About five years ago, I encountered a couple in the parking lot of a grocery store. They were probably in their late 70’s. I remember this because I wrote it about it when I got home. The husband was fiddling around with something in the car. The wife waited for him. When he closed the car door, she reached out for him. He took her hand. She looked at him with the sweetest look and biggest smile. It’s the kind of look you’d expect from a couple newly in love and infatuated with each other. It was a vision of what I want my life to look like, more than thirty years from now.
Around the same time, I ran across the photo below, on Pinterest.
I don’t know their story. But obviously, in the midst of her laying in a hospital bed, they’re laughing. He’s holding her hand and they’re laughing their way through. Maybe I put too much thought into a random photo? Or maybe, like the couple I saw at the store, they’ve figured out the secret to lasting love.
Except it’s not really a secret. I think people like this – who have a lasting love – understand what it means to commit to love each other in the good times and bad. They are partners. True companions. In the good times and in the bad times, they hold each other up. Or, as sometimes happens, one partner has to carry the other for awhile. People always say relationships are 50/50. I don’t agree. I think both partners have to give 100%. And then in those times when things are bad, your 100% may be a whole lot less. This is when we pick up the slack, as the stronger partner in the moment. This is how we stand in the gap for the one we love.
As a woman who writes novels, short stories, and poems – usually about love – I don’t need much to ignite the inspiration when it comes to the infatuated, falling for someone, rose-colored glasses part of love and romance. But I also think the greatest thing about sharing your life with someone is when you do so when it gets hard or when it’s just the every day normal. This is where you grow as a couple and as individuals. But it’s a conscious decision to do so. Honestly, it’s easier to give up, let go, and retreat. Choosing to love, trust, work through, and to carry your love when it’s hardest – is how love and respect deepen into something richer and more beautiful.
“Do you know what a pearl is and what an opal is? My soul when you came sauntering to me first through those sweet summer evenings was beautiful but with the pale passionless beauty of a pearl. Your love has passed through me and now I feel my mind something like an opal, that is, full of strange uncertain hues and colours, of warm lights and quick shadows and of broken music.” – James Joyce
I saw this quote a couple of weeks ago and it’s been on my mind a lot. There are a variety of versions of this same idea. But I love the opal and pearl variation by Joyce. Opals and pearls are two of my favorites. Opals are so unique. I’ve loved them since I was a little girl. It’s because of the cracks, fissures, and odd shapes in its surface, that the fiery colors can truly shine. That’s the thing about loving well – our color and beauty deepens, as light beaks through those fissures and cracks. I’m not afraid of the hard places, knowing this is where the real work of lasting love takes place.
In a world where we talk more about what we deserve, I’m more interested in the choices I make every day to love well – when it’s romantic and sweet and when it’s so damn ugly it hurts. “So when all your faith is gone and it feels like you can’t go on – let it be me.” Let it be me, friend. In the light and the dark, when it’s easy and when it’s excruciatingly difficult – let it be me.