You can feel butterflies in your stomach every time you see someone. You can think about them all day and dream about them all night. You can talk to them, palms sweaty and heart racing. You can get tongue-tied whenever you see them. You can woo them with flowers and candle light. You can f*ck like angry bunnies hopped up on hormones. You can write poems far too cliched to be shown anyone else and love letters too intimate to be kept anywhere other than a shoebox. You can send racy texts and fill up their Facebook timeline with LOLcats. You can hold them in your arms and forget the world exists, make love to them and know it doesn’t. You can feel each kiss like the tip of an arrow, plunging from your lips to bottom of your toes.

“Well played, Cupid,” you can say, “Well played.”

There are a lot of ways people express their feelings. But whether it’s infatuation, romance, lust or something else entirely, it’s easy to lose touch with where those feelings stem from. Enjoying someone’s kisses doesn’t necessarily mean you would enjoy listening to them talk for hours on end. Going to bed with someone doesn’t necessarily mean you would want to wake up next to them for the rest of your foreseeable future. Holding someone’s hand doesn’t necessarily mean you would want to hold on to them through the worst life has to throw at you both. But it’s easy to get carried away and think that it does. It’s far too easy to exaggerate the gravity of our own emotions, a kind of sentimental narcissism. After all, it fits right in with the idea that we are always in charge of everything we feel, every little quirk and behavior we exhibit, and therefore they are all important because we feel them or do them.

That doesn’t make it true.

Here’s a simple way to know if you really love someone: you’re lying in bed on a cold winter morning when suddenly a draft blows in and chills you to the bone. Instantly you reach over and make sure someone else is tucked into a warm blanket, no toes or elbows sticking out. They are. Or maybe they’re somewhere else, but in your mind they are right next to you.
And then you remember, you’re the one freezing.

Love is: caring. Instinctively, before you know what you’re doing, before you care for yourself, before they’re awake, even when they don’t know you’re protecting them while they sleep. Sometimes even when they’re not there.

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