Falling in love is a bit like staring into a hot, August sun. Blazing, shimmering, blinding. Those first heady days and weeks and months of wrapping yourself in the details of another, of mapping out possibilities, of taming butterflies. It’s like feeling the sun shine on your soul. Temporarily stunned by brightness and fervor, the very act of falling in love sears the harsh lines of reality, blurring faults, sizzling the edges right off of anything that would seem insurmountable.
But as any child will tell you, if you stare directly at the sun for long enough it will blind you for good.
It is the same with love.
Every now and again, you come across as a story which is held up as a love story for all time. These stories are usually epic in scope, grand in magnitude. They are stories of lovers separated by war, of elderly spouses who die mere days apart, of soul mates who held out for each other despite time or place or circumstance. Often we hold these stories in side by side comparison with our own and come away distraught, convinced that our own are somehow lacking. We scrutinize and contrast, weigh up and consider, resign ourselves to the notion that others are still basking in the warmth and heat of that initial sun flare, still immersed in a time of the butterflies, while we ourselves have left that summer season long behind.
But love, just like life, just like nature, is seasonal. There are times when we capture that summer bright intensity of falling in love all over again, when you remember the way your stomach flipped the first time you kissed, or the way the bottom dropped out of your world the first time you argued. There are times when you walk head down through a bleak and gray landscape, bundled against circumstance, buffered against change or even one another, just soldiering forward, just getting through. There are times when something unexpected rushes in, bringing with it a new burst of energy, a springtime seedling pushing its way toward the light, demanding to be seen. There are other times when the colors surrounding you are muted, subdued; times when you are able to draw off the strength of one another for whatever comes next.
No marriage would survive eternal summer. No relationship would endure the constant scorch of emotions that initially allows us to fall in love. Think of the parched and barren earth of the desert, of how little thrives there. Survival, in its most basic, biological form, is about adaptation, about change. Without change, you stagnate. You fetter your chances of growth. You miss out on the springtime buds and winter wood smoke and a carpet of autumn leaves. Without change–a switch in the direction of wind, a storm, a season to plant and one to lay fallow–our romantic landscapes would be just as barren, just as inhospitable as that desert.
The epic stories of love and companionship we place on pedestals? Those stories are not stories of grand passion. Instead they are stories of change, of adaptability, of compromise and refinement. Underneath the heart song and the love poems are details of the pain of separation or illness, the periods of companionable, nearly platonic partnership, the births and rebirths that brought a breath of fresh air. They do not dwell on arguments that sometimes frost over a room or the everyday chill that results from a simple misunderstanding. If those stories are epic in any way, it is because they survived, against the odds, and in order to survive, you need to embrace change.
Far from feeling like those times of easy companionship are times of passionless complacency, I instead see another harvest season when we are able to reap what have sown. Though I certainly do not look forward to a winter of discontent, it is almost certain that at some point in the round and rounds of marriage, it will happen, as will the eventual discovery of something new, something exciting, something fresh and unseen. There will be moments of heart song and love poems as well. Seasons of love.
In a box that has moved from country to country to country with me, tied with a ribbon, are letters a boy wrote to me a long time ago. They are written in a language of hope, one of desire. They are full of stories and dreams and questions. With them are the letters I wrote back, filled with answers, spilling with secrets, joy evident in every word on the page. They are of course part of my own love story, one that only my husband and I are capable of writing, of living. Just as worthy as the ones you come across every now and again, just as yours is.