To read the original version in the author's native language click here
Brussels University, 1st year of Architecture.
I am sitting alone in the big classroom, along with four hundred other students. The class: History of Architecture in the 20th century. The teacher is showing us The Barcelona Pavillon.
A couple of months later, as I am discovering the Pavillon in real life, I recall and become aware of what Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, the author of this master piece, had declared, more than seventy years ago:
“Less is more.”
– “Well well, Ludwig…buddy. What I say is: less is more, okay. But that’s not true for everything.”
And Ludwig goes:
– “What do you mean, it’s not true for everything, Jo ?”
Jo? That escalated quickly.
– “Well, minimalism does not apply to everything.
I think that less can’t be more when it comes to chocolate for example. Or kisses, or honesty, or the sun. Or sleep, Britney Spears, friends and F.R.I.E.N.D.S.; sweets and candies, movie nights, and sushi. And family. And love.”
So Ludwig went away. And gave away.
Because being minimalistic, when it comes to love, does not make any sense. Love does not experience excess, does it?
You cannot love in power-saving mode.
Because you can not love too much.
Seven years later, I am in the noisy Berlin metro, reading Promise at Dawn by Romain Gary, in its original French version. At the very beginning of the autobiographical novel, I read:
“With maternal love, life makes a promise at dawn that it can never hold.”
This could not be truer for me. Actually, yes – it could be even more exact if I would replace maternal with paternal. Because with the love of my father, life made me a promise that it will never hold.
Let me explain.
If I should establish a wishlist, in the first place I would definitely want a new nose. Because, I mean, it’s obvious, right? But in last place, I would put love. It’s not that I don’t need it, it’s just that I have so much of it. It’s overflowing. Like, really overflowing.
It comes from everywhere, every day, and through every possible way. And it is reciprocal. Reciprocally overflowing.
The kind of love that will hurt your belly and your heart, that will drag tears and screams out of you. But also laughs and smiles. Moments you would kill just to set in stone or experience again.
The kind of love that comes in each and every form: affection, support, and trust. Insurance, presence, and sharing. Enthusiasm and empathy too. Kisses and hugs. And more. Balloons, jewels, and flowers. Letters, messages, words.
So, that being said, how the hell is it possible to love too much?
How, with paternal love, did life make me a promise it will never hold?
Let me explain. Again.
In his world, his daughter is perfect. She is the oldest, and was born with 10 toes and 10 fingers. And for her, he does anything: wakes up in the middle of the night to change her nappies; drives around the block so she will finally fall asleep; reads one more page, and one more page, and one more page, until there is not a single page left to read in the whole bookcase; helps her with her presentation about chameleons, when she is only six years old; brings her to her first day at the youth club, despite their respective anxiety.
In his world, she is a little girl, becoming a beautiful teenager, and then a gorgeous woman. In his world, she will discover what it’s like to have kids, with the fabulous man she will meet. She will discover the world of work, in which she will have a fabulous career.
That’s the road map. That’s the perfect fucking roadmap.
So just follow the roadmap, right? Everybody has the same roadmap in the end. It’s not our own specific idea, it’s just the tide. And we don’t swim against the tide.
No pressure dude – find the beautiful husband, pursue an amazing career. You have everything you need, right? Why would you be afraid to fail, and not follow the roadmap?
In the end,
– “You are beautiful, you are intelligent, you are funny – you will go wherever you want to, because you are our daughter. And our daughters are beautiful, intelligent and funny” they say.
– “Yes but what if…”
– “Shhh !”, they would say.
– “She has a boyfriend, she has the best lecture notes, she has a whole bunch of friends, a social life, and excellent marks. And also, she can eat whatever she wants, it doesn’t change anything.”
– “Oh come on… that’s not…”
– “Not true? Bullshit.”
In my equation, expectations are always higher than reality. Not my expectations, theirs.
Add to that a serious tendency towards perfectionism (because you want them to admire you), a panic of failing, and an oversized ego. What you get is I can not stomach. An undrinkable cocktail, because of how strong it is.
But you know what? It’s okay.
Because here is the good news: you are entitled to think that this beverage is foul. Entitled to think that it is not for you.
Even though it is well-intentioned, it is so far away from what you aim for.
you are entitled to be afraid. Afraid of disappointing. Afraid of failing. Afraid of being wrong. Because you’ve been asked too much.
You are entitled to let everything go, in order to avoid messing it up. Or to not even have the strength to start. Because you’ve been asked too much.
You are entitled not to have desires, sleep or appetite. Because you’ve been asked too much.
Entitled to wish you could be fatter. Entitled to think that yes you are too skinny. Entitled to wish to put on not one or two but three, four, five or six kilos.
You are entitled to envy others. Those who don’t think too much. Who wake up, eat, work, sleep and repeat.
Entitled not to tell anyone about it. Because, “what are they going to think of me?”. I am not allowed to complain. Because, you know, I have everything. “Some people don’t even have food, Johanna.”
But wait a minute.
It’s also up to you to define your cocktail ingredients. Up to you to throw it away and to get yourself another drink. Another glass. A clean, empty, untouched glass.
And you will be the one defining what you want to have in it:
Your dreams, and not theirs.
Your husband, and not theirs.
Your ambitions, and not theirs.
Your career, and not theirs.
Your ideal weight, and not theirs.
Your roadmap. And. Not. Theirs.
Yes, I think Ludwig was wrong – minimalism has nothing to do with love.
The love you are given, and the promise you are made, are just waiting to be personalized.
It’s okay to love too much. It’s okay. With one condition: be able to emancipate.
And when that moment comes, you will need this unconditional love they gave you. Re-measure it. Redefine it. And re-tame it. Own this love, and you’ll see: you’ll never have too much.
Foundations to rise and wings to fly. That’s what too much love gave me.
So no, Lulu, when it comes to love, less is not more.