The other day while running errands a song came on the radio. The first few notes went in one ear and out the other as I pulled out of the bank, not recognizing it at first. I mean, I hadn’t heard it in years. But one verse in and it hit me.
All of the sudden I was 22 again, on my way to see you, my boyfriend, listening to that song you’d burned onto a CD for me. For a split-second I had butterflies flapping wildly in my stomach in anxious anticipation of seeing you, even though I’d literally just seen you an hour before. For just a moment, my heartbeat quickened at the thought of kissing you, at the excitement of having found “The One.”
That song took me straight back to the old “us.” The young-love “us.” The can’t-keep-our-hands-off-each-other “us.” And for a moment, it felt so good.
Then, just as quickly as it had come, the feeling was gone. The butterflies quickly disappeared and left behind a yearning for what had once been.
Back to reality.
I remembered I probably wouldn’t see you again until late that evening. We’d give each other a quick kiss, a tired, lingering hug, and chat about our days. I would tell you a few funny and/or disturbing stories about the kids and you would fill me in on work. We would give our best effort to listen and respond, though our eyes would be growing heavier by the minute. I thought about how you’d probably fall asleep on the couch later and I’d attempt to wake you up to come to bed, but eventually give up and crawl into bed alone, but not necessarily lonely.
And I felt a twinge of sadness. Like we’d lost something. That excitement and anticipation. That passion. What happened to us? I wondered. And for a minute, I wished we were back there, flirting in your dorm room, listening to that song on repeat.
And it makes sense, doesn’t it?
If I could capture those two stages in a picture and lay them side by side, at first glance it would seem like a depressing comparison.
On the left, a boy and girl totally obsessed with each other, so vibrant and alive, probably a bit too handsy, full of hopes and dreams of building a life together.
And on the right, a mom who hasn’t showered in days and a dad working his tail off to make enough for the four-year-old to go to preschool and the five-year-old to go to gymnastics. A couple who sometimes passes each other in the hallway a dozen times before looking up. A husband and wife who mean to squeeze in a date more often but get lost in the busyness of work and kids and deadlines.
It’s different than it used to be.
But then, as we turned onto our street, I looked in the rear view mirror. The two-year-old was bobbing his head to “Wheels on the Bus.” His older sisters were chatting about their days at school (“I got four smiley faces and only need one more to get a prize out of the treasure box” — “Oh wow! Good job, Hattie!”). I pulled up to our home, the fixer upper we’re chipping away at, room by room, the plans we’ve dreamed up and are working so hard on . . . together. I walked into a living room in total shambles, a good indicator that we still have a lot of passion, and vibrance, and excitement after all.
Sure, if I laid those two images side by side, our young-love next to our ten-year-later-love, I might, just for a second, wish for the high of that one on the left.
But that discounts all the in-between. The memories we’ve made, the babies we’ve grown, the crap we’ve waded through, the work we’ve put in, the compromises we’ve reached, the grace we’ve given. This life we’ve created. And the journey it took to get here.
This love is so much harder than that love was. That love was easy, eager, effortless. This love is intentionally making the choice to NOT QUIT, every day, even in the ugly, dark, hard moments. Which hardly sounds romantic.
This love is not always exciting. It’s not always easy. It’s not always eager.
It’s never effortless.
But maybe focusing on what it isn’t, is missing the point. Because maybe what it IS, is better than all of those things.
It’s refining. It’s sanctifying. It’s life-altering and soul-saving. It’s sacrificing and persevering.
I can’t say that about the old “us.”
I don’t want to go back. I’m so thankful for the in-between, and the right now. This life we’ve made, right here, with you and these three crazies. This is what we’d hoped for, what we’d whispered about in those dark hours when we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave each other’s side.
We did it. We’re doing it. Don’t let me miss it.
I love you still,