When I was rediscovering the world outside of my hamster ball, someone told me that love is a decision followed by action. He was pretty adamant that love was not a feeling and being impressionable I borrowed that and parroted it as fact. I had a lot of experience with infatuation and obsession but not much experience with love so his definition sounded as good as any but deep down I believed in fairy dust and unicorns with flowers in their tails and standing in the rain holding up a jam box. (Which is kind of funny since I never saw that movie.)
My first practical experience with love as an adult was in learning to be friends and man, did I go through a lot of friends! I didn't know how to pick. I didn't know how to accept that people change sometimes. I didn't understand how to manage the give and take, so many of my friendships died from imbalance or inattention. Some of my best friendships have been this exercise where we build little barriers and then tear them down, build a little fort and then tear it down. Right now I have a friendship that is like a super cool tree house we built together that we don't play in enough, but it's there and there's a great comfort knowing it's ours. I have a few friendships that feel like home base--friends that I know I'm "safe" with. These friends are teachers. They teach me about myself. They teach me about God. Some let me mess up and come back. Some let me go on to find something that fits better...
When my husband and I fell in love he was adorable. He fell Disney-style and it was pretty easy to get swooped up by the bluebirds and bunnies and tattoo "happily ever after" on our behinds. Our wedding was wonderful, our honeymoon was a celebration for two and then the married part unfolded. I remember overhearing him talking on the phone with his dad sometime around our first anniversary and he said, "I never understood when people said being married is hard work. I get it now." I couldn't argue. It is hard learning to be partners. It is hard learning to communicate, compromise and collaborate (and we're really not there on the collaboration yet). It is hard to love someone and not only can you not seem to get on the same page, you're not even looking in the same book. It's hard knowing something you're doing makes your partner unhappy and not being able to change yet because change takes time and effort, and sometimes it takes a lot of tries. It's hard but we stay. We stay and we try to talk. We stay and we turn the page. We stay and send the text explaining what we should have said...we stay because we make the decision to stay and we take the action to make staying okay. And on our best days we remind each other why we choose each other today.
I know Valentines Day is a bummer for a lot of people. Trust me. I've done a lot of single Valentines Days. I've watched co-workers with their six dozen roses and their Tiffany boxes. I've threatened to ram my car into the next florist's van I saw. I've spent my share of February 14ths weeping in a bubble bath and I've had some really fun ones where I delivered goodies and cards to friends and family because who says I can't celebrate all kinds of love on Valentines Day? But this year, I'm going to celebrate the decision. I'm going to celebrate the actions that keep me connected to this lovely man I choose again and again and again. This year I'm going to celebrate the fact that we continue to work at being better to and for each other and I'm probably going to eat some heart-shaped chocolates in the process.
Here's my favorite quote about love by Toni Morrison (buckle up, this is big):
“Let me tell you about love, that silly word you believe is about whether you like somebody or whether somebody likes you or whether you can put up with somebody in order to get something or someplace you want or you believe it has to do with how your body responds to another body like robins or bison or maybe you believe love is how forces or nature or luck is benign to you in particular not maiming or killing you but if so doing it for your own good. Love is none of that. There is nothing in nature like it. Not in robins or bison or in the banging tails of your hunting dogs and not in blossoms or suckling foal. Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God. You do not deserve love regardless of the suffering you have endured. You do not deserve love because somebody did you wrong. You do not deserve love just because you want it. You can only earn - by practice and careful contemplations - the right to express it and you have to learn how to accept it. Which is to say you have to earn God. You have to practice God. You have to think God-carefully. And if you are a good and diligent student you may secure the right to show love. Love is not a gift. It is a diploma. A diploma conferring certain privileges: the privilege of expressing love and the privilege of receiving it. How do you know you have graduated? You don't. What you do know is that you are human and therefore educable, and therefore capable of learning how to learn, and therefore interesting to God, who is interested only in Himself which is to say He is interested only in love. Do you understand me? God is not interested in you. He is interested in love and the bliss it brings to those who understand and share the interest. Couples that enter the sacrament of marriage and are not prepared to go the distance or are not willing to get right with the real love of God cannot thrive. They may cleave together like robins or gulls or anything else that mates for life. But if they eschew this mighty course, at the moment when all are judged for the disposition of their eternal lives, their cleaving won't mean a thing. God bless the pure and holy. Amen.”
Peace, love and little foil wrappers!