For such a long time I didn’t see it. I knew people. I loved working with people. I understood social work the best I could.
Understanding what Jennifer and Holly both knew nearly 40 years ago, the power of love, dawned on me very slowly in social work and from an unexpected source. I had learnt Bowlby a lot. The attachment theory, uncritiqued, is an abiding memory of what was, unfortunately, a relatively forgettable educational experience. When it came to people, the scientific make up of humans, whether it be psychoanalytic and physiological was very much covered. I had learnt about abuse of all types and categories. Pictures of cigarette burns and of overcrowded beds at Ely hospital were necessarily awful but necessary all the same. I learnt how humans can hurt humans. The politics of social care was thankfully taught in year one and by year three via interspersed placements of varying degrees of quality, I had a decent grasp of the medical and social models of mental health. So whether it was Carl chipping in with the games people play or the wisdom of Lena D, Malcolm P and everything anti-oppressive via Neil T, no one ever seemed to specifically talk about love. Not really. Not me. Not them.
So if I wasn’t necessarily taught about love it would be the ideal time to say that I discovered love and love stories through stunning reflection on my social work practice – if only that was true, which it is not! I could say I had had some kind of epiphany moment and worked out during a deep reflective discussion with Ian or Stacey or Elaine that what I didn’t understand about Roy who was 90 and didn’t want to move to a care home is because he loved home. But I didn’t. Or that Imran who lived with his mum really didn’t want to move out of home because he loved his mum and couldn’t break her heart. But I didn’t. Or that Elsie, often in my thoughts, loved John’s voice, loved her cats, loved the chaos and loved her freedom. But I didn’t. Roy, Imran and Elsie were social work and not love. I didn’t get it when I considered love in the context of social work. It took something a bit more weird to help me get closer to it.
Twitter has driven everyone mad lately. A change to the algorithm and suddenly we found ourselves confronted with the promoted musings of people we seemed to vehemently disagree with. The xenophobes have roamed on our timelines, eliciting bite backs, clicks, returned venom for Elon whilst at the same time generating some additional charging rates for advertising space that comes with it. But it was twitter that taught me about love and the love stories and the fact that now when I look back on my experiences of working with people I cannot fail to find the love stories. They were there all the time of course and in social work, I just needed to see them outside of my own social work bubble. I needed social media, twitter, wider connections, a new, strange medium where we instantly connected with strangers and saw first hand their love stories that helped me to love on in my thinking. Social media helped me through finding people like Steven and Mark and seeing seemingly almost as if you were in the front room watching how love played out through conversations about music or people from the local swimming pool, Mars bars or the anguish of when we failed and did not understand love. I saw unconditional love and love stories of families, friends, partners, carers and yes, those who may be paid because of their gift of love to others.
I am pleased I got there in the end. Everyone has a love story. Finding the love stories is sometimes a love story in itself. Happy Valentines.
2 replies on “I Knew Love”
At the end of the day, when all the talking and discussions stop, the one thing we are left with is love for one another.