One of my favorite movies is Love, Actually, the wonderfully splendid Christmastime tale of half a dozen London urbanites, including the Prime Minister, and their interwoven attempts to negotiate love in all its messy, crazy forms.
I have seen it probably fifteen times, and every time it is still fresh – I still cry, I still laugh, I still feel that stunned aching joy of the message of the movie.
As Hugh Grant narrates to us at the beginning of the movie, while it is not particularly noteworthy or dignified, love is all around us.
That was a difficult lesson to internalize since I spent much of 2008 and 2009 feeling set adrift. When you are waiting for the next shoe to drop, it is easy to start feeling like your life is basically one long trial and you just have to get through it in once piece. If I’d calmed down a little, I would not have been so completely blind to what was right in front of me.
On my blog, I’ve called him Evan, and before that, The One Who Endures. I want to tell you a little more about him.
I’ve met a lot of very good people in my life. I have met CEOs I adore as Randian icons, and people who flush billions of dollars into charity, and church-going types who are happy to explain the prescription of a Godly life to me. But I have never met anyone as purely good as Evan. He is good all the way through. It’s his natural state: he always opts for the good and the right, especially in the tough situations. He does not lie or cheat or take a short cut. He doesn’t just pretend to be a good, moral person when he’s in the company of others. He’s just plain good, all the time.
He is a natural leader, though I think if you asked him about that, he wouldn’t really know what you’re talking about. It is intrinsic to him. He leads by example; he makes people want to go where he’s going. He has never, ever told me to do something. He just inspires me to do the right thing – every time.
He is unmemorized, without policy. He meets each circumstance as if he’d never encountered it before.
He likes criticism better than compliments.
I speak in generalities because the “why” of love is, I think, as mysterious as the how. For instance: I love him because he takes vitamins every day, because he laughs at my corny jokes, because he’s sweet and tender and brilliantly blazingly intelligent, because he has funny stories about when he was a boy, because he stands beside me, this calm, certain presence, when I feel weak and want to cry. I love him because he’s strong, an unmovable mountain of will. Also because he can be vulnerable, as open and silly as a ten year old boy.
I love him because he’s him. None of these qualities matter if they are not embodied in him. In any other person they would be admirable, but not precious.
Last year at this time, I had ideas about this should unfold. But like I said, he has no use for prescriptions and formulas. He’s like a cat; you can’t order him around (not that I would want to). So I had to learn the gift of Patience, and once I got Patient, I had to learn how to let myself be surprised.
“I take you seriously,” he said. “You are a woman of substance to me.”
Never in my life had anyone ever said that to me, and he said it with such solemn simplicity. That was when I knew for sure.
It was a humbling thing, to be considered a substantial person by the most substantial person in the world. My brain split into fractals while my heart began to stitch together.
I began to take myself seriously. When he was gentle with me, I could be gentler to myself. When he treated my body like a sacred thing, I began to respect it too. The smudges of darkness inside me rose to kiss the fingers that disturbed the quiet edges.
This was the year I learned was love is and I learned to recognize it, even when it doesn’t happen the way I think it should.
It is proof that there are no limits to the whim of circumstance.
He is a fixture in my life now, like a load-bearing wall. How blessed I am to have him, to cup my hands and gulp from the dailiness of love.