How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach.
Liz didn’t get finite when it came to her love.
Nope, Elizabeth Barrett Browning went all out. To the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach.
This week I considered that line in a way I hadn’t before. When I was younger, I focused on the measurement aspect of the poem — the depth and breadth and height.
But in Browning’s world, the measurements mean nothing if the soul can’t reach them.
A soul’s reaching, as it turns out, is more about the person in question rather than his or her partner.
A soul’s reaching is not only about being loved by others. It’s about being loved enough by one’s self that doing what’s in the best interest of the soul’s reaching eventually comes naturally.
When I was younger, I thought I understood love better than most. Boy, did I believe I knew love. Back then, I focused on the “depth and breadth and height” of my love. It consumed me. It was exhausting.
And, of course, it didn’t last.
I eventually realized that the convulsions of the relationship weren’t healthy. While even the healthiest relationships require lots of work (and patience), relationships that require too much compromise from one partner or the other are bound for failure — even when the couple stays together, the relationship may be far from a success. Most often, the signs of a healthy versus an unhealthy relationship are evident early on in relationships.
But in the thick of a relationship, being objective doesn’t come easy, does it?
I have no interest in raining on the parade of Valentine’s celebration of love or young love, in general. I’m not even trying to suggest that young love rarely works. Sometimes it does.
While love is worth celebrating any and every day, this is the week to commemorate love — young, old and in between.
These days I focus more on the latter half of Browning’s take on counting her love — the “my soul can reach” part of the love equation.
I’ve come to believe that the key to a healthy relationship is about both souls having the permission and encouragement from each other to reach as near or far as either has interest in reaching. The best kind of love isn’t about turning one person into what another person wants. The best kind of love is about all-out being exactly who you are.