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Question of the Week: Love

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What have you learned about love in your lifetime?


on susan henderson's litpark kevin dolgin of mcsweeney's kicks off the first issue of writers sing!

Wednesday, McSweeney’s Kevin Dolgin will be here to sing my favorite love song (okay, it’s a pretty bittersweet, maybe even tragic love song) with the initiation of LitPark’s new feature, Writers Sing! Please don’t miss!


And because so many of you have asked, here is some video from my boys’ School of Rock gig two weekends ago. The first one is Green-Hand singing and playing guitar on “Come Together.” The second one is Green Hand singing (he was given the song and learned the lyrics 2 days before the show) and Bach-Boy on keys for “A Day in the Life.” Enjoy!

I’ll share more photos and stories in the comments section so this post doesn’t get too long.

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What do you think?

  • Susan Henderson
    October 8, 2007

    I didn’t want to post too long a blog by adding photos and things, so I’ll jam the comments area instead.

    Okay, so the boys and their rock school performed a 2-hour Beatles set.

    This is one of the two venues they played at. This is before it was filled.

    rock school venue

    Kimberly was there (as well as other very awesome friends we didn’t photograph)! Here she is with Mr. H.

    kimberly Wetherell opera director

    Before the show started, the kids played pinball. I did double and triple-takes but couldn’t figure out why.

    litpark pinball wizards

    And then, I realize one of my childhood friends is ON the pinball machine! Very funny!

    sandy bullock on pinball machine

    Oh, do I dare? Will she kill me? Will she think, WHY the photo with the wrist bandanas?!

    awesome 80s attire

    The Beatles show was awesome. After, I asked if the boys wanted to celebrate, and Green-Hand said, “I’d like to go home and read.” Bach-Boy said, “I’d kind of like to read, too.” That’s my good little geeks.

    susan henderson mr. henderson and boys

    Next show: The Who!

  • lance reynald
    October 8, 2007

    wow. that is a tough question. I might need a little space here.

    I have learned:

    it must be said, always. If you feel it, say it without fear.

    if you both feel it; no one else has to understand it.

    it can change who you are… sometimes it even makes you more beautiful.

    like everything in life it usually has the power of two faces… light and dark; if you’re not ready to accept that fact…maybe you shouldn’t do it, you’ll certainly be disappointed.

    I can’t ever win a fight to make someone love me if they don’t… and it really isn’t worth trying that way.

    wow, I could go on… but you get it?

  • lance reynald
    October 8, 2007

    ok, I promise, one last thing then I’m out of here…

    it can also be the most sublime beauty you’ll ever see in a photograph, a mixtape, a memory.

    that which sustains you and fuels a quest.

  • Daryl
    October 8, 2007

    your boys truly rock, Susan. i’m so impressed!

    re: “love”…? it bites. it is fleeting and when it is focused on external desires/objects it is never real. it is more indifferent than a spring wind and only leads to ruin. on the other hand, good feelings in the heart experienced moment to changing moment, like a tide we cannot harness are quite special and should be protectedly remembered.

  • Mark Bastable
    October 8, 2007

    Amy’s quote is from ‘Money’, from the musical ‘Cabaret’.

    Tell me more about this ‘Writers Sing’ idea (he said, much too casually).

    What I have learned about love: it’s a many-splintered thing.

  • Robin Slick
    October 8, 2007

    Oh, how I adore those boys and those videos! I watched them like four times on your MySpace site yesterday.

    What have I learned about love? Are we talking men? Absolutely nothing, only that my alleged maturity has taught me it’s very rare that both people in the relationship love and respect each other equally and unconditionally forever — and if you are lucky enough to find a person with whom you think you have that, you still have to keep working hard to maintain it and there are still times you are going to throw up your hands and say “Damn I’d be better off living by myself in a one room apartment overlooking Rittenhouse Square and…”

    Oh. Forgive me. That’s the writer in me talking. The one who would like to live alone in a cubicle with just a computer, bathroom, comfy bed, and fully stocked refrigerator.

    If we are talking our children, I’ve learned that there’s no love like it in the world…it renders you weak in the knees and totally selfless.

  • Lee
    October 8, 2007

    Love is internal, meaning
    it’s always inside
    Love is external, meaning
    it’s there by your side.
    Love never varies,
    questions, or sits;
    Love never carries
    fragments or bits.
    Love is more than a question
    for us to ponder and hope.
    Love is the suggestion
    that we always should note.


  • Nathalie
    October 8, 2007

    Vast subject !

    Just a few lessons of love:
    – There will always something new to discover about love
    – Love no matter what (return is grand but that should not be the end)
    – Love should be unconditional (i.e. you should love people for who they are and not for what you think they should be)
    – Love is a weird thing altogether.

  • amy
    October 8, 2007

    I’ve learned that love is easy, but it’s pretty much the only thing in life that is. I quote:

    When you go to get a word of advice
    From the fat little pastor
    He will tell you to love evermore.
    But when hunger comes a rap,
    Rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat at the window…
    See how love flies out the door.

  • Bradley
    October 8, 2007

    To me, the word “love” has two related, but different, definitions. I may describe the feeling one has for a person that he or she cares very deeply about. Or it can mean the way one feels about his or her children. And I think only a parent completely understands that distinction.

  • Kimberly
    October 8, 2007

    Dear oh dear… what a question!

    What Lance said… and Daryl… and Robin… you get my drift.

    I don’t know what eloquence I can add beyond the thousands of writers who have delved into such a vast topic, but my own small experience has taught me, is that my capacity for love grows every day – which, if you think about it, it should be the reverse, right? We start our lives with a huge Pot O’ Luvin’ and as you dole it out, the contents should dwindle. But I’ve found that every time I dip in, I find more than what I started with.

    And that’s pretty cool.

    – – – – –

    Here’s my favorite poetic wrap-up of love:

    And then sometimes… this little ditty explains the other side:

    – – – – –

    As for the Henderson Rock Stars – talk about All My Lovin’! Woo-hoo! Funny that Sue didn’t post the photo of the boys hunched over their books while the grown-ups drank adult beverages and sang along with Billy Joel on ‘Angry Young Man’. They kinda reminded me of the Pixies in that way (see ‘loudQUIETloud’ if you haven’t already…)

  • Susan Henderson
    October 8, 2007

    I have big plans to finish editing another chapter of my book today, so this is my only play-time. If you don’t visit Tommy Kane’s regularly, you should at least head over there today to see how cute he is in a wig. If you don’t go there regularly, What’s wrong with you?! His blog is my internet crack.

    Lance – Yes, I get it.

    Daryl – Take that tide line and write on it.

    Robin – Thank you so much for watching the videos!

    Nathalie – We think alike. I’ll say more on Friday.

    Amy – Who is that you’re quoting? It sounds so familiar.

    Bradley – Interesting. I’m realizing I have much to say for the Weekly Wrap.

    Kimberly – rock school sushi

    And p.s. I’m so sad our friend who works for the [BLANK] embassy in Tehran can’t see YouTube videos. They’ve just been banned. Grrrr.

  • Lori Oliva
    October 8, 2007

    It’s an evolving lesson…

    Most recently, I’ve been focusing on trying to release expectation and remain detached from outcome (in all areas of my life, not just love, but alas, love has been my number one teacher in this subject) It is easier said than done.

  • Jody Reale
    October 8, 2007

    If I had to drum up an elevator pitch on love’s behalf, it would be simply this…
    Love: it pretty much screws up all your big plans.

    PS Not that that’s always a bad thing, but you knew that already.

  • Lizzy
    October 8, 2007

    Okay, I haven’t read anyone else’s comments on this yet, because I’m afraid I’m going to copy them if I see them, but if I copy them by accident I’m sorry.

    Based on my (very) limited experience, love isn’t something that anyone expects. It shows up, and no matter what happens it doesn’t go away. It can look different than you thought it would, and it can’t be measured- but you can measure time in it. I can’t really put it any different than that so if nobody minds I’m going to quote an author I like, Brian Andreas:

    “This is a tree on fire with love, but it’s still scary since most people think love only looks like one thing instead of the whole world.”

  • Maria
    October 8, 2007

    Wow, what a question…

    Like everyone, I’m still learning about love. The biggest secret for me so far is that I can’t fit love into rigidly separate categories like “platonic love,” “familial love,” “romantic love,” etc. I think feelings sort of bleed.

    Whenever I talk with people about this, they seem a little uncomfortable with the idea… but to me, love is fierce, and frankly, pretty amorphous. The lines between friend and family and lover are kind of thin–I’m not talking about having sex with blood kin here; I’m really speaking to the deep feelings one has for a family member or a very close friend or a lover, which to me seem, at bottom, to be not-terribly-distinct from each other.

    I wonder if this rings true for anyone else, or if I’ve managed to freak a few more people out…

  • lance reynald
    October 8, 2007

    Maria… not freaked out at all; you seem to get it. But, as I tend to freak people out with those kinds of statements; perhaps we should start a club.

  • Susanna Donato
    October 8, 2007

    Not as much as I thought I would’ve by now. Love is less and more than it’s made out to be.

  • Carolyn Burns Bass
    October 8, 2007

    Love changes. I recently met a young writer going through a break in her marriage of seven years. She asked me what I thought kept BassMan and I together for twenty-one years. I told her that it was love for our family—our kids—that kept us working at our marriage. Now that the kids are out of the house, we are rediscovering each other and finding our love has changed yet again.

    Love is more than a feeling, it’s a state of being. It grows, thickens, deepens, sharpens.

    Love is unreserved care for the physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of another person.

    Love wakes you up in the middle of the night to feed babies, clean up vomit, let out the dog, rush to the hospital to be with a dying parent.

    Love puts you to sleep with snores and wakes you up in the morning with a rod in your back.

    I think St. Paul says it best here: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

  • dennis mahagin
    October 8, 2007


    Love sticks
    in your thickly

    Missus Love
    make a man
    wanna call out
    the Law!

    Love’s a pipeline
    of sour mash for
    the ever-loving lush; you can

    hoard a stash, but don’t that cost too much?

    Love is a Scary
    Movie you watch
    between your fingers,

    if you’re
    lucky in love it
    lingers, and


    kinds of

    clean fun,

    gotta stop all my
    yappin’, go out
    and get me


  • Debbie Ann
    October 8, 2007

    OH. MY. GOD!!

    I love your kids. What amazing human beings!

    Please, if they hit New York, let me know. I will come to see them

    deb ann

  • Lori Oliva
    October 8, 2007

    Just saw both videos…Green-Hand and Bach-Boy are brilliant! GREAT JOB guys!

  • Nathalie
    October 8, 2007

    I feel that way to. To me love is very much a on/off thing. I cannot love a little.

  • Julie Ann Shapiro
    October 8, 2007

    Love…it’s worth dying for…I say that cliche because it’s how I feel some times in the aftermath of an attack by someone trying to tear my love part. matter. Ten years plus my parents have tried to be pull my husband and I down. But love triumphs. No matter how hard they’ve pulled and all the thousands of ugly words said —we stand by each other. As for them…I’ve made peace in my mind. That’s what love has taught me. I love them enough to see their fraility. What they can’t control…namely us…they tried to push away and cast assunder.

    My husband’s compassion, laughter, wisdom and deep understanding of me and of life teaches me so much. Ever since my car accident a moth ago I haven’t been able to handle that much stress. I’d had a contract sitting on my desk from a publisher, a big one. It’s to write a non-fiction book. They’re the real deal but making that kind of committment is painful. My huband out of love keeps saying just heal yourself, take the time to heal and write your stories and when you’re ready think about client work. He’s even lined up a colleague to help promote my book and designed my whole excercise, mind, body, soul for healing.

    And for him…I’m learning to be a better person…to take the time to breath,to really listen and not think of the next thing to say and to feel the zen of cleaning and cooking and the beauty of our love that has survied so much.

  • Julie Ann Shapiro
    October 8, 2007

    sorry for the typos above…I hope you get the meaning.

  • Michael D. Williams
    October 8, 2007

    I love my children with all my heart and soul. I tried to love my wife but I wasn’t any good at it. I know love is out there, I just forgot where I hid it.

  • Betsy
    October 8, 2007

    Oh my god, Susan, those kids. A Day in the Life gave me chills.
    I’m not sure I’m finished learning about love. I think for sure it’s about action more than words, says this writer. One thing I have come to realize is that it’s a lot more about what I can give than what I can get, and trust me when I say that although that makes it sound like I’m some incredibly unselfish person, that’s for sure not the case. It’s just that I discovered, via some unfortunate and redundant research, that it doesn’t work very well the other way around, when I’m just desperate to get. That said, I don’t feel like Ben has any idea what he’s given to me in the time we’ve been together. I really had no idea what it was at all before he came around. Just theories. Some of them conspiracy theories…

  • JimT
    October 8, 2007

    Love is ephemeral, a gift, a mystery.

    Sue, what amazing boys.

    Rock on, young lads, rock on!

  • Susan Henderson
    October 8, 2007

    You guys are great, and Jim, it’s really good to see you around again. I’ll comment tomorrow. Yesterday was my first day out of bed in 2 days. I played a game of soccer and was dry-heaving on the field, but I felt better than I thought I would, and it seemed like maybe I had this thing beat. But today, I’ve got this pounding headache again and it feels like I swallowed poison.

    Violins, please.

    Actually, no violins. They’ll just hurt my head.

    I’ll pop in tomorrow, for sure. ‘Night. xo

  • Aurelio O'Brien
    October 8, 2007

    I want to be a Henderson. Those boys rock.

    I agree with Nathalie – love is a weird thing altogether.

    When I was younger and single, I longed to have someone to love who would love me back, thinking that would complete me, and once complete, my life would be perfect. My love and I would be one.

    I lucked out and did find someone to love who loved me back, but that other stuff – it doesn’t have anything to do with love. Especially the “completing me” part. If you think love is about two people becoming one, then you need to take a basic math class. I think it’s more like two people create a third thing together, maybe that I could buy.

    So, my epiphany was, it is good to be a whole person when you are in a relationship. You can give it more and enjoy it more, not in a needy or expectant way, but for the pure joy of intimacy.

  • Richard Cooper
    October 9, 2007

    I’ve learned that unrequited love is, indeed, the greatest love of all: a great big mess of painful joy.

  • Nathalie
    October 9, 2007

    Ah and Julie Ann just reminded me that one of the weirdest things (well, the most disturbing obviously) I have learned about love (so far) is that it might worth killing for
    (a painful story behind that).

  • Lee
    October 9, 2007

    Does anyone remember that scene in ‘Singles’ where Janet (Brigette Fonda) and Steve (Campbell Scott) are sitting in the breast enhancement doctor’s office and Steve asks Janet, “What are you looking for in a guy?” She answers with a laundry list of admirable qualities, with the modifier, “That was when I first moved here. Now I’m just looking for someone who says Gezundheit(sp?) when I sneeze. Although ‘Bless You’ is much nicer.
    I think that scene sums it up for a lot of people.
    Just a different perspective.


  • Susan Henderson
    October 9, 2007

    Guys, I’m operating at about 35% today, which is a BIG improvement. Just want you to know that I’ve read and thought about all of your comments and it helps me to understand you and understand the nature of love a whole lot better. But I won’t be making individual comments because my head is spinning and I don’t want to barf on the keyboard. But I’m here, and I hear you. Oh, if I only felt well enough to have a cup of coffee, my head might feel a little sharper….

  • David Niall Wilson
    October 9, 2007

    I have learned not to expect others to feel exactly as I do. I have learned that the most fulfilling thing is to love unconditionally, and that no matter how much it hurts at times, it’s even better to do so when it’s not reciprocated in kind. I have learned there are a lot of kinds of love, and the capacity for it is as infinite as the capacity for disillusionment – and that the two often walk hand in hand down the same sunset beaches.

    You’d think, in other words, that I would have learned better – but I remain a hopeless romantic.

    It’s a character flaw…


  • Aimee
    October 9, 2007

    To me love was being able to give my Grandmother a shower when she was too old to shower by herself. Instead of being weird it was kind of beautiful to care for her the way she had once cared for me. Peaceful.
    Romantic love, I guess is when you’ve been with a person long enough that the passion can flare and die but the feeling of love never waivers…although irritation may mask it from time to time.

  • Nathalie
    October 9, 2007

    Get well soon!

  • Ric Marion
    October 9, 2007

    Since I’m a romantic at heart (you know, one of those guys who sends roses and cries at sappy cards), this may be a bit much.

    Love is hurrying home to see her smile because your life isn’t complete without it, wondering what she would think as you go about your day and lonely if she’s not there with you.
    Love is curled up in front of the fireplace, watching the flames dance and not saying a word, secure in the knowledge this is the best it can get. It is the missing piece that completes the outside edge of the puzzle – the one you look the hardest for, and, having found, is just the beginning as you have to put together the rest – the warm colors, the strong fence, the azure sky, the foundation of the red barn.

    Tis life.


  • lance reynald
    October 9, 2007

    garlic. hot soak. those little emergen-c packettes…a big warm blanket on the sofa with the dogs… GET WELL WONDERTWIN!!!

    (and, sometimes love looks kinda like that.)

  • jchrisrock
    October 9, 2007

    I love the Come Together video. Green Hand knows how to work the crowd, that’s for sure. Such presence.

    The most important thing I think I’ve learned about love recently is that it isn’t one thing. I thought love was how deeply I felt about my amazing wife of thirteen years. Simple. Then we had a son, and I realized love was this strange new thing, too. Equally stunning but different.

    He’s one year old now, and it seems like I keep stumbling into new incarnations of this overwhelming feeling virtually every day. How fun is that?

  • Sarah Bain
    October 9, 2007

    Wow, what an ultimate, serious question on the heels of tatoos. I cannot write about love without writing about Grace and grace. When you give birth to a dead baby, when that child has been living and breathing inside of you and then in the next moment she is still inside of you but neither living nor breathing, you realize that love is bigger than anything you can ever comprehend. It is so large that it can make breathing difficult, it can literally tear a hole so deep in your heart that the hole remains no matter how much time passes. That kind of love can cause you to contemplate suicide but a different kind of death that will simply bring you back to your child, not the kind of death that will rip you from your other children. And somewhere along the way, grace arrives in a different form and you realize that you can breathe again, in short breaths and you can love again and you can continue to love your child and fall in love again with your partner and no matter what, you just continue to fall and hope someday that love can bring all of you back into the same space because this kind of love is both empowering and wrenching because who, after all, when she is six-years-old and dreaming of marriage and children ever imagines that babies can be born not breathing? And love can then transform your life and rewire your brain and in that way, love is simply grace and Grace.

  • Gail Siegel
    October 9, 2007

    Sigh. Nothing. I’m a slow learner.

  • Gail Siegel
    October 9, 2007

    I don’t think your boys can be considered geeky, considering they are such rock stars!!!

  • Kimberly
    October 9, 2007

    I am in tears, reading so many beautiful expressions of people’s experiences with L.O.V.E.

    Thank you one and all for continuing to share and inspire…

    Feel better Sue! (and not in the ‘better get a bucket’ kind of way) 🙂

  • Robin Slick
    October 9, 2007

    Gail, you just made me laugh out loud.

    Oh, Susan dear? Can I replace my answer with Gail’s?

    (Because had I answered honestly…)

    P.S. I hope you are feeling better. And do answer Mark for all of us to see. It sure seems like he’s volunteering, doesn’t it?

  • Jessica
    October 9, 2007

    Yikes. This question stumped me because it takes in the whole world. Plus, I’ve had my worst struggles around it.

    Love? I’ve learned that I need it.

    Feel better, Susan.

  • Oronte Churm
    October 9, 2007

    Love is waking up with your two-year old between you in bed, and he snuggles against your chest for warmth and looks up sleepily, and you look down, and he sneezes daycare viruses right into your bleary eyes, and it doesn’t matter.

  • Susan Henderson
    October 9, 2007

    Robin – Don’t worry, I’m going to find a way for Mark to sing for us. I just want to make sure he wears a shiny, polka-dotted shirt when he does it!

    Kimberly – Now I’m scared because Friday the most unromantic person in the universe, or so I’ve been called, will answer the question about love.

    Gail – Great answer. And I think having an 11-year-old who takes math at college and boys who save all their money to buy magic card decks might make them Official Geeks.

    Sarah – xoxo. I came across little Grace’s picture the other day. She has changed us all.

    Chris – I’m glad you’re here! And yes, it’s a little scary how comfortable Green-Hand is with a crowd.

    Lance – I wish I was the kind of sick where I wanted to take bubble baths and read trashy magazines and snuggle under the covers, but I can’t get comfortable enough. So instead, I’m just going around complaining so everyone remembers how miserable I am.

    Ric – Ha! Poor Mr. Henderson can’t get away with any of that here. If he ever had a flowery side, I’m afraid I squelched it long ago.

    Nathalie – Thank you! Slooooowly, I’m getting better.

    Aimee – That’s really lovely, and I think my view of love is not too far from yours.

    DNW – So great to see you around again!

    Thanks for everyone who stopped by yesterday and for all the sweet things you said about my kids. (And yes, I do feed Green-Hand. He has the EXACT same body I had at his age, and there’s no amount of food that’ll make him get bigger until he’s ready.)

  • Susan Henderson
    October 9, 2007

    Hey, Jessica and Oronte – We must have posted at the same time. Glad you’re here. xo

  • Juliet deWal
    October 9, 2007

    I’ve learned that love is giving up your option to quit.
    That it is wanting what is best for another person—even if it will cost you, and especially when it is easier to give up than to give in. That it is a commitment to another person that says “even when the feelings don’t reflect it; when I don’t have the warm fuzzies and when you are annoying the shit out of me, I am here, and honoured to be.”

    that love is as much about remembering who you are as it is about knowing the other; that it’s a commitment to do what you need to in order to be able to hold another’s heart with integrity.

    And the swooning doesn’t hurt, either.

  • Susan Henderson
    October 10, 2007

    Juliet – I need to start gathering my thoughts so I don’t write a meandering, ten-bazillion page essay on love. You guys are giving me too much to think about. And when it comes to love, I never think at all. I’m very automatic-pilot.

Susan Henderson