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Versatile love ...

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Posted: Sunday, May 27, 2012 11:51 am | Updated: 11:26 am, Wed Jan 23, 2013.

Love … a word, so simple and yet so complex. We can love chocolate, playing tennis or watching the tide roll in. There are love/hate relationships, loveless marriages and loved ones lost. Commonly used as a noun and at times difficult to implement as a verb, love is a postage stamp, a sentimental signature and a powerful motivator. There’s the love of a friend, a romantic suitor or the sacrificial love of someone who gives their life to save a stranger. It was the next topic the Eat, Pray, Love discussion group grappled with.

In a romantic Tom Cruise movie, he utters the phrase that every starry-eyed lover wants to hear: “You complete me.” Can something or someone we love fill a void in our lives? If Prince Charming slips the missing shoe on, can it transform Cinderella’s life forever?

As appealing as this “magical thinking” sounds, it spells disaster for any relationship. The knight in shining armor (now thought of as an enabler) can’t help us help ourselves; moreover, the role is ultimately impossible.

“I make bad choices when it comes to love,” one 30-year-old sighed. “Now I ask my girlfriends to pre-approve my boyfriends.”

A consensus revealed that good relationships were based on honesty, loyalty, humor and a shared interest or beliefs. When several women stopped looking for “Mr. Right” and began to invest themselves in the camaraderie of friends, they found these traits prevailed.

Social networking once was thought the panacea for loneliness, but recent research suggests that being exposed to an up-to-the-minute account of other people’s lives can actually cause one to feel inconsequential and depressed. And forget about receiving a love letter. Technology has us tweeting sound bites instead. How does one interpret whether a text is humorous or sarcastic — should you trust the smiley icon?

“It’s easy to ignore an email or text from someone when you don’t want to deal with a problem,” a fiery redhead quipped, “but the truth is, I can avoid confrontation using any medium.”

Long-distance relationships ranged from a husband in the service overseas to a romance half-way across the U.S. “Talking on the phone or texting is so unsatisfying. It seems all we do is discuss the mundane, day-to-day stuff.”

Sometimes distance makes the heart grow fonder but sometimes the flame of passion can fizzle out. What sustains love over time, troubles and distance? The answers were compelling — commitment, communication, forgiveness and hard work.

“An acquaintance just donated her kidney to a relative,” a woman shared, “and I thought about whether I would be willing to sacrifice an organ. Yet, when I saw a child running into the road I ran out in traffic after him without hesitation.”

Is sacrificial love instinctive — is it something we’re all capable of? You can believe in doing to others as you would have done to you or what goes around comes around, but as Bob Dylan put it, “You’ve gotta serve somebody.” In this world of narcissistic behavior, how can we love the unlovely and better reflect the love we’ve been shown? We found our “group” grew into a community where friendships were formed and relationships deepen.

A friend of mine — an avid reader, teacher and animated storyteller — suffered a sudden, devastating illness that robbed her of the ability to walk, talk and write. What little I could offer, a few meals and some words of comfort, seemed trivial. The last lesson she taught me — with her long embraces and a knowing gaze — transcended the silence between us. Love is an action, a presence and an expression more meaningful than words can describe.