Monday, March 12, 2012

Real. Simple.

I joke about this blog being born out of a drunken state somewhere between the weaning hours of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, and I suppose that is mostly true.  I was inspired by Beyonce, of all people, to put my thoughts into words, my words into action, and launch both words and action into the public sphere.

The rest of the truth takes its roots in an essay contest---an essay contest, which incidentally, I never entered.

For reasons completely unknown, I have a subscription to Real Simple magazine.  I read it from cover-to-cover every month and, while my life never feels simpler after I've finished, I enjoy passing the time in its pages.   Last July, something very specific caught my eye-- the annual Real Simple Life Lessons Essay Contest.  1,500 words, predetermined topic.  Totally do-able...or, at least I thought.

I've written for as long as I can remember.  I've kept journal after journal.   I wrote a fake newspaper of my own before I was old enough to write for the middle school newspaper, and then the high school paper (as I am superdork, I was also the editor of that one).  I wrote through grad school.  Then, as my life picked up momentum, the words stopped.  I missed them, I swore I'd return to them, but I didn't.  Call it one of my larger regrets.

Enter the contest. I was in.  All I had to do (over the course of two months) was write 1,500 words describing the moment when I first truly understood the meaning of love.  Easy as pie, right?

Wrong.  In a word, wrong.

It wasn't for a lack of trying, either.  I tried to write the damned thing all frigging summer.  My laptop followed me wherever I went.  I tried to find inspiration overlooking the Rockies in Vail, on the beach at 7 AM, watching Little M sleep.  I had snippets of stories written on post-it notes, on napkins, on the back of junk mail.  Couldn't write the damned thing.  I could not put words around the moment that I truly understood the meaning of love.  Bottom line.  I never entered.  FAIL.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I also struggled with the very true fact that I've had a very nice life, and thus, no interesting story to tell.  At the outset, I knew I wasn't going to win- even if I turned in the most well written piece since the printing press, I didn't have a compelling story to tell.   Dammit.)

I couldn't write a 1,500 word piece describing when I understood the meaning of love, but I could easily put 1,500 words around a trip to the supermarket.  I'd deem it truly pathetic, but actually......but actually, I think it's pretty freaking great.  It means I'm extraordinarily lucky.  It may not give me a story that wins writing contests, but it certainly gives me a story that I carry with me wherever I go, and a story that's perfectly suited for whatever phase I'm presently occupying in my life.

I couldn't put the memory into words, because I knew what love was before I had words and before I had memory.

I've always known, and I always continue to know.

Go figure.  I'm a knucklehead, and I'm stubborn, and sometimes I sting with words, and I have a bevy of flaws too long to catalog- but there hasn't been one moment in my life that I didn't know what love was.  On balance, that's not too shabby.

With age, I can more fully appreciate what that means, and how remarkable it is.  On how lucky I am to have two parents who love me, to have a brother who has my back.  To have a legion of loyal friends who have stuck by me for two decades.  For the newer friends who have come along the way, but are no less meaningful.  To have a husband who knows everything that's wrong with me, and hasn't run away screaming in horror.  To have a beautiful daughter- for her, there are no words.

Maybe there's nothing unique about my experience.  That's never made it any less special.

With age, I also can more fully appreciate that love, real love,  isn't easy.  That real love isn't an emotion, but rather a verb and a choice.  Certainly, love is easy when it's new, or when we're shiny and well-groomed and putting our best foot forward.  Easy choice.  How often is it that easy?

I love it when it's that easy....but I value it more when it's not.

Love is between people- real, live, breathing people.  People who are three-dimensional and complex.  People come to the party as a composite of past experience that define who they are and frame how they define how the world should or should not operate.  People who have been injured and damaged (either intentionally or inadvertently) by others along the way.  People who are real.  Real people argue, and real people fight, and real people make mistakes.  Real people can sometimes appear unlovable to the outside eye.  It's in those moments--those moments when you're an irrational, emotional, probably unkind pain-in-the-ass, and someone chooses to love you anyway, in your current form--that define real love.   It's in those moments- when someone else is being an irrational, emotional, probably unkind pain-in-the-ass and you choose to love them anyway, in their current form- that define real love.

So, this isn't a story that will win an essay contest.  No matter.  I wouldn't change one word of it.

It's absolutely not simple, but it's completely real,

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