These three words may be the most complicated words in the human emotional dictionary. Each of us has our own personal definition or way of life for each of these words, and which is the right way and which is the wrong. I of course have my own uncommon perspective on what these words mean, and I will admit that I know my perspective will change as I get older and older.
Let me start with the word SUCCESS. Definitely a loaded word, but so are the words LOVE and SEX. Success has a multitude of “deep” meanings. Success is “trying not to please everybody” (Bill Cosby), is “going for your goal steadily and aiming for it unswervingly” (Cecil B. DeMille), is “to be able to spend your life in your own way” (Christopher Morley), is “finding your lifework in the work that you love” (David McCullough), is “the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm” (Sir Winston Churchill), and it “usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it” (Henry David Thoreau). The list of meanings goes on and on, but the real, straight-up definition of success is defined as “a degree or measure of succeeding; favorable or desired outcome; the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
As we all grow into the people we are being shaped to be, we are all faced with the fear of failing in whatever it is we are striving towards. Some of us are more fearful than others, have expectations that seem impossible to fulfill, and we are always standing on the edge of what-ifs and how-comes. Some of us have dreams that are never achieved and we feel we have failed in life because of it. I tell you that is not so. Things change and alter around us for a reason and it is how we react to those changes that determines our success. It is our fear of failing that will cause us to fail. The ability to overcome your fear will bring you success. That is what SUCCESS means to me. To live life without fear getting in the way.
Now it’s ironic that fear is the leading cause in failing in another area of life: the ability to LOVE. If you fear love, you fail love. Another loaded word. Here’s what the world thinks of love: “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” (Alfred Lord Tennyson); “To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides” (David Viscott); “One’s first love is always perfect until one meets one’s second love” (ElizabethAston); “All love that has not friendship for its base is like a mansion built on sand” (Ella Wheeler Wilcox); “There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness” (Friedrich Nietzsche); and finally, “There is no remedy for love but to love more” (Henry David Thoreau).
In my current situation, I have had only one great love. But even then, as I look on it now, I don’t know if I was really in love or not. I have found that I don’t know what real love is or how it feels. I can’t seem to recognize it. So I go out and test my reactions to certain people by dating them. Some of them excite my physical side, others are intellectually fun to talk to, and some of them are the infamous arrogant bastards playing off as good guys. Can’t fool me! I can smell a sneaky asshole from miles away.
Finding out what love means for each and everyone of us takes a lifetime. So, if I could tell you what love means to me right now, I know that years down the road it will change again. So I can only tell you that, after careful observation of the chemical reactions in my body and mind that is closely related to what I consider “love,” this feeling of obsession and desire is very hard to find when masked by bitterness. After a messy breakup, bitterness takes its place, as much as some of us deny it, and won’t fade until desperation for love comes again. And when I say “desperation,” I’m talking really, really, really desperate. People can go a long time without falling in love again, feeling invincible to the potential heartbreak love brings. But even with all the bitterness I’m working on disintegrating from my heart, I know now that love is a decision, a “choice you make to want the best for the other person.” I heard that from somewhere, but I don’t remember where. I think I finally understand what it means.
Which leads me to the last complicated word: SEX. Love is most commonly related to the action of sex, or sometimes referred to as “making love.” Sex is also seen as “the act of love” even if the two people aren’t really IN LOVE—whatever that means—but it is a moment where people share a moment of tenderness.
This is how sex is seen by much wiser people than me: “I know nothing about sex because I was always married (Zsa Zsa Gabor); “In America, sex is an obsession. In other parts of the world, it’s a fact” (Marlene Dietrich); “A man can sleep around, no questions asked, but if a woman makes nineteen or twenty mistakes, she’s a tramp” (Joan Rivers); “Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place” (Billy Crystal); “One thing I’ve learned in all these years is not to make love when you really don’t feel it; there’s probably nothing worse you can do to yourself than that” (Norman Mailer).
I was once a girl who wanted to wait until marriage so that sex was the gift I would give to my husband. I was very adamant about it, but then lost my V-card to a boy I thought I was madly in love—same old song and dance—after seven months into the relationship of both being virgins. I was 21 years old. After the relationship ended, I made myself promise that I wouldn’t have sex again until I was “in love”…again. Instead, I had a night with someone I cared very deeply about. My best friend. And it was also seven months in. Not that there’s a pattern, but I thought it interesting to mention. Then I moved to California and a week into it I had been asked out by The Terminator. By the second date, I gave into my desire for sex with him. Totally out of character for me! Because it wasn’t out of love that I had sex with him, but rather it was a moment of random passion. I realized then that my perspective on sex really had been completely altered. I’d overheard that after the end of your first serious relationship, the whole idea of love and sex changes. And so it did. Which surprises me and then…makes perfect sense.
There isn’t a sense of regret for any of it. Sex is still something I hold very special, but only for the one I choose it to be special with. The Terminator may have been a one time thing, because I still want to wait until I’m in love before doing it again. And falling in love for me is rare and numbered. So maybe, when the day finally comes where the feelings of obsession and happiness combine, where I can finally say “I am madly in love with you!” and it is returned, I will be successful in something everyone wants. Love plus sex. A success in of itself.
So there you have it. Some wise words explaining wise words from someone who’s learning to be…