There are many things I at one point convinced myself were love, and they usually weren’t the clichés, like co-dependency, or lust, or the idea of something over the reality of it. It was more often things that were a bit more abstract, and a lot more convincing: the person who fit the checklist perfectly, the person who gave me a general feeling of love met by an equal sense of uncertainty, friendship, need, rebound.
Finally finding the love I had for so long been seeking wasn’t a hormone-fueled implosion. It was a gentle awakening, a simple realization. It didn’t make me rash, it made me grounded. It didn’t make me want to plan forever, but be completely present. It was better than I ever could have fathomed, and yet nothing I’d ever expect. Here, all the things that surprised me about (real, live, easy, beautiful) love:
1. The feeling is more complete peace than it is unbridled passion.
That kind of passion has it’s time and place but it’s not love. It’s sex. Or expectation. Or an idea. Or attraction. Love is peacefulness, which is something I didn’t understand before (and I don’t think many people do.) It’s not a rush, it’s a rest. It’s a grounded, aware, mindful, intentional, beautiful peacefulness, and it extends to every iota of your being. It doesn’t induce a manic, overly-emotional field day, it makes you conscious, calm, grateful and present.
2. It made the things I struggled with clearer, and the things I loved better.
It was as though a great amplifying filter was put on every aspect of my life. The things that were unhealed came jutting up to the surface. The things I loved – about myself and my work and my home and whatever else – became a thousand times sweeter. More sacred, even, as I wanted to share them with someone else, and yet at the same time, keep them wholly my own too.
3. It grew when I let it be as it was, not when I tried to make sense of it.
My brain couldn’t actualize what it was I was feeling, and often, trying to do so cheapened it altogether. Love is not a mind game. You don’t “figure out” whether or not you love someone. You can plaster poetic words and promises and bleary-eyed joy to it all you want, but ultimately, those are just things that attempt to define it, to make sense of it, though logical is something it will never be. I could write a list of a thousand things I love about the person I do, but none of them would be why I love him. It just is. I just do.
4. I identified it by the way I was acting and how my whole life was shifting, not by the degree of emotional intensity I experienced, or a long-enough list of reasons that would confirm I was, indeed, in love.
When we’d lay together, especially at the beginning, I’d fall asleep in (literally) 10-30 seconds. It was a joke between us, but ultimately was the result of feeling so at peace, so comfortable, so completely relaxed simply being in his presence. There are a few other instances which caused me to be like “oh, I guess I’m in love???” but to spare you any more of the gag-factor, take my word for it: my soul knew before my mind did. I acted on it before I realized it. I knew it before I could identify it.
5. It made me more of who I am, not less.
I’ve always been one to ever so slightly lose myself in relationships. I obviously wouldn’t be conscious of it while it was happening, but in retrospect, my life became about “us.” Finding real love made me even more fiercely desire my dreams and goals. Not to prove myself worthy, but to have my own experiences, to not lose who I was in who I want us to be.
6. The path to finding it was, actually, loving myself first.
Dear god, the ultimate cliché was true. So true it makes my eyes roll into another dimension. It was the literal, actual path. Basically: I wrote something very personal and published it and he read it and was like ‘wow, I love you’ so he gave me his favorite book which became my favorite book before we were ever a thing and then we didn’t so much fall in love as we realized we always were, but the process of actualizing it was me getting the courage to be vulnerable and honest. Not for him. For me.
7. I’m not that worried about forever.
We have plans, we have dreams and hopes and we’re all but putting together Pinterest boards with all the interior decorating we want to do, so I don’t want to give you the impression that we don’t consider a future. But what I do want to say is that I don’t really think about it, or care about it, like I used to. I realize that, for me, a promise of forever essentially meant that I was safe enough to let myself love someone. I feel that safety now. Nobody can realistically promise forever. You never know what will happen. But today is more than enough. Today is all that I care about. Today is all the forever I need. Right now is the only place I want to be. It’s not a promise or an idea or a hope, but a beautiful reality, one I choose not to miss for a second of planning for a someday that may be out of our hands regardless.
8. It’s effortless.
Life is hard. Circumstances are hard. (Or really, they’re as hard as you decide for them to be. You choose whether you see roadblocks or traffic signals, if you get what I mean). Dealing with your inner demons, especially in the context of someone who brings them up, is hard. Reconciling who you were and becoming who you are is hard. Everything that stands in the way of love is hard. But the love itself isn’t. I’d done so much intense self-work that by the time it eventually rolled around, a fairly significant amount of that shit was already gone. There was an effortlessness that was possible because I got rid of the things that were preventing it. It wasn’t something I had to try for this, but really just allow.