Friday, January 7, 2011

Love -- it is complex, wonderful, painful, and always worth it.

My man and I were going through all our important papers the other day to figure out what we needed to put in our new fire safe. Aside from the dust bunnies we spooked (and the subsequent sneezing fit that ensued), I found and started looking through our old shoe box of love notes and letters from our five year courtship. The first thing I realized was that I was smitten, completely head-over-heels in love, with the boy who would become the man I married within the first few weeks of our relationship. The second thing I realized was that if the time-space continuum was ever tampered with and I had to relive that 5 years leading up to our wedding day, I would kill myself. They were necessary for personal growth and shaping who we are now, but my memory of that time had been romanticized over the years, and the times of pain and struggle were wiped away. I don't wish they had never happened, but I have no desire to relive them. Ever.

In reading through the journey we traveled, I was reminded of a poem I read and clung to during year four, my freshman year of college (without question the toughest year of them all). I share it here with you and give some new insights that have come with time and age.

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
by John Donne

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
The breath goes now, and some say, No;

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.

But we, by a love so much refined
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion.
Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.

And though it in the center sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

valediction: (noun) an act of bidding farewell or taking leave
Whether separated by distance because of travel; or time because of death; or spirit because of doubt or loss of trust, lovers often have to experience a valediction, and in doing so throw themselves in the refiner's fire to be tested, purified and stretched.

But like a compass, they are joined at the very middle, at the soul, and as such can never truly be separated. For while one may wander, the other is a fixed point that doesn't waver and brings its mate back around to where it began, home. And there too lies the heart and truth of any committed long-term relationship. If you can step away and view it from a different perspective, an overview of the thing in its entirety, you will see that each partner at one point or another trades roles playing the fixed foot or the wanderer / explorer / wayfarer.

The journey may be one of self-discovery, or it could be fueled by anger or guilt. But the most important things to cling to during these times of leaning / stretching / hearkening are trust and hope. Trust that your partner is remaining faithful to you and hope that they will indeed return. In the midst of the stretching that will seem like a big thing to ask of the fixed mark, but really it is no different than what we must do every day. Every morning we kiss our love goodbye as they walk out into the world. Every night we anticipate their return. But you can never know for sure when or if they will walk back through that door.

My biggest reward for pushing through the difficult moments, for trusting and clinging to hope is this: the moment, the long anticipated time in each day when I see that my love has found his way home. My heart still skips a beat when I hear his truck coming up the driveway. My heart melts when I see the joy in his eyes when he realizes I am the one who has walked into his office. I still want to run into his arms when I hear his voice call my name. I find myself sneaking moments to stare at him; drink in my favorite parts of him; wonder what he is thinking.

Yes, I am still smitten. Totally. Completely. Passionately.

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