There exists a vague, dark, constant fear at the horizon of life. On all sides of us, drilled into us by media and stories and the sweet-but-perhaps-misguided advice of extended family members, we are told that we are supposed to “partner up” and that, if we don’t, life will be nice, but meaningless. We are convinced that there is a kind of “soulmate,” someone with whom we share a love that renders all others secondary, one with whom we build a nest and fulfill our purpose — that life is entirely constructed around this unique love. But the truth is that life is filled with almost endless kinds of love, love that gives meaning and color to life and makes us better human beings. And each of them — not just love that gets caricatured in romantic comedies — deserves to be praised.
When your parents tend to you while you’re sick, giving you soup and putting on your favorite movie and placing a pillow gently behind your head to prop you up; when they answer your calls with a warm voice even after you’ve made the too-frequent mistake of treating them like you don’t care about them; when they give you a place to sleep or a little money to get you back on your feet because, even though they want to teach you independence in life, they still want to see you doing alright — that is love.
When your friend collects the pieces of you strewn all across the room after someone who claimed to “love” you left you for someone else; when they lose days with you, laughing and singing and eating junk food and doing everything that was good about childhood that we have somehow forgotten to do in early adulthood; when they keep secrets across decades where others wouldn’t have been able to hold it in for a single afternoon — that is love.
“Head Over Feet”, Alanis Morissette
I hear the familiar music, with its sticky-sweet lyrics, and I’m suddenly in one of those nostalgic daydreams that only music can connect you back to.
It’s 1996, and I’m in my friend Stephanie’s bedroom. We’re sharing the newest additions to our personal cassette tape collections with each other. I’m offering her Shawn Colvin (because what 11-year-old didn’t love that hot single “Sunny Came Home?”), while she gives me Alanis Morissette’s album. And so began my adolescent infatuation with this song, “Head Over Feet.”
Now, 15 years later and with a bit more life experience, I think Alanis was onto something when she wrote this—not only about romance, but about relationships in general.
“You treat me like I’m a princess. I’m not used to liking that. You ask how my day was.”
I’m a girl who genuinely doesn’t like all the grand gestures. Sometimes they’re nice—sort of. Like when they’re not in a public place or around any other humans. Flowers are maybe the only exception to that. I just want someone who treats me like I’m valuable and knows me well enough to know how to make me feel that way.
In the context of dating, I absolutely want him to ask how my day was—and to listen. I want him to do these things because he cares enough about me to care about my life, even the boring bits no one else will hear about. But the same can be said for friends, family, coworkers, and any other relationship: grand gestures aside, there are few things more valuable than someone who listens.
“Thanks for your patience. You’re the best listener that I’ve ever met. You’re my best friend.”
One of my favorite things has always been seeing an old man open a door for his wife. Yeah, I’m capable of opening a door for myself and probably always will be, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want someone to do it for me sometimes. Whatever that cute old couple has been doing for 50-plus years is clearly working—and one of those small, patient things is opening the door for each other. They have the bond of being best friends, regardless of how the aging process plays out.
I probably don’t even need to delve into how important patience is in any relationship. I can be pretty stubborn and am well aware I most likely require a decent amount of patience. But in receiving grace, I will also give it.
“I’ve never felt this healthy before. I’ve never wanted something rational. I am aware now. I am aware now.”
I don’t know why, but it seems we often want to return to our more irrational behavior in relationships, and I’m not just talking about when it comes to dating. But there’s something really amazing and comforting about a healthy relationship. You don’t need to continue in something that makes you unhappy or unhealthy.
It’s true that some relationships, like family, are with you for life, regardless of how you feel about them. But the little things—patience, a listening ear, a door held open at the last minute—can go a long way.
Days later, I still feel your lips on my neck. Chicago is too far away, and I miss you too much.
I never understood what my mom meant when she always said “when you find the right one, you’ll know.”