Monday, November 29, 2010

The Choice

Warning:  This post is not cynic-approved.

In all the years I've been writing this blog, I've largely steered away from the topic of love.  Too much of my history with the subject has been maudlin and narcissistic and nothing that I want to read about (so why would I write it?).  In high school (ok, and college), I wrote truly terrible love songs that were much more about catharsis than making good music.  In my adult years, I think I've been too much in the middle of everything happening to really reflect.  And I'm not going to write about divorce.  And I'm not going to write about the minutia of the rise and fall of adult dating (it's embarrassing enough to have lived it...much less to have it permanently preserved in a blog).  But then November happened (and it's been a doozy of a November, friends)...and over the last week, I've come to some conclusions on the topic that are, I think, worth preserving.

I've always considered love as a "default" state for me.  I've always assumed that I'll spend some portion of my life loving someone.  A palm reader in Georgetown once told me that I would have great love in my lifetime...and that was easy to accept because it fit neatly within my default notion.  I always expected that I'd fall in love and I'd get married.  And then I did.  And then it wasn't what I thought it would be.  Then I had a child...which wasn't what I thought it would be either, but in a really good way...  There's love in that relationship...lots and lots of love, in fact.  But it's still a default.  Of course I love my child...he's part of me.  There's no decision about whether or not to love him....I just do.

And that was the revelation:  In my whole life, I'd never considered the choice to love.

I've always known that attitude and perspective and reaction were choices.  I'm accustomed to making those choices every day.  I choose to view the world in an optimistic way.  I choose the interpretations of my stories.  I choose the way I show up for life.  But in all these years of observation and self-reflection and dancing in and out and around love, I've never considered choosing to love.  It's always seemed more like gravity:  something I was pulled into and thrown out much a mystery when it appeared as when it was gone.

Then, almost a year ago, I met someone remarkable (and funny and interesting and thoughtful and smart and handsome and kind and blah blah schmoopy blah...).  And we talked (and we talked and we talked)...and in time, I realized quite clearly that I loved him.  At some point in one of those long conversations, I remember saying that maybe a successful relationship was based on two people choosing each after day...until they ran out of days.  In typical fashion, I'm not sure I'd even given it much thought before I said it out loud.  But now. all these months later, I find myself putting the concept of choice into practice.  And day after day, I'm realizing that not only is love a choice, but it's even better that way.

Being in a long-distance relationship is challenging.  We miss out on a lot of the day to day stuff.  We're always in touch by phone...but it's not really complete.  We don't have the benefit of facial expressions and non-verbal cues and all the little nuances of being there in person.  We don't have the luxury of hugging it out after a tough conversation or ending a misunderstanding with a kiss.  It's forced us to be constantly communicative and even more patient with each other.  It's also given us a lot of opportunities to choose love over choose trust over choose self-reliance over choose each other again and again.  

This notion is probably a small thing to the long-marrieds of the world.  They are the veterans.  They know first-hand the reality of living out the same choice every day.  For me, it was a brand new world.  Once I started really considering it (and realized that I've been doing it for months now),  I found myself having a-ha moments on everything from my parents 43-years marriage... to scripture (love is patient, love is kind...).  Something clicked into place and I actually kind of get it:  I can choose to love instead of whatever other option.  This tiny, simple thing...this small but conscious act...this choice was the missing link in my understanding...a key board in the bridge I'm building over the chasm between where I've been and all the places that I'm going.  

Even with this step forward, I would never be so brash as to say that I fully understand love...  I'm still pretty sure it takes a lifetime of thought and growth and experience for that.  And I think (or I hope, at least) that our understanding of love grows with I've got miles still to go.  I'm just  grateful to have learned this lesson along the way...grateful that I'm still growing...and grateful that I have the chance to make this choice:  that I can choose to love...(that we can choose each other) after day after day.

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