A few years ago, I emailed a friend who had just started dating a man and asked her a question: “Is falling in love really all that it’s cracked up to be?”
She wrote me back. Yes, she said. But maybe the phrase “cracked up to be” isn’t right, because it’s something different and surprising, and new. It’s scary and overwhelming and beautiful – and it keeps surprising you.
I wrote that email almost three years ago. And here I am now, learning myself what it means to fall in love with a person, how it both differs from the kind of falling in love I’ve been doing my whole life, but also follows familiar patterns that I recognize.
Falling in love is a story made of many stories, over the days and weeks, between the waiting and wondering and questioning and hoping. It’s the stories of text messages lighting up my phone in the middle of the day, a smile immediately beaming from my face because he texted me.
It’s making soup and bread on a Friday night together — just the two of us, playing cards with friends, watching ridiculous youtube videos, hiking in the misty June gloom, drinking multiple cups of coffee and staring at each other from across the table. It’s hand holding in the car rides, the excitement every time I know he’s on the other side of the front door.
It’s hand written letters we mail to each other, the stories we tell in those pages – the places and people we’ve been falling in love with our whole lives and are happy to share that with the other.
It’s learning to share tears and our pain, how to be held and to hold, how to express appreciation and gratitude, how to let the other person know how deeply we believe in them.
Falling in love is facing the daily temptation to hide, and not being able to. Falling in love is being frustrated because he knows what you’re thinking even before you say it, that you’re stressed about making your salad for lunch tomorrow and how you’re going to find the time to work out and go to the community advocacy meeting and get in the 8 hours of sleep that you really need. It’s saying yes to being seen in the midst of your inner chaos – including the eyeliner-smudged-underneath-your-puffy-post-tears- eyes.
But this falling in love is both completely new and surprising – and at the same time familiar. Love doesn’t allow us to hide, it changes us and breaks us and rebuilds us. And I’ve been in love with people and places for twenty-six years, being broken and rebuilt. That makes the romantic love so much sweeter, deeper, harder, richer, more painful and also more beautiful.
I’ll keep saying yes to the surprises of love, choosing it even when there are a thousand unknowns and questions I can’t answer. And I’ll give as much of it back as I can – because love moves like that when we let it.