Today marks 8 years since Colleen and I started dating. Anyone who knows our history knows there are caveats within that statement, footnotes to be made, past events to be cross-referenced and included in requisite indices. But you know what? I’m done with that. It’s 8 years. Period.
Here’s the best way I can describe what it’s like to continually choose the same person, over and over, every day, for close to a decade.
You start with a small box. And your love fills that box. And because the box is small, the love feels extraordinarily intense. Like being in a sauna. As the years go by, the box gets bigger. And the love grows to fill it. But because the space is bigger, the love isn’t always felt so intensely. What once was hot now feels warm. Like a hot tub after a few hours of soaking.
It can be easy to feel as if something has been lost when actually more of it exists. There is more love because there is more experience. There is greater appreciation because there are more hard times. However, a bigger space takes more energy to heat. Energy is synonymous with work. So: more love means more work. Without the necessary work, the space cools. But when the proper work is done, there is a beautiful feeling of being able to both stretch out dreaming and curl up sleeping. There’s a feeling of increased comfort.
Then you have a child. And you add another small box. And all of a sudden your energy bill skyrockets. But so does the love you have available. And now you’re experiencing the intensity again because you’re spending so much time in the small box, tending to it, trying to shore up its sides and insulate it. And even as the space around you fills up with a love you never knew you had, you constantly question if it’s enough…if you have the energy to fill both spaces. Because one isn’t more or less important than the other. They are, essentially, the same space now. And that’s the important thing to remember. Because if you treat them as opposing forces, battling for your time and energy…if it’s a zero sum game and giving to one means taking from the other…then you lose.
For me, it’s tempting to look back at the small box that heated up so many nights so many years ago, and to think: that was easy, that was good, that was the ideal.
But what is small is also, by definition, limiting. And what was can’t be, by definition, what is. When you start out, you’re never thinking outside of the box. Your whole world is that intensity. With some years under the belt, “outside the box” becomes more interesting. It’s potential and you see that someday–with work– your love will expand to fill that space, too. And you start to feel very big and very small at the same time.
And hopefully, like me, you realize: 8 years is just the beginning. And that is awesome.