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This is a post about love. There are no violins, no scarlet roses or Hallmark cards adorned with teddy bears or swelling hearts, just some words - a futile attempt, really, at capturing the essence of a something that shivers and moves like the colours of a kaleidoscope. I think my first love was a blanket. This wasn't any old blanket. This was the blanket that lay across my chest as I reclined in a beanbag aged six months, so large that it neatly covered my tiny frame. It stayed in my bed until I was at least ten, when I decided that it was no longer part of my identity. Because that, perhaps, is what it was - another limb, an extension of me. It had come into existence the same day that I had and we were inseparable, for the most part. I buried my face into the soft, white cotton and it smelled of me. It makes me think about how children form such powerful bonds - to their mothers, to their possessions, and that is a kind of raw, primal love. That is the kind of love that makes you realise how much you need something to cling to. In my case...quite literally (I'm pretty sure I still have that blanket.) First real love: family. An easy way to tell how much you love someone is to imagine losing them. I remember being young and having these thoughts formulate for the very first time. My Mum would tuck me into bed and turn off the light, shutting the door quietly, and I'd quake at the idea of that being the last time I'd ever see her face. It just sort of hit me; previously I just assumed she'd be there forever, whipping up dinner, picking me up from school, spooning medicine into my sick mouth, turning the light out. I started to realise, however, that things aren't set in stone - people died, some people didn't even have mothers, and remember when she was sick? She lay in bed, fragile and withered like a beaten flower. That's when I knew she wasn't invincible, and I knew that the love was all-consuming. There are some family members whom you'll love no matter what. But it wasn't until I got a bit older that I realised you can love people who aren't your family just as much as your real family - maybe even more. Friends. Becoming friends with someone is delightfully incidental. People say you don't choose your family but you choose your friends - I don't know if I agree with this. I think the universe shoves you and your family together but dangles friends in front of you tantalisingly, and it's up to you whether or not you grab them while you can. With friends you make effort, because you cannot rely on DNA alone to keep you connected. There's no telling how the love will grow - sometimes it blooms quite beautifully, sometimes it takes a long, long time to flourish, and sometimes all the things that you need to make it flourish don't quite come together in the most effective way, and this friendship stays the same, which is okay, too. As a teenager, the universe dangled my best friends in front of me and I tentatively grabbed hold of them. I was young and nervous and I didn't even know if I loved myself, let alone these girls who just so happened to be born a few months after me, who just so happened to be living a few miles from me. But it just so happened that I couldn't stop laughing at their quick-witted comebacks. It just so happened that we were confused about the same things, and simultaneously managed to help each other out, and bonded over songs, and navigated our way through education together, and felt the need to understand one another's opinions on certain topics, and felt a keen sense of pain when tears were shed, and felt a warm glow of affection when we pulled each other into childish embraces. It just so happened that the love bloomed quite beautifully. These are the things I love. The burst of joy as a song crescendos. The sun breaking through the clouds. A voice note of someone apologising for the background noise but proceeding to talk anyway. Making a stubborn kid's mouth twist into a smile. New shoes that fit like a glove. Christmas lights. Getting into bed with the lights low and a good book. A 'thank you' in the street. Watching people dance. Eating something I created that tastes damn good. The way the sun brings out the colour of your eyes. The fact that my teachers took a risk. My Dad's stupid jokes. A film that I can't stop thinking about. Chocolate. The delicious feeling of kissing someone for the first time. A hug after six months. Dogs. An unexpected sunset. Dressing up, sipping cocktails, laughing too loudly, feeling the jolt of a drunken realisation that I loveyouguyssooomuch. The sea. The sand. Watching people accomplish what they've worked so hard to achieve. These things and more are what I love. A kaleidoscope. Shimmering and shifting, each pattern unique. There are relationships that are too complex to unpack, that don't fit neatly into a box. Someone asks you about your own and you smile sheepishly, attempt to recount the story and begin to speak but then give up because you know another person could never fully understand. They can't begin to imagine the intimacies of your connection, the way you've changed because of each other. It's why I try not to form an opinion about someone else's relationship. Realistically, I haven't even scratched the surface - I'm ignorant and always will be.

I'm ignorant about true love, too. It's something I've never fully had in my grasp but I can see the way it changes people, softens them. They say you 'just know', and I'm sure that's true, because when have we ever been able to put into words our strongest emotions? I've never felt that emotion - it's simply slipped from my grasp or passed me by, like a train headed in the wrong direction. Maybe I've never been ready to travel. I've felt the softening, the melting, the tenderness. That terrifying feeling of tight-rope walking, hoping nothing will disrupt the balance and shake you off. The pain that fills you when you see them in pain. The wanting to be near them all the time, wondering how on earth can I get any physically or spiritually closer to this person? All of the sweet things. But that's only a fraction of it all, right? People who have been in relationships for years and years spend more time talking about the sacrifices, the trust, the thick and thin. As your glazed eyes start to refocus, you come to the realisation that they've moulded themselves into your life and have become as normal as the sun rising and setting; you can either act with a cool indifference or see the beauty every day and be thankful that they've chosen to stick by your side. That's when the true partnership begins.

My Dad often tells me, 'love isn't about gazing into each other's eyes. It's about standing side by side and gazing out into the world, together.' Gazing out into the world? I can definitely do that. x


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