LOVE IS HARD WORK
In conjunction with V-Day and Chinese New Year, when our emotional need for love, joy and harmony is heightened. It triggered something in us. We want to know what love really is. What is the purpose of love? Where can we ﬁnd it?
And then we recalled a friend, Abena, who made an unconventional decision to move her family away from the city to live an “oﬀ the grid” life so that her kids may experience a more wholesome growth. We thought that was a really bold move. Is this what real love looks like? We decided to speak to Abena and ask her some questions about love.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in London but I spent most of my childhood in Northern Ireland until I left for University in Liverpool, England to study English & Philosophy. From there I went on to become a teacher. Teaching is actually something that I am very passionate about. I am very happy with my career choice. I am the kind of person that gets up in the morning and looks forward to going in to work, which I know makes me really fortunate.
Abena & her three kids.
You moved your family away from the city to pursue a life in the nature, independent of today’s social order. What made you do that?
When me and my husband met, we quite quickly talked about community and how it was something that is disappearing in the UK. And I told him that I have always been interested in ﬁnding a place that have a very strong community. So we started looking at intentional communities, which are places where you buy your property but wherever you are living you are in close proximity with a lot of people who have decided that they want to be in the community as well. You are still very independent ﬁnancially but you have made that pledge that you are going to interact with each other. May be eat with each other occasionally. But you deﬁnitely are going to be involved in each others’ lives.
This is where Abena and her family moved to — Beneﬁcio in Spain: the largest gathering of people living completely oﬀ the grid in the western hemisphere.
Simple outdoor play time where there are no phone lines, no sewage systems, no gas pipes, no electricity, no rubbish collection, no postal service and no maps of the village.
It is about the disconnection between people and the fact that people these days don’t know their next door neighbours, which when I left Northern Ireland, it was a complete shock to me because we knew everybody who lived on every side of us right up to the end of the road. I have friends that I had since I was three or four years old. So I wanted for my kids to be able to have those strong relationships that I had since I was a child.
Abena’s eldest and youngest sharing a moment at their home in Beneﬁcio
I also wanted to go somewhere where they are going to have a clean environment that I had growing up where we knew where our food are coming from and what was in it. Because again that is becoming more and more of an issue as I realized the amount of pesticides and chemicals used today. Also the practices of animal rearing are becoming worse. I was a vegetarian for a large part of my life purely because of the laws and processes around meat. But I always say if I was living somewhere where I was part of the system where the animals are treated well, then I would eat meat again.
The community here has their own gardens, growing a variety of vegetables and fruits.
Do you think the change in our society has somehow aﬀected our view on the concept of love?
I think that the pop culture of falling in love dramatically and having happily ever after is quite misleading, especially for younger, inexperienced people because they have this idea that if you are in love, your partner should automatically know what you want and things should be easy but in reality relationships are hard work and you know love is hard work.
I think we have a kind of very comparative society. We see on Facebook couples putting up a lot pictures of themselves happy with their happy lives, their happy kids, and their happy husbands and wives and girlfriends and boyfriends. I think that can evoke some kind of jealousy. I have heard people talking about that how other people’s lives and relationships are so much easier than their own. So I think we have to be very careful with that comparison. We have to focus on strengthening, deepening and really working on our relationship if we want that kind of love to endure.
What do you think is the purpose of love?
I think it is probably we are social animals and it is a cohesive tool that keep us together. It brings out the best in us ultimately — we have love, we have care, we have kindness and all those things that help our species to thrive.
Making friends along the way.
A playground for kids. The residents in Beneﬁcio come from diﬀerent part of the world, but they primarily speak English and Spanish.
Despite humans’ inadequate understanding on the subject of love, we crave for it from people around us — our parents, spouses, children, friends. Some of us are afraid to get hurt. Nonetheless, we hope to attain true love one day. What are your thoughts on ﬁnding true love?
I think that love comes with time. if we are talking about true love. It does come with time. It comes with you making a commitment, and sticking about that commitment when things are diﬃcult. and you know your relationship deepens whether it is romantic or otherwise. it is about being there and sticking with it. I don’t think you ﬁnd true love, I think that is a bit of a misnomer. You don’t ﬁnd it. You create it, you make it, you work at it, you develop it, and you earn it. Earning true love might be a better phrase. I think that would change people’s mindset as in how exactly you get there.