Family, like fish, will start to stink after 3 days. We've been here now for 8 and there is no stink. No, truly. There is the the smell of alcohol and there is tobacco. Everyone other than myself indulges in these two habits. Some to excess. But the smell of tobacco and alcohol is hiding nothing other than intense affection. And again I learn about love. 
You know about my efforts to unravel the mysteries of this thing called Unconditional Love. It doesn't seem to be able to fit into my file. There's always a corner sticking out or folded over or wrinkled. Just doesn't work. I'm a worrier so I hate the thought that all these people I really admire are touting a concept that I can't accept. At one point I even worried that I can't really love because of this inability to accept unconditional love. 
Just imagine: I have two sons. I love them till it hurts. I have an husband of 45 years marriage. I have a sister. I have beloved friends. And I can't seem to love them unconditionally. How terrible is that?
This summer I got to a point where I wondered if all of my love was perhaps just a pretense? Maybe I can't love? Maybe I am loveless? Oh boy, how we punish ourselves. Well, at least I put that idea to rest when I did the love meditation.I love. I can love. I have loved and I shall love.

Knowing Love
Here, living with a person who tests my degree of enlightenment on a daily basis (I am impatient with the choices made. I  want this person to live a different life.and basically I am demanding they live the life I think they should live. Mmmm, yes I know: not good. We differ in so many ways and yet this persson I am feels she should be...I am nothing if not demanding!). Yet because of and despite my really not far-along-the-road spiritual state I have taken a next step on the road to knowing love. You see: staying in someone's home, in their life, is the ultimate test of love. That's why there is the 3-day rule. After 3 days you can't hide from them or they from you and you see behind all facades.There is no getting away, without causing a rift, from the true person. And this is often where relational mishaps occur. Once you know, then do you always like? No and then the rifts tear through the fabric of your love and the  question arises: do I want this person in my life?
 For some the crossing off of the invitation list works. Johnny is a pain in the neck; Annie is mean; Pete is a drug addict. This one is always needy, that one cries poverty and that one breaks you down incrementally: each meeting costs a piece of confidence. Cut them out of your life. They are a negative influence: lose ' em. 
Sounds simple, doesn't it?
 
Love must be worthy
Of course it doesn't work that way. For most of us. Something keeps us tied to that negative drone in your heart and you call it duty and you drag your feet as you do your duty. But I have come to the mind-boggling conclusion (well, it is, to me) that it is even more simple and my way of looking at it from here on in is the best way.The only way. For me:-)
Sometimes. Often. Mostly. Love is. It just is. There is no real rhyme or reason. It just is. We seem to need an explanation for loving someone or something. " I love her because..."  we say. "Oh I love brownies: they are so chocolatety and gooey and..."  " I love my husband: he is so blablabla". Never just I love him. Or it. Or them. Almost as though we need an excuse to love. And if we love then the object of our love must be worthy. Oh definitely got to be worthy. Not just any old thing or person. They must be beautiful and clever and kind and loving and adore us and and and. The list is long and tiresome.
Still: when we look at certain people in our life there is no real reason why we should love them. Family? Nope, family just means your DNA matches. Everything else is nature and nurture and therefore a crapshoot. Because they are lovable? Duh, everyone is lovable, even me. Or you. Or her or him. We are all lovable, it just doesn't mean that everyone has to love us. Or we them. But those we do love we just love. It's that simple.
This is where we have to start the process of acceptance: we can and mostly do love something or someone imperfect. That is the reality. That is why some people can love someone you or I find completely unlovable. We say: "why does she stay with him?" We say: "why does he put up with her?". We can't believe they actually bought that house. She bought that WHAT???? Because they love. Her, him or it. Not something you can switch off, not something that will fade. Real love will stay, however inconvenient or antithetical, real love is. 
 
Well shoot, I hear you say: isn't that Unconditional Love
Not to me it isn't! To me love seems to need certain conditions to attain the kind of staying power I am talking about. Otherwise it can be attraction, it can be a mild affection but it isn't love. Love can be seeded, but negligence, unkindness and incompatibility will let that affection die. The forever kind of love grows from the attraction and the affection. Then, once planted, like an ivy plant, it will twine through the garden of your heart forever. Whatever you do. Or they do. Perfect or imperfect: that love is here to stay. Neither poison nor hoe can kill that love. there will be yeaarss of separation and theen, when you meet again you remeber why this persson was so special: because you love.
The best part is that this seems to go for all kinds of love. For instance friends.
I have a slightly wierd attitude towards friends. Doesn't always go down well but neither my weird attitude, their completely wrong ideas about things (oh, okay, my completely wrong ideas about their ideas) or even meanness of spirit from either side seems to make a difference. You meet again and realise: that fight? That coldness? Those years of avoidance? They do not count. What counts is that the love once there is still there. It just is. Changed definitely. Morphed maybe but it is still there. An inherent knowledge, an instinctual trust that can only stem from love. Imperfect, conditional but true love. 
 
Maybe one of the most important insights in my life: love just is. No justification needed. No excuses. It just is. How absolutely liberating that is. No excuses, reasons or worries because we love an unworthy object. Everyone and everything is worthy. We may love with impunity because love just is....