Love is powerful. It is beyond words or actions. It is a force of nature.
When I was a teenager, my understanding of love consisted of some highly misguided notions about what love should feel like. There should be sparks when you kiss and butterflies in your stomach. These ideas were strongly influenced by my exposure to Disney movies and fairy tales.
Through middle and high school, those feelings were what I sought out. I wanted to feel giddy and excited all the time. I wanted emotions and attraction so powerful that they took up every inch of my being, preventing me from eating or sleeping. It’s very hard for a young girl to recognize that lust, like love, is a very powerful emotion.It’s an emotion that has the power to skew perceptions and priorities. It’s no wonder that people say “love is insanity”.
When I was a senior in high school, I found that insane love. It was fast and intense and everything I thought love was supposed to feel like. That person ended up breaking my heart so badly that I wondered if it could ever be mended. For me, that heartbreak also shattered any illusions I had about love. I believe that some people require a broken heart in order to handle actual love.
Actual love is very different. Actual love is challenging and messy. It takes effort. There is less instant gratification. You have to stick it out through the hard stuff and the ugly stuff to truly understand that actual love is more beautiful and powerful than any fairy tale.
Eleven years ago, I sat at my college orientation with my girlfriends a few rows behind Brian. I watched him and his dad fight to stay awake through some sort of riveting pep rally. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I enjoyed watching their interaction and humor. When it finished, I watched them leave the auditorium. My recently singed heart had finally healed enough to consider moving on. I pointed Brian out to my friends and said, “I should date someone like that.”
A few weeks later, I was all moved into my dorm and the fall semester had commenced. I was taking Intro to Sociology. An easy class in a crowded lecture hall. Brian walked in (a little late) and took a seat in the front row. I recognized him from orientation. I couldn’t tell you what the lecture was about, but I do remember the professor approaching Brian and making a point about something involving Eskimo kisses (perhaps personal space?), then leaned in and attempted to give him one.
I later found Brian on MySpace and, one night, sent him a private message that read “Do you like grilled cheese?”. I don’t know what pushed me to be so forward (and random). Maybe it was boredom or bravery or simply being way overtired. He did, in fact, like grilled cheese. We began chatting on AIM, which later turned into a phone conversation, which later turned into me realizing we had talked all night and I had to go to my morning class in 2 hours.
Our sociology class was later that morning, so we agreed to meet there, then go have lunch together. I arrived at the class and took my seat. I began to watch the doors for his entrance. People began to file in and fill the chairs around me. I put my bag into the seat next to me for him. Class began. Maybe he’s just late like he was on the first day. He wasn’t late. He never showed up.
After class was over, I called him to find out that he had overslept (a typical occurrence for 18-year-old Brian). He told me that he would get ready real quick and meet me at the restaurant on campus. I walked over and sat on a bench while I waited for him to arrive. I don’t remember how long I waited, but I do remember that moment. My back was to the walkway, so I didn’t see him approach. He rounded the corner and walked up to me. I stood up to give him a hug. That was the first time that I saw his face up close. A face with kind eyes and a warm smile. We went into the restaurant. Brian ordered a cheeseburger and I ordered grilled cheese.
That was day 1.
Fast forward 11 years and you get a couple that loves each other deeply. We laugh. We play. We compromise. We fight. We make up. We walk through hell together, fighting right alongside the other as if the battle were our own. Life is hard, but it’s easier with him.
Yesterday was a day that the girl on the bench waiting for her lunch date would never have seen coming. Yesterday, Brian proposed!
It felt different than I expected. I didn’t cry. I laughed because my body couldn’t contain the joy. My cheeks hurt a day later from all of the smiling. It was a day that I will always remember, fondly.
Love is powerful.
As the reality of our engagement sinks in, love seems to have permeated every inch of me. I have something beautiful and wonderful to look forward to. Love has extinguished all of my fear and anxiety about the next few months of chemo. I wouldn’t be surprised if it has annihilated any rogue cancer cell that might be floating around in my body. I probably don’t even need chemo anymore!
This Thursday, as I receive my first round of chemo I will be surrounded by love; my fiance (so strange to use that title!), my mom, my future mother in-law. People who also needed something wonderful and exciting to look forward to. Maybe we’ll bring some wedding magazines to entertain ourselves.
It’s amazing what love can do.