The Labour of Love: The Labour of Love
What is love? Is romance its most vital form? ‘The labour of love’ is a documentary about how four women in their twenties, from a variety of cultural and economic backgrounds and sexual orientations, living in St. John’s, Newfoundland, define what love is, and the struggles that come along with it.
‘The Labour of Love’ was originally broadcast on radio show WOW! or Women on Women: A Show About What Women are Doing, Saying, and Making, on CHMR FM in St. John’s.
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For a transcription of ‘The Labour of Love’ read on:
Sarah Feldbloom: Hi, I’m Shameless Magazine’s Web Producer, Sarah Feldbloom. A few years ago I was living in Newfoundland. I moved there in large part to be with someone I had fallen deeply in love with. During that period of my life I was consumed by the act of loving. I felt like everything had to do with that feeling.
I would spend a lot of time inside my own head, thinking about what I was going through and watching the same questions present themselves over and over again.
I felt isolated in my experience of loving, and didn’t have many close friends around me to talk it through with.
At the time I was producing a radio show for CHMR FM in St. John’s called WOW! or Women on Women: A Show About What Women are Doing, Saying & Making. I decided to ask some of the people in my life there to explain to me and my listeners what they thought love was… what it meant for them. The documentary you’re about to hear was originally broadcast on WOW! It features four women in their twenties from a variety of cultural and economic backgrounds and sexual orientations.
Something that really surprised me while talking to these women was that romantic love, which is what had me obsessed, was the not the type that seemed most relevant overall. It was quite a revelation, since I’d been working for the kind of romantic love I was exploring for basically my whole life. And experiencing it the way it did, it was almost like I was wrapped in a sheet, which lay between me and the world beyond.
A few days ago when I went back to this recording, and listened to these women explain to me again what love is, it occurred to me that I didn’t really hear them fully the first time. It reminds me that we can know something and not understand it or be able to use it until it proves itself to us in our own lives. Regardless it’s important to talk about our feelings and not isolate ourselves, especially in romantic relationships. It can be so easy to get lost and find ourselves dependant and in situations that are unsustainable and unhealthy. I’m single now, and as cliché as it sounds, I finally feel like the most important love relationship is the one I have with myself.
[Sound up on interview]
SF: What do you think of when you think of the word “love”?
Women 1: Wow, that is difficult. Um, when I think of love, I think of love for oneself. That’s, that’s always the first thing that comes to mind…
Women 2: Umm, you can’t just say what it is. There are so many things to say about it. You can’t describe it really; nobody really knows what it is and I’d say—this is such a stupid thing to say because everybody says it—but you don’t know what it is until it actually happens and all that kind of stuff. But I don’t know…you’d never be able to pinpoint it. I guess it’s just a weird feeling and you know when you know.
SF: Was there a time where you thought love was something different than what you just described?
W2: Yes. When I was young I just thought that TV was what love was. I thought that it was going to be like some cartoon. I don’t know…I was going to be some sort of warrior princess and it was going to be perfect and my warrior prince was going to come get me. I don’t know; it’s just not that like that at all. It’s so much more difficult than what I thought.
SF: What do you think love is?
Women 3: Oooh, okay…that is a big question. I think it would really depend on the context in which it was being presented…and also on the person. Seeing as how Valentine’s Day is two days from now, right now I’m inclined to kind of think of romantic love.
I might have a similar perspective on this, but I really see it [love] as something that was commodified by capitalism and really kind of marketed towards us, you know? We have a day every year where we’re expected to celebrate and buy certain products for our so-called loved ones and we’re kind of compelled to be in these relationships that are primarily economic arrangements more than anything else and if you look at partnerships and people who are mostly likely to marry or have partners within their own class and then it perpetuates that [mentality] with their kids and all that. And the way it’s marketed I see as really plastic but also a real opportunity to profit off of [romantic love] which is why it’s been so successful for so long. But having said that, I am currently in a partnership right now and every relationship is going to be different and going to feel differently. What it [love] is for me is passion, where you care deeply for another person. Whether you call that intimacy on a different level or whether you call it love I don’t think is all that important. I mean, how do you label it? If it’s so meaningful and important to you, that’s kind of the main thing.
Women 4: I think love is a connection between two people when you’re able to put your own feelings on par with someone else and when you would do almost do anything to be with that person and make them happy, but without compromising your own happiness.
W1: I think just being fully satisfied with who you are and just feeling like no matter what, you’re always going to be there for yourself. A lot of people say that about others, you know, ‘No matter what so-and-so is going to be there for me,’ or something like that. But, I think knowing that you’re always going to be okay and you’re always going to have yourself, and being okay with that and being okay with the face that you are alone in the world, I think that if you’re okay with that it actually demonstrates that you love yourself. And once you love yourself, then you can actually love others and I think that’s the only way you can ever love others, so yeah that’s what I think.
SF: What kind of relationship did your parents have and would you say they were in love and if so, how was that expressed?
W2: Umm, I never witnessed my mother and father together. They separated when I was one and he wasn’t really a part of my life, so I’ve never really seen that relationship. I do know that my mother didn’t really like him [Laughs]. I’m sure at one point they loved each other…they had to right? It seems like there has to be a spark there somewhere that would start something.
SF: Was there a primary love relationship you witnessed growing up?
W2: That’s a weird question. [Thinking] I never really looked at life like that, I guess. Like, I never looked at anyone that I knew that were in love, I just never thought that much about love I guess, between normal people when I was young. No, I never even thought of friends’ parents like that. I guess…I don’t know, maybe, like people in my family being in love, you know? That kind of thing, like my mom, and my grandmother, and my uncle, and my aunt and all that kind of stuff, maybe a family thing but I don’t think so. I’ve never really thought of that kind of thing before.
SF: What kind of relationship did your parents have? Would you say that they were in love?
W3: Oh yeah, they’re still together. They love each other; I suppose it’s pretty typical of an upper-middle class upbringing in St. John’s. They were…there was bickering and fighting and all that but not to the extent where it got serious or anything and they would always talk about how they loved each other and there was always a kiss before that moment at the door so it was very typical… you know, sitcom-type family.
W4: My parents were…they had a very kind of traditional relationship. They met in high school, so I guess they’re technically high school sweethearts and they broke-up in university but then got back together, so it was pretty traditional. They had two kids, got married, but yeah, they seem pretty in love, though, even today, like they still do stuff together and you can just tell how they are with one another that they’ve had a good lasting relationship.
SF: So what are the things that you notice about their relationship that speak to you in that way? That make you think that those things mean ‘love’?
W4: Probably the fact that…well, they don’t actually fight that much so that’s probably one and they would really do anything for each other but at the same they’re really similar it’s almost like while they’re different, they’re the same. Just the way they work together and the way they are together. They really do take time to not just co-habitate but actually live together and enjoy life together. They do make an effort to do different things, like once they went out snowshoeing and brought a bottle of wine [laughs] and had a cute little picnic up in the snow behind a house and got up on this big rock, which was kind of cute, so they do take time to do that kind of stuff.
W1: My parents, ahhh…initially…I don’t really know, because my mother left when I was very young. She left when I was three and that was really odd, because umm, anything like that is obviously complicated. My dad definitely loved my mother and it was expressed – I could see that at a very young age. He tried everything to keep her, I guess. She was going through a really hard time. She had a lot of, uh, she had an eating disorder and she was going through other things…we don’t really know what; she’s still going through those things, I believe, from what I hear. And…she cheated, she did a lot of things that most people—if I were in my dad’s shoes, well I really can’t say because I’ve never been in that situation with a child and everything—but if somebody I was married to had done some of things she had done to him, I don’t think I would stay with that person, but he kept trying and he kept trying for a couple years after just to make it work. I think a lot of it was love for me, though, to make it work for me, so I don’t know. But I would say he really loved her.
But then growing up I did have a stepmother, and I would say they’ve been together for I think about twelve years now, and they’re very in love. Very in love. I can see that. It’s really interesting because they really have their own relationship. They manage to have something separate from our family and we have our family, like my brother and I and our parents and they show us love, they show my brother love, they show me love. But then they manage to have something on their own and I can’t describe it because I’m not in it but they have some sort of connection, and they have their own dynamic, and they just have their own relationship that’s not a part of us, which I find really fascinating.
W2: I remember looking at friends and thinking that they were truly in love, now whether they are together or not right, I guess, that doesn’t really matter. But I remember seeing two really good friends at the time that were like…they seemed so in love and I didn’t think that that there was anything else for each other, but each other. They were just really loving, you know? It was cute. And I don’t know if that is even the right way to say what a loving relationship should be like.
W3: I certainly have learned a lot about care and intimacy from my own family, which would be, you know, the first people in my life with whom I was surrounded growing up for the first few years of my life and then you know, everyone since then. And there are parts of my sister, my mother, my brother, my father, aunts and uncles in me and in everything I do. But having said that, I think I could say that just about everyone I’ve ever come across in my entire life, you know, because we all have…we all affect one another and with some people on a more profound level than others and I could certainly list some people who could be more profound but ten years down the road I might realize that oh, this person who was in my life for just a few days had a much greater effect on me than I’d realized.
W4: Friends’ parents, and I won’t give their names, but I’ve known this girl, my friend, since grade 2 or 3 and since that day her parents seem like their giddy sweethearts that are 16. They’re constantly holding hands and gazing at each other [laughs] and at first we thought it was kind of weird. But definitely they seem like two equals for sure; there’s never a time when you can say, like, “the woman runs the household” or “this guy has a say in everything” they seems like everything they do is equal with each other. And I found for me that was the hardest thing to find was equality because I found in some relationships I was always the person who made the decisions and it was like I had to be considered before everything happened, and in other relationships it was the other way around. So, it was that equality and that bond that really shows, and that I’ve kind of struggled to find.
SF: Have you ever had your heart broken?
W1: Umm…yeah. I’ve just come to terms with that in the past week or so. [SF: yeah] And it hurts. I’m learning new things about the person—well, I won’t say the person who broke my heart…my partner…the person—and I’m learning new things about myself and these new things just don’t seem to fit with [hesitating] each other…if you know what I mean? And that’s what’s happening and it’s scary and it’s just…I think it’s just more a fear of being alone than anything.
W2: When I was younger I had a best friend and it was just the two of us. I moved to this place when I was eight and it was like seriously, just me and her until I was fourteen. And…I loved her, you know? She was my best friend and I thought we were going to be best for friends for life. We never really fought, never got into arguments, and this one time we were supposed to go to a concert and something happened; I think we were kind of bickering throughout the week and she told me she wasn’t going to this concert. So I had no one to go with because she was my only friend, so I ended up selling my ticket. And the day of the concert, I called her house and asked for my friend, and her father told me that she was gone to the concert with another friend and she cheated on me. She broke my heart. And that was it; my heart was seriously broken in two and we’ve never been the same since and in fact, we feel apart a year later and never really spoke to each other since.
SF: What did you learn from that kind of heartbreak? What did you take with you from that relationship?
W2: I learned that friends are few and far between. I learned that you can love somebody so much one day and then I guess still love them but not really like them at all the next. It’s cruel. That’s what I learned from it . I learned that you can really trust somebody and realize that…I guess realize that it was a mistake. I think I just learned to be more cautious. And I don’t think I ever really had a friend like her since then, so I don’t know if that ruined my love of friends, but, she um…she taught me a lot, and she did teach me a lot throughout the years, but that particular day it was…it was one of the most craziest lessons I’ve ever had.
W3: My cat who was my best friend, really, since I was about five years old, she died when I was in my first of second year of university and uh…that was really difficult. I remember she was a little kind of…Japanese Bobtail Calico, like a really kind of strange cat who adopted us, really. We just kind of took her in and she hung out on our property all the time and she was someone who was really…she would sleep on my forehead, and she was really grumpy with everyone else but really loved me for some reason, and she used to get into her Yahtzee box, and she was kind of fat so she would split out all four sides, and she looked a little bit like Garfield but she always came into the house upset and she would come over and kind of snuggle me, but she was definitely my best friend for a number of years. And then she died; she just kind of stopped eating and dropped a lot weight and we all knew she was sick and had to be put down but I didn’t have the heart to take her to get her euthanized, so my brother and father and sister were supposed to go and take her, but I think the last day I was supposed to spend one last afternoon with her and I came and just kind of laid with her in my bed and at 4PM my father and sister were supposed to go and take her and I woke up from my nap and she was still there and it was about 4:30 and they still hadn’t taken her, so…I was you know really happy that we didn’t have to say our goodbyes just then, and I found out later that Dad and my sister just didn’t have the heart to take her from me while I was napping with her.
But umm, she was smart. I remember right before she died she had to go use the washroom and she was upstairs in my bed and her litter box was downstairs in the foyer but what she did, she actually kind dragged of herself—her hind legs weren’t working at this point so there was a light clunk and she, with her two front paws, climbed over to the bathroom and got right in front of the toilet and peed there. Which is really smart for a cat who’d never done that before. Anyway, then I went and found her and brought her back and went down for dinner and when I came back up she had died on my pillow, and that was probably, you know, one of the most difficult things I ever experienced.
W4: I had a lot invested in a relationship once, but it wasn’t very long, but at the same time, there was still a lot of emotional investment. I knew someone for a little while and then we started seeing each other and then it just ended, so in that sense it took me a while to get over. But at the same time, what I got out of it was a lot of stronger friendships because my friends were really there for me, and it did really shape who I was because I’m definitely stronger and have got more character now because before it was just…I don’t know I guess I wasn’t fully grown up maybe. I think it was more of a naïve, younger thing that I did or that I let happen.
SF: So what was the heartbreak like? What happened?
W4: With me, it was just kind of like, I guess I got dumped for sort of another girl, which is kind of a shitty feeling.
SF: What personal wish of love would you like to give to the world?
W4: Maybe for more people to actually learn to love one another and to respect life in general because I think there’s a lot more people than you’d expect that don’t really have much regard for life otherwise we wouldn’t have as many wars, you wouldn’t have as much animal abuse, those types of things.
W1: I mean, I would like to say, in a cheesy way…that there would be peace, or to some extent things that appear to be problems wouldn’t be problems anymore, almost like they wouldn’t even be seen, because a lot of things are created, a lot of problems are created through miscommunication and things like that, that are just so…it’s more about people having problems with each other, like it’s on a personal level I feel, rather than what the problem actually is. If people got rid of those walls that they have against each other, I guess you could say, and let themselves love each other I think they would focus on the real problem… Yeah, I think that things would just work out in a way.
W2: I just hope that everyone finds love, whether it be with a piece of cheese, or you know, with a person. It’s a beautiful thing and I just really hope that everyone experiences it. Nobody should live their life short.
W3: I think…for people to be gracious and appreciative of what they have…and for people to love more, if they can.
[Sound up on extro monologue]
SF: You’ve been listening to ‘The Labour of Love,’ a documentary about what love means – originally broadcast on WOW! at CHMR FM in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
I’m Shameless Magazine’s web producer Sarah Feldbloom. Talk to you again soon!