Show Up, In Love

 Image credit:  Dylan Spitz

Image credit: Dylan Spitz

“And you can hate it baby,

But it’s going to do what it’s going to do”

I sat at the edge of the bed and put on my winter boots. As I bent down to tie them, I eyed the bottom drawer to my left, in it among other things lived my underwear with quirky motifs on the butt and a pair of blue llama socks. A reminder that showing up as yourself in love looks a hell of a lot like leaving costumes to October 31st and surrendering to being an unapologetic walking heart.

I sat on a couch and looked into the eyes of a five-year-old. He knew so much about life and showing up. You could tell by the way he’s never needed words to express sitting in love.

In a language he understood I said, “Give me love, gluten free baby.” He wrapped an arm around my neck and gave me a kiss on the cheek. My wet kiss reminder that realities are bridged by love. 

I leaned against the wall, waiting for the elevator, ripped open the letter, “results are normal.” I cried on the first floor, on the top floor, and as I put the key into the door. Three words that may as well have read “I’m In Love” because I was standing in it, a testament to the verb. This was my “God meets the Universe” reminder gifting me more time to figure this life and love thing all out. 

There were moments in waiting rooms, on hospital beds, when the anesthesia made me want to cry from the burn, that all I prayed to God for was for the time and the strength to keep loving well. I squeezed a stress ball with my right hand while I was prodded and poked with needles on my left. My eyes were focused on the screen to the right, lined up nicely on it were images that broke me down to a science.

I prayed. 

I prayed for a different day, with another screen, and a heartbeat. Anticipation instead of stress. Drowning in love, instead of just in fear. 

A future that would’ve started with and would be expected to be born again in love. I had so much to live in love for, present and future. A screen with 8 images of the tissue in my breast was not going to be it. I had a letter for my records that confirmed this.

“Halloween ended. To all the people I pretended to be. Rest In Peace.” 

Days before when I’d looked into the face of the baby bear, I willingly accepted that he knew more about love now than I’ve been able to take in during my lifetime. Maybe his biggest ace over all of us is that he didn’t speak or really listen, he just did. He’s in love when he squishes his toddler body between cushion and person, for warmth. Teaching us to exist with him as an act of love. It’s evidenced when he makes a game out of jumping on beds, inviting us into his universe. Reminding us that love looks like fun and acceptance. It’s small hands, Polaroid pictures, and Cocoa Puffs. The biggest tell that love and growth go hand in hand. 

The older we get the more we complicate love. It stops being about showing up as an unapologetic heart and starts being about creating mazes for others to navigate and win. Can you get through this maze? Then you’re worthy. You can’t? Find the next maze. There are levels, walls, masks that never get taken off. 

There’s the moment he’s propped over you, bared body, and you wonder - bared soul? 

There’s the moment she’s walking alongside you, hands brushing, physically present, and you wonder - presently there? 

Love becomes all the questions that sit on our mind, but that we never actually ask. It becomes love songs on the radio that remind us of YouTube videos more than they remind us of people. Because the older we get, the more we strip humanity from love. We expect perfection from a feeling, a verb, an experience that was born from imperfection. From humanity. 

Sex is fun, but it's also sweaty and messy and funny noises and everything but cinematic. IVF is a hopeful option, but it's also months of tears and expectations being trampled and swelling that has nothing to do with a growing baby. Adoption is life giving, but it's also arduous and stacks of paperwork to drown in and your hopes in the hands of time. 

This is where we come from. From messiness. From layers and layers of parents wanting us, not expecting us, not understanding what to do once we get here. We turn into those same parents, who end up on toilets counting down minutes by the second and staring at a stick. But before we can even get there, we turn into people who can’t exist without absolutes about a feeling that is defined by its lack of a real definition.

How do you define being in love? I can guarantee you it’s different than how I define it. 

My brand of love is ordering Valentine’s Day presents in October, late night texts to help friends work through fights with partners, it’s faith when you don’t deserve it. It’s Cocoa Puffs on a napkin for a 5-year-old kid who the bar was just about to cut off because the sugar rush was going to kick in soon.

The only ways our definitions may overlap? We want to run and we struggle to find ways to stay. To not shoot ourselves in the feet. Because sitting in it? It’s overpowering and joy giving and everything we wanted. Isn’t that too perfect? Who deserves that much love? Not humans, right? Not the people who mess up and who don't know who they are, why would we? 

We expect to 'arrive', whatever that means. We wait for the 'right timing', whatever that means. We wait for the 'perfect' person, whatever that means. 

I've been in love. I've fallen in love. Everything but perfect, that's how I would describe him. My favorite choice at any time of day, that's how I would describe him. 

****

The rooms at the breast clinic these last few weeks were especially cold. I would get goosebumps every time I laid in bed, breast out. But it’s where I learned the most about how being in love was the step after falling in love.

I learned to exist in it, to let it teach me, let it challenge me to grow, to let it let me make mistakes. Being in love, it’s goosebumps in cold rooms with the most tender parts of you incredibly exposed, by choice.

I had to intentionally take my arm out of the robe and tuck it under my armpit so that all could see my boob.

I had to intentionally strip myself down to a heart and not fear failing so that I could have no regrets about sitting in love.

I had to surrender to my humanity as a way to not stunt my opportunity for growth and discovery and love that learned to stay. I had no point of reference. I didn't know love that stayed no matter what, so I became it. 

I had to be in love so that I could recognize that it was way better than falling in love.