“I love you.”
The first time I said those words to a boy that wasn’t my dad or my brother was 2001. I had just started dating one Mr. Adam Brehm. I’d dated other boys before him but never had I ever put together those three little words. Those words felt too big and overwhelming for me to just give them out willy nilly.
I told him I loved him. We’d dated for a hot second. I’d known him for about three minutes. But some force of all forces forced my lips to part and say, “I know it’s early. And you don’t have to say it or feel it because I do but… I love you.” And I felt like I’d just married the man for goodness sakes. It felt like this huge commitment to say those three words strung together to another human that I didn’t share genes with.
Over time, we said it again. And again. And again. We said the words.
But now, I know. It wasn’t choosing to say I+love+you to another human that was the big dance, it was the act of loving.
The little and the big things every day that we did for each other. The choice to want to spend time together instead of with other people. The decision to take our singular lives apart and meld them together for as long as we both shall live. The act of truly cherishing one another by standing across the bed, folding laundry, as Homeland plays in the background. The romantic part of love that includes surprises and flowers and shaved legs. And the monotonous part of loving that means one parent getting out of bed to help a scared-in-the-night kiddo and letting the other parent can sleep. The exhilerating part of love that means getting to be along for the moments where one half of the pair gets a raise or completes a half marathon. The scary part of love where one person changes jobs or gets a life-altering diagnosis. The stagnate part of love where life feels sort of usual and pedestrian. And the butterfly part of love where a kiss flip flops your belly. The reality of love where, as a parent or a caregiver or pet parent, you find yourself truly performing the needs of another — from diaper changes to feedings to walks and beyond. The tired part of love where you just want to sit and watch your favorite flick in silence. The loud part of love wherein you want to shout from the rooftops just how proud you are of the person you are with. And the selfish part of love where you choose to do something that is best for you.
Love is a million little moments made up of feelings that propel you to do. To fight. To laugh. To care for. And to live a life together.
It doesn’t necessarily make sense when you think about it all. All that love is. It isn’t just three little words. It’s action after action. Feeling after feeling. Life might be easier, in fact, if we didn’t feel pulled to love one another. It might be easier to just have to care for ourselves. To only have to own our own agenda and needs. But the reality tends to be, the more love you give out, the more you get back. And that is pretty damn lovely.
Love is groovy. Love is strange. And to love is to learn more about your own heart.
“I love you.”
Three little words. One huge feeling. And a definition that changes each and every day.
I was so terrified to say the words. But that was the easy part. The work and the life comes in actually doing it. Actually acting out that love. In falling into love, in letting myself go, in being vulnerable, I have gained so much more than I could have ever imagined I would. From parental love to romantic love, it feels like real love, when you find it, is the real deal.
For all those who love, may this day remind you that you are worth loving. And that your love is free and ready for the giving.