November 3, 2020

This is Why Love is so Complicated.


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For such a seemingly basic thing, love is really complicated. 

I don’t even know where my wife and I were, but somewhere I saw a shimmer, and she saw a shine.

“Shimmer.” “Shine.” I didn’t really think it mattered. But for her, it did.

And I guess that’s the crux of it all. 

I’ll never know. For me, that wasn’t the point. The point was what made the shimmer or the shine. 

I know she knows this, but she can’t seem to go there. And I can’t seem to go back.

“That’s the problem,” she says. Perhaps she’s right. Neither of us is right enough to bother with returning to our original point or dispatching with it and moving forward—a bizarre purgatory between nothing and nowhere. 

I can’t remember what was shimmering or shining. It could have been a candle, a personality, or sunlight on the sea. Whatever it may have been, it’s nothing but a ruin now; a moment lost like a desiccated dream—crumbling with each attempt to grasp it. It just keeps falling away until there is nothing but the memory that the dream was something

Whether important or not is negligible.

These are the small injustices that occur over time—the time we once thought immutable through words, episodes, and shared moments, some with sorrow, and many with joy. Profound joy. Joy so deep it’s trivialized when framed in the context of words like “happiness” or “bliss.” All of it is inextricably woven into a fabric, like images on a Navajo blanket, and all of it is big enough to cover more than the body of one’s experiences.

When a Navajo weaver creates a blanket, she leaves a small part of the pattern somewhere on the blanket with an extra stitch or without a stitch—ever so slightly off. (Not doing so is considered a lacking of humility and taunts the gods.)

It’s the little infernal moments, the confusing things, consternation after consternation, swept into a dusty pile of dread. 

It’s the, “How often are we going to argue about this? How often will we argue to the point of forgetting the actual disagreement, if it ever really was a disagreement?”

She and I are in separate places, distant places, so far apart that we lose the view of each other. And when we call out, it is like hurtling words into a void—alone, empty, lacking even an echo. Neither of us has left the river; we just can’t hear each other over the rush of the current on the rocks. The precarious, slippery rocks.

These are the moments when love hurts. These are also the moments where I appreciate how important it is.

If I didn’t care about the journey, I wouldn’t feel the need to shout over the tumult of the rushing water on the rocks. I wouldn’t be considering jumping in and trying to swim the rapids without regard for the possibility of drowning.

But maybe that’s not really love? It’s a part—the desire to share, comfort, protect, feel protected, to have mutual adventures, to see what others see, smell, or hear. And those are the things that become the patterns woven into a blanket.

Unlike a blanket, love is with us all the time. I feel it; it’s a state of being. But it’s not just mine. Although I look for its reflection in my spouse, I also find it in my children. 

I, probably like most people, tend to be better at acknowledging love as a thing. However, as a thing, perceived injustices eat holes in its fabric like little moths.

Holey or not, it’s there—tattered but there. I can see it in a glance, the turn of a cheek, these things pull at the fabric, stretching threads of moments past, and the weave can still be found.

Love is enveloping, but unlike a blanket, it’s always in motion. Not motion like it’s going to slip away; it’s not detached. It doesn’t go anywhere. But it’s always moving, like the river.

Moments after my first son was born, I held him, and he fit between my wrist and elbow. The gravity of my ignorance took my breath away. He’s 30 now, successful, has traveled the world, and I can still see and feel him in my arms in quiet moments. This is how I know love is not something outside me; it’s something within; it’s a part, like blood or breath.

Awareness of it, understanding it, acknowledgment of it is all complicated by circumstance. Just like blood. Just like breath. When we’re healthy, we don’t think about the flow of these things. We simply accept they are there, working.

Love isn’t tears, laughter, rage, despair, arousal, or elation. These are referential moments in a continuum, like eddies, sandbars, islands, branches in a river, part of a constant flow, ever-present, never in the same place.

Like sunlight, humidity, clouds, and rain, water creating the weather, love is part of an ecosystem. There can be floods, drought, or temperance; it’s always changing, but always there, always ready to nurture fertile fields. But love is not a thing. Not an attachment. It doesn’t come or go, extraneous to oneself. It is oneself. I know it when I allow myself to feel it.

It’s a wonder and a pain. It feels like a beautiful tapestry to share—something we hold or wrap ourselves and others with—and it’s excruciating when it’s not accepted. But love is not a complex weave or single static experience. It’s not outside of us, even though we can share it and find it most recognizable when we see it reflected by someone else like a spouse or a child. 

It’s each of us, all a part of a larger ecosystem, creating fertile fields, crashing on rocks, or rising in the sunlight to drift on the winds as clouds.

Why, though, is it so hard to let go of whether it was a “shimmer” or a “shine?”

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