I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the places we’ve gotten in the car and driven to: El Paso, the Grand Canyon, Richmond, New York, D.C., Orange Beach, Virginia Beach. I have a great appreciation for road trips, particularly ours. It was at this time last year that we began our weekly trips from Richmond to Nashville, getting the house ready to settle into. The thing about road trips is they force you into such close proximity that animosity cannot sustain itself. We argue, we bicker, we sulk. Then we get over it. Because not getting over it means hours of no noise but road noise, which is stupifying in its consistency. The only available alternative is to move forward both metaphorically and physically.
Captivating road trip conversation is yet another reason to go in the first place. When we run out of things to talk about, the trip will inevitably provide a topic of conversation. For example, halfway through Texas I had no clue what else to say. I felt like I’d told you everything about myself that you’d care about, and my mind frantically mined itself for something clever to say. That’s when we passed the windmills, remember? They are fodder for conversation in and of themselves, especially at night, their insufferable consistency and solemnity offering a bleak support for the harsh solitude that is central Texas. I miss those conversations.
I want us to take road trips again. I want us to go places, just us two. And maybe the dogs. I want to find new places and see new things, even horrible ones, with you. I want to create with you the stories we’ll tell for the rest of our lives. In order to do that, though, you have to keep with me. You cannot abandon me to myself and expect me to create the most positive definition of my life, of our life. You can’t leave me to my own devices because they are faulty and cheaply made, the only tools that can come from a factory of anxiety and depression. I cannot tell a good story by myself. So what I’m asking you, the case I’m pleading, is that you never disappear from me.
Never take yourself away from me because I can’t understand distance. In the same way I have no concept of distance measurement, so, too, emotional distance holds no inherent definition for me. I cannot be distanced from you without anxious fatigue. I need you with me, or I am not myself, and my story becomes tangled in all the things I never was and all the things I’ll never be. You are me as much as I am.
Please don’t disappear from me.
From E. E. Cummings:
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
Love is a timeless, universal sentiment. It defies the parameters within which we seek to define it. To attempt its definition is to find oneself at a loss. Love, true, real, raw love, is not easy, and it is ever elusive. But once it’s been found, once it has allowed itself to be confined within the hearts and souls of two people, it makes life more rich and abundant than we could possibly imagine it to be.
So why is it that we devote only one day a year to something so important, something so consuming?
In elementary school, we hand out little paper hearts attached to lollipops in hopes that they will bring happiness to our classmates. We eat cupcakes (at least we used to) and have parties and leave school sugared out all in the name of love.
In high school, we wait expectantly either to receive flowers or to find out how our flowers will be received. We give cliché greeting cards in the hopes that they will accurately expose our adolescent feelings to our sweethearts. And we think it will last forever.
In adulthood, men are now obligated to scramble around at the last minute to purchase flowers (that will die), candies (that she will say have contributed to her nonexistent weight gain), and jewelry (that she will likely wear for a few weeks before allowing it to slip to the bottom of her jewelry box to lie with the relics of Valentine’s Days past). Women, it has to be said, have a fairly easy job this holiday. They are required only to wait and to receive. The final judgement regarding the success of the holiday lies within their jurisdiction. Sorry, guys.
But why? Why do we do behave in these ways? Why do we stress ourselves out wondering whether or not he will propose this year or whether or not the flowers and necklace will be enough to keep her happy for now?
The history of Valentine’s Day is shrouded in mystery and confusion. No one saint can claim patronage over the day, and early celebrations of the holiday were hardly the greeting-card infused sweetness we know today. But somehow over the years we have adapted this day to our own purposes and allowed it to become the international day of love, for better or for worse.
I’m not suggesting here that Valentine’s Day is a pointless exercise designed only to make us feel worse about ourselves than we already do. I can be just as sappy and sentimental as the next girl (and quite frequently am). But if love is so important, if we’re willing to call it the be-all, end-all, if we’re willing to spend a lifetime searching for it, if we consider ourselves so lucky to know it, to possess it, to bestow it, then isn’t it worth celebrating every day?
Pretty much everything that can be said of life has already been said. It’s a roller coaster. It’s full of ups and downs. It’s a blessing. It’s a curse. It’s too short. Most of us, I’m sure, think these things at one time or another and probably without being aware that we have. This has me wondering: are we aware of the lives we lead?
Busy is the life we live, and we’re quite proud of it usually. We get ourselves involved; we get our kids involved. And oftentimes we see our calendar as a way to measure self worth. The busier we are the better people we must be, right? Because we are devoting our time to worthy causes like pottery class or soccer practice. These pursuits are certainly worthwhile, but it seems like sometimes we get lost in them. We do the same thing with our jobs. Having a schedule full of projects must mean that we are valuable employees because why else would we be tasked with so much? The concept of luxury becomes murky, obscured by inaccurate measures of what we’re actually capable of.
Luxury, when it is defined by these terms, becomes elusive. It becomes the next best thing, as opposed to the thing we already have. It’s times like these that life seeks to remind us of the little luxuries it affords us just for having lived it. Things like:
-The sound of children laughing as they play in the fountain at the outdoor shopping center, while their parents, armed with towels and a change of clothes, wait patiently smiling to themselves
-The cool breeze that blows through just before the summer storm that clears the air and brings much needed relief from the unrelenting heat,
-Buying ice cream from a real ice cream truck (complete with creepy tinkling music-box music), and
-Being sun-tired- the kind of tired you only get when you’ve been in the sun all day and come in to be swaddled by the air conditioning
serve to remind us that life is more than a calendar of events documenting how we’ve spent our time. These things we do are great as long as we see them for what they are, ways to shape ourselves for interaction with each other and the lives we lead. In the quest to occupy our time with worthwhile things, we can’t allow the little luxuries of life to slip past. If we do, then we have missed the point entirely.