I’ll be the first to admit that life is complicated. So, the little things we do to be present in each other’s lives matter. The small gestures that say, simply, “I’m here.” We often make the mistake – in the age supersizing, reality tv, and people who spend a year’s salary on their wedding – of thinking that only the gigantic, over-the-top gestures matter. That is, quite honestly, untrue.
There’s a line in an e.e. cummings poem (“somewhere i have never travelled”) that has always stuck with me. It’s this: in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me. Sure, you can read assume that the word “frail” means weak or fragile. But in the context of the poem itself, I’d argue that it means small – as in a simple, non-grand gesture. The little things, however frail, matter.
Life can be crazy and intense. The day-to-day bullshit can be hectic. But those people who stop in the middle of their crazy to show you that they care? Appreciate them. They are the people who love you. You can have a billion friends, but the ones who you can call when you’re sad – or who call you when you’re sad – those friends matter. This past week, I was really lucky in the people who made a point to show me how much they care. A phone call meant the world to me. A text message made me smile. Even a brief message as simple as, “Thinking of you” made me happy. Stress might be cumulative (the little annoyances adding up), but I like to think that the small gestures are cumulative, too. These things offer comfort, reassure us, tell us we’re important, and (most importantly) that we are loved. And we all need to know that, don’t we?
When I first started to write this post, I had an entirely different goal. I had this revelatory moment about a friend – when I realized that person really isn’t my friend. Sure, we get along great. We’ve had awesome times together. But there’s a point when you’re objectively looking at a relationship, and you realize that what’s said and what’s done doesn’t match up. That is a powerful thing. It’s a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky, and you were in the wrong place and the wrong time. I’m a very understanding person. I will forever bend over backward and find a way to work things out – because life doesn’t work without compromising. But when a person routinely makes excuses for something, those are not reasons. When a person says one thing, but does another – that’s not honesty. And when that person leaves you hanging like the proverbial geek up the flagpole at all-jock high school – well, that’s kind of a huge red flag. Because while the good little gestures add up, the absence of those gestures do, too.
Life is too short to stay among those who do not celebrate the hell out of us. It is too short to stay surrounded by negativity or those who do not give as good as they get. All relationships need balance – it doesn’t matter if it’s your brother, best friend, lover, or wife. Don’t get me wrong: we all do stupid things from time to time. But when actions are habitual, that’s not an accident. People may not always say how they feel, but they do show you. Likewise, people always show you who they are.
You give for what you love, darlings. It’s as pure and simple as that. Yes, relationships are messy. Things will never be perfect. But the mess is what matters, because it’s real. It’s honest. It’s wonderfully sloppy. (Which explains the current state of my kitchen and the forever state of my closet…please don’t look in there. Organized chaos!) I don’t ever want neat or pristine, because that’s just smoke and mirrors. I want the brilliance of the little things and the honesty that comes with making time and space for someone else. That’s a powerful magic that seems like a small thing. Sure, the big gestures are awesome – but give me a soft word and a meaningful look any day, loves. I want frail gestures that enclose me.
I’ve seen a lot of conversations centered around bravery, lately. Mostly, it’s people wondering how, exactly, to be brave – how to be strong enough to make a change or go after something. Incidentally, yesterday morning, I was grappling with that very thing – stuck in the very moment where you vacillate back and forth, wondering if you should do The Thing or Not. There’s a kind of pulse-shaking fear in that moment before you decide to do something. Adrenaline might be kicking around in your veins. That makes it hard, because that turns a choice into a fight or flight. You either do The Thing (fight) or you don’t (flight).
Usually, I go the route of Marilyn Monroe, say, “What the hell?” and do the thing. Because if there’s one piece of advice I’d want you to heed and carry with you, it’s this: Always do The Thing. Whatever you’re searching for the courage to do, whatever it is nagging at you or haunting you, do it. Go after it. What lights up your heart, who lights up your heart, don’t be held back by fear. Be brave. You will regret the things you let slip away, doomed to always wonder what might’ve been or what-if. That kind of regret is far more powerful than the kind that comes with things that don’t turn out exactly as you’d hoped. So, dear heart, do The Thing. And don’t look back.
So many of us put walls up, keeping ourselves theoretically safe, but also keeping ourselves from possibilities. There are moments in a conversation, sometimes, when you can hear that exact moment it happens – a question is asked, a consideration is raised – and, suddenly, there’s a wall. (In your heart. That no one can get through. *ahem* Song lyrics just spat themselves out of my brain. That’s a lovely song.) It’s as if the other person is holding up an emotional (or informational) stop sign. I suppose it’s most cases, it’s wise to respect that. But much to my detriment at times, I do not believe in walls for the sake of walls. I do not believe in keeping distance between myself and those I love. Ever. It’s usually a temporary structure, for one thing. A diversion. A false pretense. And, almost always, it isn’t constructive – such things hurt more than they help.
If you miss someone, tell them. If you want to see someone, see them. Stop saying no so often, and give yes a try. Yes opens doors. And no is a drowning word. And for god’s sake, if you love someone? Tell them. It doesn’t matter if nothing comes of it. It doesn’t matter if it’s half-insane or seemingly impossible. A person should know he/she is loved. There’s no more important truth to be told, if only to tell it. Saying that out loud is a powerful thing. And it always matters, even when it may not seem to. It always matters, even if nothing comes out of it. It’s not always about a happily ever after. It’s about the moment of knowing, of letting it out. It’s being that brave and that vulnerable. But you can’t do that – any of what I just said – if you’re hiding behind walls. Get rid of them. They do you no real good.
Do The Thing. Always, always do the thing. Your heart – your life – will be all the better for it.
“If you’re crazy, be crazy. If you’re broken, be broken.” ~Suzanne Palmieri, The Witch of Belladonna Bay
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
― Anaïs Nin
The idea of history is a strange thing. On the surface, it seems like a heap of facts: this happened. That happened. I did this. He did that. But truly, history is not a recipe. It isn’t a math problem. It is almost a fluid thing – a truth, stark, meant to be covered with feelings. Emotions. A whole picture, a moment made real. Like the scene in the Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy opens the door to her house, only find everything is suddenly in color.
Each of us has, and writes, our own little histories. They sharpen into focus at some points. Other events and instances blur the lines. A sentence is simply not the whole story. A fact is nothing more than half a moment – a moment in shadow. A history – a life – without feelings is like a map with only the outline of a place. A story told without adjectives. It only portrays a fraction of the potential that is there.
While we, undoubtedly, craft our own stories, our voice is altered by those around us. Those people reading over our shoulders and writing in the margins. Those who dare to brave our scribbles, our bad spelling, our most precise description and our nonsense. And yes, all that is a metaphor for other things. Give it all the meaning you wish.
The past – the thing we wrote ten years past or a moment ago – changes as we change. The basic words remain intact, but the adjectives shift. The handing writing shifts: ink takes the place of pencil, from blue to red, from legible to illegible. We obscure deliberately on occasion. We switch languages. We write in small print, edging toward the impossible. Then there are the footnotes. The tiny clarifications. The way our hands shake.
Being in a relationship with someone is a lot like reading a story. The more you pay attention to the details, reading closely, the more you learn. Someone may say something simple, only to have it shift the landscape, or the tone. Every look, every touch, is a potential plot twist. Every confession is a reason to stay or go. You may hear something entirely different than what was meant. Your words may be skimmed. Your emphasis may be misunderstood. And yet, at the end of the paragraph or page, meaning is right there.
Our hearts are made of words – some ours and some belonging to others. Love is a thing of poetry – a heap of sentences that no two people understand the same. Everything we ever dare to write makes up our collected works. Our collected moments. Our history. It’s not something written by those who’ve won – but those who dared to live.
I don’t believe in perfection. I believe in working very hard. I believe in kindness. I believe in the power of coffee, red lipstick, love, and laughter. I believe in people. I believe in risk. I believe in taking chances, being braver than you credit yourself with/for, and saying I love you when it’s meant. Not before. And not too late. When it’s true. The same goes for apologies.
I don’t believe in perfection.
I believe that sometimes you have to sing out loud no matter where you are. The car. The grocery store. The shower. Some moments must be sung. I believe that there are some days that can be turned around by baking cookies. Or having wine. Or curling up with a good book or a good hug. Do not underestimate the power of a good hug. Do not underestimate the power of a good kiss. Kiss well and kiss often. Always dance around the house. It makes life more fun.
I don’t believe in perfection.
I believe that love is bigger than we want to believe. Love can be scary, but it can fix the unfixable. So can friendship. These two things together? Unbeatable. It’s like Buttercup’s speech to Prince Humperdink in the Princess Bride. She was right. As you wish.
I don’t believe in perfection.
I believe in phone calls at 3 am. Or in the middle of the day. I believe in honesty. I believe in communication. I believe that things can change. That things should change. And that the easy things are easy for a reason: they’re entirely too safe. Safety is often mistaken for duty, comfort, and reason. There is nothing reasonable about stagnation.
I don’t believe in perfection.
I believe in dressing up for no reason. I believe in tequila. I believe in rum. I believe in lace underwear and cute bras. I believe in skirts and dresses and grace. I believe in raincoats, leather boots, and smiling. Never underestimate the power of a smile, or the way a man will brush your hair from your face. Love is more than just words. It’s the way someone looks at you. It’s the way someone holds you. It’s the way your voice turns soft when you say the other person’s name.
I don’t believe in perfection.
Tell me what you believe.
To be accommodating is such a small, simple thing. It’s all too easy to get caught up in what we want, or need, or think something should be. It’s much harder to put someone else’s needs before your own, but that is, interestingly, what love is. Plain and simple. (That’s not to imply that anything about love is EVER simple. If it is, it’s probably not love. But I digress…) That’s caring about someone else.
I forget, sometimes, that not everyone is like that. I forget that what seems like such a small thing to me – may indeed be a big thing to someone else. Because so often, people forget to be kind. And it really matters. It can make the difference between a bad day and a good one, a fight and a discussion, and a stalemate and a compromise.
The funny (almost contrary) thing is that I love plans. I love knowing things. There are times where being flexible does not come naturally to me (do NOT say what you are thinking; that is not what I was referring to, you dirty birds). I know why this is. I like the security of knowing that x, y, and z is going to occur. I like knowing how to plan my day. I like to remove doubt. (The psychology of this can probably be traced back to my childhood.) Sometimes, I like to be able to look forward to a Thing. But being flexible is important. The truth is that when I venture outside of my comfort zone for someone/something else, it is always deliberate. It is never an accident or a mistake. It is always a choice. Even if it seems hasty, it isn’t. It’s something I’ve worked on and am still working on. And I suspect will forever be working on. That, though, matters – working on something. Trying to improve.
But improvement isn’t the point of this post. It’s that it costs nothing to be kind. It is a small gesture, a tiny offering, a little thing. And yet, it’s so much more than that. There are days where I forget that. There are days where I am stuck on things in my own head. My own wants, desires, and thoughts about how something [life, love, relationships, moments, opportunities] should be. But that is selfish and possibly very stupid. It is also unwise. Because no one is an island. And life can be complicated, sometimes in the very best way.
The little things matter. Especially to me. Grand gestures are, well, grand. But I don’t need someone to show up with a suit of armor, wielding a bouquet, to impress me. Someone once made my day by bringing me muffins. He probably won’t remember that, but I do. It mattered. It matters. It will always matter. Because those little things are what set us apart from everything else.