Valentine’s Day has come and gone, leaving in it’s wake every manner of pink and red foil garbage for the landfill and enough dying rose petals drown in. Cheap chocolate abounds. Paper hearts are drooping. Love’s holiday has passed, and now we all get down to the business of putting boots to the undying commitments we’ve made.
It’s easy to say the words. It’s easy to let the emotion sweep through on a hot wind on a summer’s afternoon. It’s entirely another thing to put on hip waders and get waist deep in the dailiness of loving. It’s not pink and pretty. It’s rarely warm and fuzzy, like the bear you ordered with your roses. It’s sometimes sweet, but there’s often a nut that you’re allergic to hidden in there somewhere.
Love isn’t candlelit dinners, boxes of chocolate and bottles of wine.
It’s not sappy cards, or the “premium” flower arrangement instead of the “standard” or “deluxe.” It’s not wedding pictures, or honeymoon vacations. Love isn’t a muscle bound man, or a bikini babe on a beach at sunset. It’s not feeling “in love” and it’s not “being happy,” although hopefully both of those things are in attendance more often than they are absent. Love isn’t good sex. It’s not dependent on whether or not he remembers Valentine’s Day or she keeps her youthful vigor. Love is none of the things it’s carefully wrapped up and marketed to be in February. That lot is just so much bullshit in glitzy wrap designed to separate you from your money.
The Man has been patiently teaching me a thing or two about love over the last couple of decades. How to give it. How to receive it. How to manufacture it when everything has gone to hell and life pretty much sucks. How to nurture it. How to gold medal in it, like an Olympic sport. He doesn’t always get it right (nor do I) but like any good athlete who falls down hard, he gets up and keeps running, and I suppose that’s the biggest lesson of all, isn’t it? Perseverance.
It might come as a surprise to you (not if you’ve been paying any attention at all) that I’m hard to love. I’m high maintenance in none of the usual ways. I don’t like stuff. I own two pairs of shoes: hiking boots and stripper boots; who needs anything else? I don’t like diamonds (in fact I have a whole diatribe about them that I’ll spare you at the moment, but which The Man is well familiar with.) I prefer handmade over purchased. Always. I require time. I require a lot of sitting about, just “being.” I require personal space, rather a lot of it. I require an above average amount of geographical diversity. I’m annoyingly private. I require intelligent discourse, daily. I’m often elsewhere in my own head, writing, thinking about the details, plotting world domination. I’m not easily contained. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Love: Twenty years in:
- Heating my tea water before his coffee water. Every morning.
- Pork ribs, perfectly mashed potatoes and salad, complete with chevre and almonds, waited until past 8 p.m. because I’m late.
- Hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps.
- Swapping the laundry.
- Protecting me from the children so that I can spend an entire Saturday reading, drawing, writing and drinking two whole pots of tea, completely by myself.
- Running me a bubble bath and then sitting next to me while I soak talking about nothing that matters.
- Asking, “Are you still awake?” Half way through the second episode of our favourite show, knowing very well that I am not; scrolling back to figure out just where I dozed off and then pausing it for tomorrow.
- Picking up heart shaped rocks for me.
- Perfecting the art of Haiku, even though he’s not a writer, gifting me with many.
- Popcorn in bed, even though he knows, he knows, it will give me nightmares and wake us both up. Because I love it (the corn, not the nightmares.)
- Cooking the bacon (which I always burn) while I cook the waffles.
- Encouraging me to take off and do my thing, even when it takes me to another continent for a month, alone, somewhat regularly.
- Reading every single thing I write. For everyone. Everywhere. All of it.
- Respecting my interior boundaries, even when he’d rather not.
- Cleaning the stovetop.
- Accepting change, the really big, really hard kind.
- Knowing when to pour the wine.
- Charging my cell phone (because he knows I’ll never remember to do it.)
- Creating space for me to work, even when it costs him.
- Moving past pain, honoring it, but letting it go.
- Dancing in the kitchen.
- Bringing home milk, but also three types of cheese and olives, arranging them artfully on a plate.
- Doing whatever it takes to keep me warm (this is very important.)
- Fixing a sliding drawer that sticks.
- Finding my slippers when I’m grumbling about where I’ve lost them, without pointing out the obvious, that *I* lost them.
- Asking, every single morning, how I slept, and actually caring.
We always exchange holiday cards in the morning, in bed, before the children expand our world like a super nova. He slid a folded paper across the pillow, “I got you a $250 card for Valentine’s Day!” He grinned.
“YOU WHAT?!!” I loud whispered, we don’t buy stuff like that.
“Well,” his eyes danced, “It took me two and a half hours to make it, so I figure that makes it a $250 card!”
And that, my friends, pretty much sums my Valentine up.