The phrase "I love you" gets tossed around a lot these days. I'm guilty of it, you're guilty of it, everyone says "I love [insert acquaintence, place, or object here]." Maybe they mean it. Maybe they understand. But a lot of times, they don't.
People also confuse loving someone and being in love with someone. They are similar, but there is such distinction between the two that confusing one for the other causes me great irritation. When I first got to know Greg, I told him I loved him. And I do. He and my sister both appeared to mistake this for me saying I was in love with him. To the best of my knowledge, I am not and have never been in love with Greg. But I love him, as I love Tish and John and Kelsey and Michael and many other people important to me who I call 'friends'- unconditionally. People I love have been confused by this, and gone so far as to try to make me angry, try to make me hate them. And while they can make me angry because (no matter how I deny it) I am human, they can never make me hate them. I will always love them, and any amount of insults or anger they direct at me will not make me change my mind about that. It might hurt, and it will hurt deeply, but I will not love them any less. This is one of the reasons Greg's comic almost made me cry. It sums up much of what I believe in about love - once he gets Sub-Sane up, read page 5. Transcripting it to text does not properly share my feelings on it.
Some would say love means never having to say 'I'm sorry'. I seem to feel it means constantly saying it.
I'm sorry I can't be there for you as much as you need me; I'm so selfish
I'm sorry your parents are so thoughtless; I wish I could make them see
I'm sorry your family is so fucked up; you deserve better than that
I'm sorry your [boyfriend/girlfriend/best friend] hurt you; I don't understand why they can't realize you're as wonderful as I know you to be
I'm sorry you didn't get that [job/promotion/scholarship/award], I know that even if you don't deserve it now, you are capaple of putting forth effort that would make them see you definitely can be
I'm sorry to waste your time with my petty problems when I know yours are drastically more important - what's on your mind?
I'm sorry you're not feeling happy today, if I say something weird or do something strange, will you smile or laugh for even a moment?
I'm sorry you don't think you have much worth; it hurts me to hear you cruelly belittle something I hold so dear as yourself
I'm sorry the people around you don't take the time to get to know you, because they'd love you as much as I do
I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry...
Sad thing is, with most people I cannot say it outright.
Now, being in love with someone... it's so difficult to explain. Because on top of the aforementioned unconditional, limitless love mentioned previously, there's... more. Somehow. More than limitless? No, that doesn't make sense. But I suppose that's fitting. Michael once described love as being beyond human understanding and being far more than humans deserve, and I agree with him completely on that. It is. That's why even today, after centuries upon centuries of speculating on the nature of love, we still haven't the faintest clue about it. I believe that it is possible to love someone without always liking them or agreeing with the things they do. I believe that being in love with someone means liking them is quite necessary. I belive the best of lovers are also friends, and I believe it is quite possible to still have 'a crush' on someone even when you've known and been in love with them for years (or maybe that's just my excuse for why I turned into a blithering idiot whenever Michael was around. Could be...). Some people say love fades with time... but I believe that love is the only thing in existance that lasts forever. I do not believe it is only possible to truly 'be in love' with members of the opposite sex. Personally, girls bug me. But that's just me. If you happen to find a (and I cringe to use such a cliched word) soulmate who happens to have the same naughty bits as you, so be it. Best of luck to you. I have a suspicion that the Old Testament rule of "thou shalt not lie with a man as you would with a woman, blah blah blah" is mostly to aid the survival of the species - there werent' as many humans back then, and if a chunk of them had decided they liked their own gender better, not enough of them would have bred, particularly given the probable infant mortality rates at the time, to keep the human race going strong. Most of the Old Testament rules have basis in logical hygeine and whatnot, which meant 'God's Chosen People' lead slightly healthier lives and most likely lived longer, thus making ye Olde God look like he was blessing them. Sneaky, but it worked.
It's different for each individual. Some people believe they cannot love, or cannot be in love. I was once one of them, for a short while. That changed. I think it is more that those individuals, on some level, recognize love for the frighteningly strong emotion that it is, and they are scared. They are utterly terrified. And they deny it's existance. I could be wrong, but in many of the cases I've seen, that would appear to be the reason. Some people never seem to find love of any sort, and a few of them are actually content with this. I'm wired far too differently to be able to comprehend being happy like that, but to each their own. Some also say you can make a conscious decision to 'fall in or out of love' with someone. I have trouble with that concept, too - that implies total control over the emotion, and love is the one emotion I have never, ever been able to even attempt to suppress - much less squelch entirely. And believe me, I have tried. Does. Not. Work. For me, at least, love is not allowing yourself to care about someone, it is losing total control and being unable not to care. Which is why it is capable of inflicting unending amounts of pain, as well as causing limitless joy. You lose yourself.
And now, I am off to take a shower.