Erin O'daniel is a writer, artist and gender expansive womxn living in Duluth, Minnesota

This is How Love Looks to Me

Last week, I picked up the fantastic, palm-size zine Awesome Things at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA). It’s offered many gems- meditations on things that lend to the author’s life. Entries range from “infrastructure” to “people with stereotypically ‘low class’ accents saying high class things” to “rotating the art so it all feels new.” 

On the more profound end of her Things, this moved me most- 

“Reversing attention polarity- I’m inside looking out instead of outside looking in. Instead of making myself seem a certain way to others, processing any given experience through a filter that makes my perception of the experience worthy of my attention. Instead of, ‘How do I look when I do this?’ it becomes ‘This is how this looks to me.’ Fucking finally, why did it take me over 40 years to learn how to trust my intuition?”

I’m a person with a established meditation practice. I’m committed to staying present with my emotions and thoughts. Over the past year as I’ve developed the idea of this blog (note SiMC blog posts with similar titles), I’ve used my meditation to focus on expanding my “capacity to love.” I’ve built new rooms with breathtaking views in the house love and I live in together.

Part of believing in the strength of love’s capacity and the abundance of love in the world is letting go of limiting notions about how we build relationships and allow ourselves to know joy and pleasure, both as solo folx and folx connected to others. I believe it’s about saying This is How Love Looks to Me over and over again.

Believing in the abundance of love and desiring satisfying relationships, sex, and friendship for all outside of the confining box of traditional monogamy is my constant focus. I’m “inside looking out” and confidently articulate how much joy these ways of loving bring my life. I say This is How Love Looks to Me over and over and over again by choosing to do relationship differently- beyond duality, by not holding things in opposition to one another, and believing in my ability to expand my knowledge of love’s capacity and tell those stories.

I keep envisioning flipping a penny. One side of this practice is more sex, multiple lovers, high level conversations about relationship building and boundaries. The shiny coin- heads up. When  the penny landed on tails, dull and dirty, what is my capacity to love in that state? 

This year my life has been bright, full of love, and overflowing with ease and confidence. Since finding the zine, I’ve practiced noticing when I think “How do I look when I do this?”  and had fun shifting my approach to “This is how it looks to me.” With work, love, writing, and outdoor adventures I’ve chosen to be inside looking out over and over again the last month. It’s brilliant, bold, and feels like a radically simple feminist act every time. Especially as the external world is swallowed whole by stories about man after man harassing womxn after womxn, saying ‘This is how it looks to me’ is a variation of #MeToo. With those words, I claim my voice, my body, my stories, myself.

As I move through my days making decisions and accomplishing satisfying tasks with ease, I want to continue to enjoy my forward momentum and capacity to love. If I’m inside looking out, I can be present with both chaos and calm, pain and joy. I can focus on all I enjoy, admire and deeply desire. I can trust that my bright light will continue to shine in times of darkness and my effusive love will not abate.

I am inside looking out- open to how I feel, asking questions about how to love- more aware of love’s capacity than ever before, and tenderly expressing how I feel about those I care about. I know how love looks to me. I say so every day in multiple ways. I focus on this love and knowing love. I practice, from the inside out, showering the world with my joy.

Darkness and light are not in opposition here. I stand holding onto both. This season, the darkest part of the year, lends infinite opportunities for my creative self to take up vast amounts of space. I write for hours on end early every morning. I lean into the longest nights and laugh at the tiniest days. I’m inside looking out, allowing love’s capacity to teach me more about myself. 

This is how love looks to me. I adore life. And there’s so much in not fighting chaos, in what we don’t know. Philosopher, John C. Lilly said, "Freedom is in the unknown. If you believe there is an unknown everywhere, in your own body, in your relationships with other people, in political institutions, in the universe, then you have maximum freedom." 

 When I say This is How Love Looks to Me, feeling freedom in the unknown, there is room for pain and pleasure. This is How Love Looks to Me. Poised, steady, undeterred, listening, gently smiling into another being's eyes, crying together, standing alone. And being willing to let go too. This is How Love Looks to Me.






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