Two Types of Love: Easy and Hard
The complexities of life in a pandemic magnify the gift of easy love.
Posted March 1, 2021
When I think about my love for those in my life, I reflect on two types of love: easy love and hard love.
There is no doubt that I spent much more time with my mother than my father just because my father worked six days a week and my mother was home. When I had to go to the doctor, dentist, a store, school, events, friends’ houses, my mother drove me. My day to be with my father was often on Sundays, when, after Sunday school, we would joyfully explore areas of San Francisco: the zoo, Lombard Street, Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, the beach.
I loved my parents equally, yet differently. The love I shared with my father was an easy type of love. I didn’t need to be with him all the time to know that he adored me and valued me just for me. I didn’t need to show him what I had accomplished that day to prove that I was worthy of anything more than what he cherished most, which was to be my father. My intense mother offered a harder type of love. There were times when, walking arm in arm, my heart was completely full from her undivided attention. I felt completely whole and loved at these moments. In the back of my mind, though, I also knew that there would be other, darker moments, when such feelings became frayed, torn and wrinkled, as if I were a piece of cloth that had worn thin. “I need time alone, Barbara. Close my door.” Our time together had ended because she said so even if I still needed her; she retreated to her bedroom and the hard love began.
I never really knew which mother I would find when I awoke in the morning. The joyful, arm-in-arm mother or the lying-in-bed mother who wanted to be left alone, who required a knock on the door to enter her world. Yet, there is no judgment, just acceptance of what is. I am grateful to have had the love of both of my parents and I accept their limitations, as I hope my own children have accepted mine.
I have had friendships under both categories, but those who are exceedingly "hard" aren’t part of my life today. I have had to make the difficult decision to break off a few hard friendships. My one friend of over 25 years was someone with whom I shared some of my most innermost thoughts, yet over a period of time, perhaps seven years or so, our relationship began to change. I felt judged by her in a way that I had never before. She told me not to talk about some topics, which limited our conversations. I couldn’t be myself around her anymore.
I had to address this issue with her and so I did. The once easy love had become challenging, difficult, and ultimately unsalvageable. It’s virtually impossible to regress: to go backwards from sharing so much to mainly talking about superficial items. Thus, I broke off this hard friendship. While I made the right decision for me, I also knew that she didn’t understand and perhaps never would. I was the "bad guy” in this scenario and I had to give her that. I let her go, this hard love. One gift of aging is to more easily prioritize my time left. I have far less time in front of me than behind, so relationships that I once tolerated, that have become too hard, I have let go.
Of course, for those animal lovers like me, the easiest love is the one I have had with my dogs—all three of them. There is an unbridled simplicity of devotion that I experience with my dog. If I am cranky, Molly doesn’t care and her predecessors, Teddy and Emma, loved me, warts and all. Loving animals is truly the easiest love of all. Dogs’ demands are basic: food, a comfortable place to sleep (even the floor will do); playtime, and most of all my love, so easily given.
And then there is my husband of almost 45 years. Of course, our love hasn’t always been easy over all these decades, but, along with love, the overall feelings are comfort and ease. We are two different people who have grown up together, from young kids to aging adults, with a huge, shared past of raising three sons and knowing that despite everything, our love has endured through countless challenges. While complicated, at times, it is an easy love that makes me look forward to the next day together.
While my motherhood was physically demanding, the love for my children was unconditionally easy. I didn’t have a lot of physical or emotional support to help me navigate raising my boys while working and trying to juggle so much. So, the hard part was the logistics of it all—their schedules, their needs, their education, taking care of their health. It was easy, though, to love them and to be their mother.
Perhaps grandchild love is as easy as dog love—pure adoration requiring limited "frontline" responsibility for raising young lives as parents must do. There are really no moods or doors slamming; no “it’s not fair” comments. Just joy, just “I love you, Nana.” Such an easy love. There are far more "yeses" in my responses to my three grandchildren than the parental "no" that must be given. How glorious is this easy grandparent love!
I am grateful for all the loves in my life, from the humans to my furry children; from my beloved parents, husband and children, to such cherished friends. The complexities of life, certainly life in a pandemic, enable hard love to disappear while magnifying the gift of easy love.