The “Quieter Love” That Comes with Time

I met my husband when I was fifteen years old. We fell in love as kids. Jordan used to pick me up at my parents’ house in his white mustang to take me out on dates: to movies; to go swing dancing; to the local Albuquerque coffee shop where he had asked me to be his girlfriend in the first place. We dated for several years (broke up once in the middle) and married two months before my twentieth birthday.

The groundwork for our relationship was laid in the early days of our youth, which paired nicely with the pleasant dizziness of youthful love: love that is just starting out, just revving up, just blossoming and overwhelming you with its sweet fragrance.

Sometimes I miss those early days of being in love. I’ve seen more and more engagement announcements in my Facebook feed in recent years, always accompanied by photos of the smiling couple and the girl showing off her ring, always full of the particular excitement and giddiness that comes with still-young love.

Let me be clear: I love my husband more than anyone. He’s my favorite person in the world. I certainly haven’t “fallen out of love” with him (whatever that means). Our romance is still young in a lot of ways, and there’s always something new and exciting to look forward to next.

But our love is different than it was back in high school, or when we first got married, and I’ve learned that that’s okay. That’s how it’s supposed to be. We have both changed over the years, because that’s what human beings do as they grow and learn. We’ve gotten to know each other (and ourselves) better. We’ve faced some challenges and made some big decisions together. We’ve seen each other at our worst, our most vulnerable, and our weakest. We’ve enjoyed each other at our best.

There’s a passage about love from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity I’ve been thinking on lately (and which I’ve mentioned on here before). It’s long, but it’s great, so here it is:

“Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called ‘being in love’ usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,’ then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from ‘being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

This quieter love is what, I think, Jordan and I are beginning to experience now, after entering our fifth year of marriage (and the eighth year of our relationship). Because not only do we as individuals change with time, but love changes, too. After you’ve left the stage of new, young love, you begin to experience what older love is like…not that I would classify what Jordan and I have as particularly “old,” but it’s older than it was eight years ago when we started dating or five years ago when we married. Like us, it’s aging and growing and changing. Love is not a static thing. And (Lord willing) in five, ten, twenty-five, or fifty years, I’m sure our love will be different than it is now.

Relationships are fortified through little, everyday things. Earlier this summer, Jordan and I were apart for over three weeks, which is the longest we’ve spent apart since getting married. (It unpleasantly reminded us of the roughly two years we spent long-distance dating, which, as I articulated in an exasperated Twitter post while Jordan was away, “SUCKED FOREVER.”)

Some of the things I missed most during that time were just the everyday parts of our relationship. I missed our evening routine of making dinner and watching something on Hulu or Netflix together. I missed having someone just to talk to about my feelings. I missed the silly little things we’d do to make each other laugh, like doing a dorky dance while taking the dishes to the kitchen or making up our own lyrics to cheesy love songs to sing to each other from the next room. I missed lying in bed together, staring up at the dark ceiling, and talking about our days or our future or how we want to raise our kids and all of the other little, secret things you only share with a spouse. This must be the stuff of Lewis’ “quieter love.”

I am excited by this new stage of love that, while not as flashy as its predecessor, is a little deeper and richer and growing more so day by day. I remember fondly the early days of our romance, but I wouldn’t trade what we have now to go back and start all over again.

Onwards and upwards.

Image via IM Creator.

Rehabilitation: A New Perspective

In my last post, I spoke on the idea that we expect our lives to be pretty normal. For the most part, we run the race of life at our own pace and do not expect much deviation from the bell curve. But when an anomaly is thrown at us that affects us and causes us to leave a previous way of life and begin a new one, how are we supposed to respond?

One good example to look to is that of a patient striving for a new normal after a physical injury.

Let’s start by first recognizing what our normal is. Most of the people reading this blog will fall into this category; after all it is the most common. These people have the blessing of a well-functioning body. Sure, some things may not be perfect about it, but it will still get you through the day. Medical terminology defines this normal ability with two terms: activities of daily living (ADL’s) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADL’s). ADL’s include simple things that you do every day: brushing your teeth, using the restroom and eating on your own. IADL’s are a bit more complex, they include preparing a meal or balancing a check book. Both of these terms define what it is we must be able to do on our own in order to fall into this “normal”.

For a good amount of people, the normal described above is not done with as much ease as a healthy person. This is because they themselves or a loved one has suffered from a birth defect, an accident, a disease, or something of that nature that prevents them from preforming any ADL’s or IADL’s. Not being able to perform these activities causes a dramatic change in anyone’s life. Making what is called a “new normal” or an adjustment that accounts for physical impairments, takes time, dependence, and learning.

In a way we all make new normals for ourselves throughout our life. Adjustments are made in life for differences, changes or anything that alters a previous routine.

From a medical team’s perspective, the goal for a patient with an impairment that affects these daily activities would be to get them back home and able to live as best as they can despite their circumstances. This is easier said than done. Someone who is paralyzed from the waist down, for example, faces many challenges that a normal person would not even have to think about. Most obviously they would not be able to walk, would have difficulty getting in and out of a car (and would need a different mechanism for using the gas and brakes), and would need to take into account the extra time it takes to move (or be moved) when planning for the day. Disabilities and risks that are not as obvious include possible medical complications such as the development of bed sores due to immobility, clotting in the legs and the fact that by being unaware of pain a paraplegic would not be alerted to an injury if one did occur.

While all of these obstacles differ from impairment to impairment, the road to rehabilitation, or restoration of ADL’s and IADL’s, is one that will be walked very intentionally. Planning, goals, and support will all be needed to assist a disabled person in reaching a new way of living an ordinary life. This tedious process is how we get back on our feet after a traumatic life event has occurred.

Goals given to those just recovering from a permanent injury need to be crafted to suit the individual. Different people have different potentials, and the same goes for those re-learning how to live life normally. Daily, weekly, and monthly goals are all made in consideration of what a certain patient may actually be able to attain. This is done to first and foremost get a person to their new normal and to realistically set up expectations so that there are encouraging results through the rehabilitation process.

The recovery process reaches far beyond a hospital stay and it remains for a lifetime. Every day of a new normal is something more difficult than what our previous normal life taught us. Although one may have gotten back up, the difficulty does not go away.

Even when we have not been physically affected with a debilitating injury, there are still things in life that will force us to find a new normal. Losing a mother, father, sibling, or friend will all drastically change our normal; starting a new job or going through a hardship will also change what normal looks like. Everyone faces this rehabilitation process–it will just present itself differently in different situations.

The lesson that medical rehabilitation teaches us is valuable to everyone. Rehabilitation takes time. We often want to see results immediately and are impatient to return to what was previously our normal. Respond to disaster in patience; make reasonable goals and eventually a new normal will begin and how long that new normal will last we don’t know.