“Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being ‘in love’ which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.” ~Extract from Captain Corellis Mandolin.
(friends… welcome suzy, from sailing by starlight… homeschooling disciple from england, she probes deep the very heart of life, and in this post, the heart of marriage, and how to keep love alive when everything begs it otherwise…)
I know that I’ve hurt him. I can see it in his eyes. I’ve undercut his efforts with my words. Frustrations and fears, spilling toxicity.
He leaves for work. As the car pulls out of the drive my heart aches empty.
Why do we hurt one another? Maybe I was feeling overwhelmed, knowing I had not been everything I wanted to be that morning and then I’d blamed him for the lack. But he’d not mentioned any lack except perhaps my lack of warmth. This lack was self made. Wrought by my own all consuming vision that neither of us could measure up to. Now that vision was eroding the deeper dream. The dream embedded in vows made to be unbroken.
I had laid impossibly high standards upon myself.
Maybe I’d read somewhere that there was something better out there. A better way to mother, cook, clean, live, be. A better way for him to help, father, partner me. A gleaming, non stick, crease proof way that had shown up the stains and crumbs and dust on the kitchen countertop that morning more than usual and that had turned the volume up on the squeals of children spilling down the staircase louder than ever. Or so it seemed.
So pregnancy, fatigue and the endless “to do” lists smothered love. Love lay buried beneath the debris of me. And all I was left to clean up were the dishes.
The crazy thing is, he hadn’t laid down any terms and conditions for my love that morning. He only wanted my smile carefree and unshackled from the expectations of what “should be”. He’d only wanted my love to be the first priority.
But how many times do I put Love at the top of the “to do” list?
Jesus said “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33
Small neon post-it notes scatter the cupboards with reminders to pick up, collect, call and mail.
But where are the love notes?
The words that remind me to smile, quietly wrap my arms around, sooth the noise of the day away with a gentle touch.
“Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:4
Why do we focus on what is missing instead of what is present? Picking out small pieces of the whole picture till nothing makes sense anymore.
“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;” ~ ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ T.S. Elliot.
I hear those spoons clink and rattle and I begin to stack half empty cups upon the stainless steel drainer.
But it’s then that I remember those long years ago, first together, walking by the canal, fingers entwined and the ever ready question upon our lips, “so what shall we do?” The recurring question of a love without bounds! Enlivened by the thrill of not knowing where it may lead us.
Even the murky canal water sparkled beneath the sun of those afternoons, the smell of rain pungent, leaves somehow a little greener, the sky bluer.
These days “What shall we do?” is answered in endless demands before it’s even asked!
And I ask myself, do young love’s memories eventually evaporate beneath the bounds of growing responsibility? The crumpled piles of undone laundry, the bills stacked accusingly on the counter, the endless sticky fingerprints upon the windowpane?
Not if we keep living them maybe. Renewing vows, daily, for better or worse, in sickness and health…. Making love the first thing we require from one another.
Tilling the ground between us with words of affirmation instead of criticism. Planting seeds in smiles instead of demands.
He comes home and I catch his gaze. His eyes sparkle. He can’t help it, knowing me too well by now. There is comfort in the years. My eyes pool stinging tears. Nothing is undone, memories were only temporarily misplaced.
I stack half full cups upon the table. Then pour to the brim.
I can’t fix every circumstance but I can fix my perspective, the way I choose to see.
The child’s tears may not be quelled quickly, sticky fingerprints may still stubbornly lace and litter the windowpane, I may not even finish dinner before he gets home, but my vision is repaired when I see through the lens of Love first.
And my vision weeps thankfulness that he chose me and I him.
Our roots entwined beneath the ground.