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Anja Snellman writes of 10 beliefs about love that have proven wrong in her life. Photo: Jez Timms.
Love is blind? Love is the opposite of hate? Love endures all things? Love is different for women and men? You cannot love two people at the same time? We’ll always have Paris?
Anja Snellman writes of how 10 beliefs about love have proven wrong in her life. “Falling in love is always an experience of renewal. When two people fall in love, they are offered an opportunity they can either seize or lose. Love must be fostered, but it cannot be forced. We die a little each time love leaves us, but love continues its journey unaffected.”
1 LOVE IS BLIND. When in love, you see more clearly: with your heart. The world looks more beautiful than ever before, full of opportunities. When in love, you are more forgiving, tolerant, and merciful—toward yourself and others.
Love makes the world glow with beauty. You fall in love with the planet, the history of humankind, even Darwin.
Is this blindness? No, it’s a different way of seeing, which I, for one, appreciate. Creativity requires this type of vision, which is why falling in love is a state of mind particularly valuable for artists.
I admit that when I was younger, I purposefully sought this kind of enamored vision. Love always involves joy: the joy of discovery. According to ancient Indian wisdom, all creation arises from joy, is supported by joy, aims for joy, and always comes back to joy. The same applies to love, in my opinion.
2 LOVE IS THE OPPOSITE OF HATE. Love is the sister of hate, equal in strength. Not the opposite or other side, but a blood relative. Like many others, I have experienced love-hate relationships, and the people who evoke these feelings are the sugar and spice of life.
They are hot and cold, near but far. You cannot get rid of them; they stay in your life persistently, but you will never really learn to know them. They elude your attempts at understanding. They are alter egos, kindred spirits—mirrors you simply must dare to look into.
One thing is certain: you will never forget them. In Autumn Prince (scheduled for publication in English in 2022), I write about this kind of love, based on my own experiences, reminiscing about one of the stormiest relationships of my life. That love involved jealousy, codependency, envy, and a fear of loss that nearly escalated into violence.
The man fell into severe depression in the late 1980s. He was all about extremes—befittingly and unfortunately, he made the ultimate decision and took his own life.
I guess people can fall in love to different degrees, with varied intensity. After all, love is a feeling among other human emotions. For me, falling in love has always been a fiery experience: the lioness in me occasionally takes over.
3 YOU CANNOT LOVE TWO PEOPLE AT THE SAME TIME. Love is the sister of joy: it grows, flourishes, and spreads—if you let it grow without fear. This is why I believe you can love two people at the same time, even passionately. I write about this in Continents: A Love Story.
“Do you love me, or do you love Bolt?” Scoop asks, watching the birds.
“I love you and Bolt,” Rainbow replies.
“You cannot love two at the same time.”
“But I love you in turn,” Rainbow says, quietly. “When I’m with you, I love you, and I love him when I’m with him.”
4 YOU CANNOT FALL IN LOVE TWICE WITH THE SAME PERSON. I believe in providence or fate in some way, although I’m not particularly religious and even less into astrology and the like. Let me put it this way: I believe some things happen because they have been written in the Great Book of Life.
My current husband and I met briefly but dramatically in the early 1980s. We fell in love in the prime of our youth. We were right for one another—but the time was wrong for us: we both were otherwise engaged in relationships. Much like in classic romantic love stories, we broke up to honorably continue our other lives, the lives that had been prepared and planned for us.
Our love story was interrupted—and did not continue until our paths crossed again, 22 years later. We fell in love again, every bit as intensely and passionately as before. We fell in love with the same person again.
We were still right for one another, and now the time was right for us as well. This did not devalue our “other lives” in any way—the lives we had spent elsewhere with other people. Quite the contrary: this had to happen. Enriched by the years and experiences in between, we reconnected.
5 LOVE IS DIFFERENT FOR WOMEN AND MEN. I believe that women and men are ultimately more similar than they are different. Even the elation, uncertainty, jealousy, longing, dreams, and illusions of falling in love are within us all.
When a man shows the full range of his emotions, including his fragility and sensitivity, I find it very erotic. I have had the good fortune of loving men who are strong in their sensitivity. I have also been fortunate enough to have talks with my male friends about their love woes. There is no better opportunity for a woman to learn about a man and his soul.
6 PLATONIC LOVE DIFFERS FROM SENSUAL LOVE. Platonic love can be extremely powerful, without sexuality—or “fulfillment,” as we often call it, making a value judgment.
I have had many good female and male friends whom I have loved; no milder word is enough to express the feeling. Some of these friendships have lasted for decades, and my friends have witnessed my romantic relationships come and go.
The Greek language has several words for “love,” including a deep feeling of love between friends. I become easily infatuated, with women and men alike, and such accidental encounters have sometimes led to warm friendships.
I literally bumped into a man who became one of my best male friends at a traffic light in the center of Helsinki in the early 1980s. We both dropped a few things and started picking them up from the street amid the hustle and bustle of the main street in Helsinki.
The situation was so comical that we decided to forget about our busy schedules and have a cup of coffee. We hit it off immediately, as friends, and our friendship continues.
7 LOVE ENDURES ALL THINGS. Love can break, shatter, wither. Love must be fostered; it must be respected and listened to. Love cannot be forced. Love will leave us if it is time for love to go. And we die a little each time—but love continues its journey unaffected and every bit as vivid as before.
8 ALL-CONSUMING LOVE IS DESTRUCTIVE. Falling in love is always an experience of renewal. Everyone should experience “tornado love” once in their life—passion that catches you unawares, sweeps you off your feet, and turns your life upside down.
When two people fall in love, they are offered an opportunity they can either seize or lose. But all-consuming love asks no questions: it comes with upheaval and fire. Everything happens as though played in fast forward. Time disappears, perspective disappears, other people disappear.
9 WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS. Wherever you fall in love, the scenery will always remind you of love. I remember a marketplace during the strawberry season in Helsinki in the summer of 1975. I remember the scent of asphalt after the rain and the distant blinking of a lighthouse in November 1980.
I remember the street under my window late in the evenings in May 1982: the lights of the cabs, and the familiar whistle from the street to let me know I should drop the keys from the window. I also remember the coastline and the morning dew along a path in the forest during my first marriage.
Love has no “right” scenery or season. Spring and Paris are a cliché. Love is vivid and restless, and it eludes clichés.
10 LOVE IS . . . Love eludes our definitions. It’s an eternal enigma, a vagabond. Love is a bird that lands where it pleases, builds a nest in you or me, and stays there—or takes flight unexpectedly, without explanation, without looking back.
Published with permission from Anna magazine
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How Far Have We Really Come? “My two daughters have grown up into adulthood and womanhood in a very different world,” writes Anja Snellman. “However, over the past few years, I have seen signs of a new backlash: women are again subjected to old types of beliefs, wishes, and demands.”
Decades of Love. In Continents: A Love Story, Anja Snellman compares each stage of a relationship to a continent. Relationships evolve over time, and people grow and change. We asked the author how she thinks love changes with age, from your twenties to your sixties.
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