“Loving can cost a lot, but not loving always costs more. And those who fear to love often find that want of love is an emptiness that robs the joy from life.”Merle Shain. Or so my Facebook diary reported on June 14, 2010.
I’ve always been a romantic. While a late bloomer in the technical sense, I’ve always buried my brain deep inside my heart.
I’d belt jazzy tragedies from the depths of my adolescent diaphragm, paint an alarming volume of intricate Johnny Depp portraits, and fantasize about a future full of romantic weekends at the Moulin Rouge.
To this day; my eyes well when I see twinkling Christmas lights, my heart skips a beat when Hotel California slow-rolls in, and I’m perpetually seeking the perfect souvenir from every shared experience.
I should admit this full-time habit of lovefoolery has compromised my logic for the vast majority of the last 10 years. From steady long-term relationships, to soul-bearing attempts at forever, to self-destructive holding patterns – I’ve dedicated lots of time to considering the definition of true love (and what it’s not).
I’m single on Valentine’s Day for the first time in a decade. In those years I’ve done objectively stupid, shamelessly inappropriate, and heart-wrenchingly sad things in the name of ‘true love’. I’ve forgiven people who weren’t sorry, transgressed people who didn’t deserve it, and tearfully begged another to agree that I’m worth something – anything.
I decided to take advantage of this foreign time to myself. I’ve clenched my jaw through friends’ weddings with a +0. I’ve woken up alone on my favorite holiday (and survived). I’ve leaned into my relationships with friends and family. I’ve learned more about what I like, want, need, and deserve.
I am not the same woman I was 10 years ago. Hell, I’m not the same person I was one year ago. Heartbreak has a funny way delivering you from fantasyland to dropping you on your ass when you least expect it.
These painful experiences ultimately guided me towards this reintroduction to myself. I slowly began to embrace my hopeless romantic nature. I began to honor my affinity for dumping love on people.
I live to doodle love letters, master-mix intimate playlists, gift thoughtful treasures; and transform my home into a den of fuzzy pillows, handcrafted designs, and far too many candles.
I’ve learned that I must give love in all of the five major languages (words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, & physical touch) in order to feel fulfilled. I now see how special and pure that is. I will wait for someone else that values that side of me.
I’ve learned that I won’t notice my efforts are not being returned until it is far too late. I’ve learned that while ‘words of affirmation’ are my favorite to receive, they’re also easiest to fake. I’ve learned that I don’t have to resign to skepticism but that I can trust my gut instead. Players gon’ play, baby – and that’s not your problem to fix!
I’ve learned that some people aren’t comfortable receiving all of the love I have to offer (and that this is okay). I’ve learned that I am incapable entertaining fake love. I’ve learned I cannot will another to appreciate me. Most of all, I’ve learned all love is not made equal.
There are many different types of love. There’s the love you have for a crisp, hangover-soothing Sprite; the love you have for the remnants of your childhood teddy bear, and the love that Leonardo DiCaprio has for planet Earth (or, quite possibly stronger – his love for making us sh*t our pants with his harsh facts).
In short; there’s appreciation and enjoyment, familial connection and comfort, and then there’s that white-hot forever sh*t (AKA true wuv!). No matter the object, true love is unique.
Continue reading for the latest tips for spotting true love in a sea of gorgeous grenades. Plus, what’s a blog without gratuitous metaphors and painstaking personification? (Answer: an iPhone without a front-facing camera – functional but not for me, thanks!)
True love is improv. It subscribes to the ‘yes and’ mantra. It does not deny reality. It does not seek to change one’s opinion or narrative. It does not neglect or embarrass. Instead, it shares the spotlight in the name of an endlessly entertaining storyline. It is accepting and supportive of all shared experiences.
True love takes the backroads. True love is willing to take the scenic route when the expressway becomes overwhelming. It invites an impromptu karaoke session to distract from the madness that is a panic attack. It exits for an iced coffee and a quick kiss with only a moments notice. If you can’t tell, this one is actually quite literal.
True love forgives without resentment. It invites vulnerable conversation. It supports mutual growth. It does not boast of it’s wholehearted nature. Most importantly, it values your forgiveness but it doesn’t ask you to forget.
True love dances in the kitchen when there are no words left. It does not mind the slip of your socks or the squeak of the floorboards. It revels in it’s own luck. It is mindful, hanging only on that special look.
True love laughs at failed Pinterest dinners. It generously adds salt and pepper. It rests a hand on your lap to let you know you’re loved anyway. It’s the DoorDash replacement dinner from a local hotspot. It’s never speaking of it again! #nailedit
True love leaves space for differences. Big differences. “Differences” by Ginuwine. Ginuwine. True love leaves room for Ginuwine. (Wow! Such word association!)
True love encourages adventure. It aims to expand the passions and vulnerabilities of both parties. It does not ask one to leave their comfort zone without offering the same in return. It promises not to judge insecurities or pure fear. It always leaves home plate on standby.
True love isn’t a fleeting feeling. It is a commitment that grows stronger through time, space, and unforeseen challenges. It does not begin to question it’s worth at each turn. It is a solid friendship that does not entertain the temporary. It is confident and trusting. It is reassuring. It is resilient.
True love does not assume. It does not aim to predict the future. It does not seek to mistrust. It is innocent and supportive. It asks questions and eagerly awaits a response.
True love does not patch a hole. It does not fill a simple need or longing. It cannot be made to order. It cannot be manipulated. It respects boundaries and does not will another to operate against their own best interest.
True love is all of these things. Yet, it is rarely all of these things all at once. Understanding this is key.
I’ve been lucky enough to experience true love in this lifetime. If not forever, for moments. Moments that make me smile to this day.
The pain that didn’t kill me made me stronger. The scars made me wiser. The hurt that once rendered me sleepless is now a distant memory. Most parts in-between offer a good laugh.
Love is still my favorite, even if she can be a cold b*tch from time to time.
At the end of a very special film, Hugh Grant cheekily proclaimed “if you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that Love Actually is all around”. Not only did he sneak in a proper movie title, he gave us a lasting mantra for our most trying times.
There is true love in every latte, every lit candle, every crafted playlist, and every tattered novel. You just have to be willing to see it.
The thing we’ve been seeking most feverishly has been right infront of us all along – that’s the universal joke.
P.S. Here’s the Valentine’s playlist you came for!
“But, baby, I ain’t Wonder Woman. I don’t know how to lasso the love out of you. Don’t you know I’m only human? And if I let you down, I don’t mean to. All I need is a place to land. I don’t need a Superman to win my lovin’. Because, baby, I ain’t Wonder Woman.”The queen Kacey Musgraves. 2018.