Occasionally, when I’m at work (simply because I’m sitting behind a desk all day), I start to feel sort of restless. Now, there are a number of ways to deal with that. The first is to ignore it and forge ahead. Another is to stand up, stretch, allow my back to pop loudly enough for someone in the office to comment on it, and then go take a bathroom break. The third is to take a little walk down to the coffee shop at the end of the street or to amble across the street, where my boyfriend lives. The fourth, though, is perhaps the quickest way to start feeling, once more, like I can breathe: I go to Amazon and real quick, like a fox, buy a new book. Once I know it’s on its way, I can return to regularly scheduled programming. All that to say that such a spell hit me the other day and I hopped (metaphorically, mind you) over to the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named of book retailers and purchased Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love.
Now, I haven’t actually read or even received this book yet, though I’m sure it’s terrific in some way or another (I mean, it’s a book.) But what it did make me think about was love, and more specifically, what I’ve learned about love lately. As you may have deduced (like a fox), I’ve been entrenched in the throes of romantic love for some time now, and I am also in love with the sky, the way my best friend calls me on my crap, the golden hour, unsweetened coffee, sweetened everything else, my mom’s text messages, making my roommate laugh, the timer on my coffee pot, my coworkers’ senses of humor, my pets (both my stuffed puppy and my life-filled kitten), and about a million other things. I am not and never will be into olives.
So it seems that I too can offer some advice on love, don’t you think? I have 23 years of experience with the stuff, and if I told you I had 23 years of experience, say, sewing, you would let me whip you up a ball gown, wouldn’t you? I thought so.
TEN THINGS I’VE LEARNT ABOUT LOVE
1. Love is impossible. At least without the real, true love filling us up and making it a thing we can do. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19) and He is love and there is no love without Him (1 John 4:16). The only lovin’ I do is by tapping into this.
2. Love is not a cookie. Sometimes it is fun and easy; for example, I really like buying cards and I love to love my people by buying them cards and writing in them and feeling warm and gooey. However, sometimes my people would rather I love them by cooking for them (which I’m terrible at) or scratching their backs for six million hours (I’m not mentioning any names) or by doing any one of the countless other things I’d rather not do at the moment because I really want to tell the saga about my encounter with the Target cashier. I’ve learned love often feels like a sacrifice, not a cookie. Cookies always feel like cookies, though.
3. Love is better than cookies. Strange, but true.
4. Love gives you lovely eyes. This is nice for those whom you love. For example, I think Caleb is the cleverest person I’ve ever met. Is he really? Well, I don’t know for sure. But I can assure with unbiased certainty that he is definitely in the top five. I also think that my best friend Gracie is less funny only than Jimmy Fallon; no, really. She’s much funnier than whomever you’re thinking of right now. Again, I’m really biased, because that’s what love does to you. This phenomenon is beautiful because it’s what lifts us up when life gets heavy.
5. Love makes you dance. What’s nicer than knowing that you are loved? I can’t think of anything. Like James Taylor says, there ain’t no doubt in no one’s mind that love’s the finest thing around.
6. Love isn’t always (or even usually) pretty. In fact, when two people are in any kind of substantial relationship, a sort of rhythm between the two parties emerges. Except the two of you aren’t always in step with each other, and sometimes one of you starts making Robot motions while the other just freezes up. Then somebody pipes up, “Hey! Get with the program!” Then the other person usually gets mad, because he or she isn’t about doing the Robot, and then you’re mired up in a two-hour conversation about how to get back in step with one another. Those conversations are (in my experience) not just valuable but absolutely vital; still, the friction can burn. But like my good friend Usher says, sometimes you gotta let it burn.
7. Love can be forgotten. And by that, I mean you can forget to actively love. It happens to me when it’s grey and when I’m tired and when I’m just not in the mood. I forget to notice the world, which is full of remarkable things like scones and dimples and giraffes. I forget to say thank you when Caleb cooks dinner, and to call my best friend just to see how her day went, and, for goodness sakes, to smile at people on the street. But I’ll tell you one thing—it changes everything when we remember to pursue each other, to lavish one another, to outdo each other in loving.
8. Love is (sometimes) quiet. I am a shout-it-from-the-rooftops, put-it-a-poem kind of girl. I’m pretty generous with my affection; I’ve been known to sing songs about my love for, say, hot chocolate (“Hot chocolate, hot chocolate, you make me feel so happy….) And while I think that’s a great way to love, I have been surprised by how love can gently tread the path before you, sweeping away the dust. The other day, I was staring in Caleb’s fridge and wondering how I hadn’t run out of cans of carbonated water yet. I’d put three or four in there a week ago and there were still three or four in there. And then Caleb came in. “Hey, have you been putting my water in the fridge?” “Yes.” Yes, it can be quiet indeed.
9. Loves stretches. Over time, distance, and circumstance. Beyond despair and into hope. Around anger and annoyances and aggravation. Through depression, grievances, and sadness. It can be stretched and stretched and stretched, and still, it never breaks. In this way, love is not like saltwater taffy.
10. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Sometimes I forget some or all of these things. And then somebody goes and loves me in a way that demonstrates its kindness or its patience or its perseverance, and I think, “Oh, yeah. That’s the real thing.”