the most satisfying moments in my life have been when I have been able to watch my children grow into their own skin and thrive.

Interviewer:
When love becomes too overwhelming, what do you do?

Subject:
I usually have to walk away from it.  I need to give myself time alone to sort through my feelings and to parse out what is love and what is not love. And I need to understand the reasons for my feelings – why do I think it is love; what do I think true love means and what are its boundaries; am I really in love or am I just happy that someone is giving me attention – things like that.  Sometimes it helps for me to talk to someone I trust about what I am feeling as well — but sometimes the very person I want to talk to is also the person I need to walk away from. And then life can be complex.

Interviewer:
What would the world be like without love?

Subject:
The world would be a terrible, cold place without love – so many wonderful things come from love — and from love gone awry, too!  So much great literature is based on love and its consequences, good and bad.  And I love stories.

I think that love softens all the hardship of life, and shows us how to be kind to each other and to ourselves. I feel lucky that love exists in the world.

Interviewer:
Thank you.

Subject:
You’re welcome. How did I do?

{end of recording}

They walked away, and I was left with more questions than answers.

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