It’s interesting as you grow older and look back at yours and your friends’ lives and the mix of experiences of love, relationships, marriage, divorce, single lives, freedom, loneliness and desires.
Love. What really is it? Each heart you ask will give you a different answer and each experience of love a heart goes through makes pinning down what love ‘is’ as impossible as figuring out how many leaves will fall with each breath of wind.
There’s a repeating conversation that I suspect many of us have: The essence of it is what X person, should or should not do about their less-than-perfect relationship. In this conversation, there is usually a ‘good’ partner, diagnosed as being misguided in believing they ‘love’ the other ‘bad’ partner and so is enduring no end of misery.
Now, while there are definitely people out there who really are NOT good partners…is this what is really the core of the problem for most of us? How many of us have ‘loved’ someone who just keeps not measuring up to our expectations? How many of us have just grown away from our relationship, still ‘love’ the person, maybe don’t ‘like’ them so much anymore, but don’t know how to let go? How many of us have committed to a long-term, legally and / or religiously bound contract with someone before we really understand the commitment we are making and the very nature of what we are doing?
Well, this morning I read some corny ‘Granny Advice’ that was set in the context of a cheating husband, but I want to take it more generally. Long story short – the carrots, egg and coffee put in boiling water (do you know it?) They all go through the same trials, the boiling water. Carrots go in hard and get soft, eggs, fragile shell protects but inside they get hard…
The story says: “The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level?”
Well, personally, I think that’s selling coffee short – that is not what happens with making coffee, one ingredient doesn’t change the other, the coffee and water come together to make something great. This takes both elements working in harmony. The two ingredients are in and of themselves complete, but together they make more.
That’s a pretty good starting point for what love should look like don’t you think?
But most of us are far from ‘complete' when we first commit to love really, right? That’s why my friends and I talk so much about what we would tolerate now versus back then, what we desire now versus back then. So let’s take that coffee story past its half-ass ‘finish’.
First off, it takes time and effort to learn about brewing a really good cup of coffee right? Most of us can easily make ’instant’ and that can be satisfying, but the truly amazing cup of real coffee that leaves you just wanting more of the same…that takes understanding and practice - you have to take time to learn how to do it right and mistakes may be made along the way, some of which will leave a really bad taste, but should we give up because of this?
Now tell me, what do you do with a cup of coffee? What good is a cup of coffee if you don’t drink it? And when you drink it, doesn’t it finish? If you leave it there undrunk, won’t it eventually dry out?
Coffee, like love, has to be remade over and over again. Each time you learn a little more and your appreciation grows, you grow. It may be that you love that one coffee bean for ever as it subtly changes as the soil it grows in and the hands that take it from green to roast bean change, but you change in harmony with it and you are still happy as pappy in love. That’s fine, that’s good…
But it may also be that your tastes and what you want from your coffee changes. And this, I think is as natural as life itself, but our socialized constructs about what love ‘must’ look like doesn’t embrace this and it is this that causes us the real grief and not the changes of love themselves.
As me and my friends always come round to saying – we have all grown and changed so much in the time since we first started dating, and this, we unanimously agree, is a good thing. But when it comes to love and relationships, somehow we just don’t effectively recognize the inevitability of change, the fact that we all grow and so must change, and so, that change has a very rightful place.
There is a lot to be said for ‘working things out’ I don’t dismiss that, but the nature of ‘working things out’ must fully incorporate a recognition of this rightful place of change.