I was raised in the era of Love Boat. Anyone else? Every week the luxury cruise ship set sail and, under the watchful eye of captain Stubing and his crafty crew, couples found love after some grandiose gesture. Sure, they shook it up each week. Sometimes the characters expressed their passion through an embarrassingly large gift or magnanimous sacrifice. Other times, characters confessed their flaws and committed to change for the mere chance at romance. Whatever the plotline, enduring love was achieved in 60 minutes in a posh setting with fireworks, roses, and diamonds. I’m not knocking rockets, bouquets, or gemstones—especially the fireworks. Who doesn’t like those heart pumping, stomach clenching moments when a relationship is fresh and untested? All you need is the declaration of undying love. Let’s be honest though, if that’s all there is, those couples won’t be around for a second cruise. Real love, the kind that takes your breath away, is forged in the messier moments of a life together that is more like a Jeep ride on the tundra than a cruise through the Mediterranean. When you have that, the most pedestrian moments will take your breath away.
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away.
~ Maya Angelou~
I broke my wrist last week. If you read my blog, you know this isn’t my first injury. My MRIs are a map for a life well-lived. As I have spent 68% of my time on the planet thus far with my husband, he is no stranger to ice packs or Urgent Care waiting rooms. Though I may have hinted on social media that my broken wrist was a small price to pay for saving nuns from a pack of rabid coyotes, the truth is that my foot failed to clip out when I was stopping, and I put my arm out to break my fall. I have been kicking myself all week. I mean this may be the dumbest injury I have ever had (and I once got a ski frozen to my head, so that is saying something).
You know who hasn’t been kicking me all week? My husband. I realize he never has. Not once. He didn’t chastise me for not checking the hood latch on the flatbed that dropped on me while I checked the oil. He didn’t caution me about leaving a knife on the counter when one got knocked off and slit my leg open. He did what he always does. Then, as now, he took me to a doctor and made me laugh to get my mind off the pain and allay my fears. (Pro tip: If you’re bleeding and he’s not cracking you up, it’s serious.)
Love is choosing the greater good for the other person.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg that sinks the Love Boat relationship model. I have had my share of gemstones and bouquets and perfect gifts. They were all amazing. I feel love much more deeply in the things that don’t cost a penny. Love isn’t diamonds. It’s not a dozen long stem reds. You can’t unwrap love.
Love is getting up at 4:00 AM to feed the dogs so your wife can go on a bike ride and then getting up at 4:00 AM to dry her hair when she breaks her wrist on a bike ride. Love is making her coffee just right, not because she couldn’t do it with one hand, but because it would take forever and be really frustrating. It’s putting out a step stool when she can’t pull herself into your truck with one hand. It’s loading the dogs and driving her to work because she insists on driving a stick. It’s finding the humor in the whole annoying situation—knowing when to tease and when to cajole and when to hug.
The most breath-taking, heart-pumping, stomach-clenching moments are not when a relationship is fresh and untested. They come in tiny moments, in the darkest hours. Even 38 years later, they come with patience, truth, and grace—and laughter. You know you love someone when you choose the greater good for them. You know you are loved when they choose the greater good for you. Bask in a simple cup of coffee made just as you like it, in the same way that you would bask in an engagement ring. Be grateful for the priceless acts that say you are treasured. And sure, take a cruise now and then but don’t think of it as a vacation to renew your love. Renew your love in the messy moments of life when it really counts.