"I guess it always starts with butterflies," my friend tells me when I ask how she knows she's falling in love. "It's exciting to fall in love."
I tell her I understand. I've been through the butterfly, nervous, exciting, passionate kind of falling in love. I've fallen asleep thinking of him and I've woken up in the morning anxious to revolve my world around him again. I've felt the uncontrollable falling, falling down into the thick of muddy love with him. Hoped it would never end. Cried a flood of tears when it did. There are so many moments of it that are still so clear to me because—happiness, excitement, adoration, sadness, crumbling, heartbroken—everything I felt was passion-filled and passion-driven.
"That's not what it's like for me this time," I tell her.
This time it's slow and it's easy. The waves are calm—he brings me peace. I trust him. I enjoy him. He feels like safety—my relationship with him doesn't knock me off balance.
"It's weird," I say. "I can't tell if that's how it should be."
Our world has taught us that passion is something that should always be chased. That high highs make life worth living. That following a straight line, seeking comfort and safety, is a waste of our time.
"People don't write sonnets about being compatible, or novels about shared life goals and stimulating conversation. The great loves are the crazy ones."
That's how I always used to think. Why write a story if I wasn't crazy about it? Why be with someone once the butterflies faded? Why live somewhere, or do something, or follow someone if the thought of doing so didn't set a fire in me that could burn down any mountains in my way?
I was a full-fledged passion chaser, and I didn't want to live in daily life for the sake of being content. Contentment couldn't lead to happiness, I was sure. Only passion could do that.
My favorite part of camping is sitting around a fire.
My dad settles in one piece of wood at a time in the pit, building bridges with their edges and blankets out of old scraps of paper. Every move is calculated, every piece adjusted a few times until he's decided it's ready to take a match to.
But starting a fire never happens immediately.
We go through a few matches, try lighting a few different spots. Sometimes a flame will catch, start, and burn out within minutes. We readjust. We put in more materials. We take some out. We start it a few more times, and then a flame will catch at the bottom, slowly build, burn through to another piece of wood, and another piece of wood. Burn a napkin here and there, and we've got a real fire going.
We break out the marshmallows and hot dogs; eat until we can hardly breathe. We reach our chilled hands out to the warmth, move our chairs around when the wind blows smoke in our direction. A few hours pass, and then we start yawning and packing up the food. Someone says they're going to bed, the rest of us decide we'd like to follow. We let the fire burn out as much as it can—it's already started to die down anyway. A bucket of water is all it takes to put it out until the process starts all over again the next morning.
When I think about a fire, I always think of something huge, all consuming, dangerous, always in motion. But the truth is, it can be hard to build a fire.
A lot of them burn out just as quickly as they start.
The kind of love I want—whether that be romantic love, relationships with friends and family, self-love, a full-on love affair with my work—is one that rings with passion. I want to look at everything in my life and feel a surge of joy. I want to wake up excited to be living the life that I have.
But that doesn't happen every morning—not for anyone I know.
Some mornings I'll wake up frustrated with my best friend, unappreciative of the note my boyfriend wrote me before he left for work. I'll be bored with my job and annoyed with myself for making another mistake.
No, what I really want is for the love I have to be sustainable. To bring me purpose, and calm, and contentment. To be committed. I want to build my life out of calculated steps. I want to try, and try again, make adjustments, put in a few new things, take a few out, try again, until all the pieces are working just right. I want to fall in love with the process, the daily life. I want to recognize my moments of passion as moments to be grateful for—not as moments to hang on to. Not as moments to build my life around.
I don't want the things I love to burn out as quickly as they come to me.
"You always smile when you talk about him," my friend says. "I don't think your idea of what it should be matters if he makes you happy."
It doesn't matter if there hasn't been a sonnet or a novel written about the kind of love that doesn't consume both the people in it. It doesn't matter if the way I usually feel when I'm falling in love isn't happening this time around.
Because none of those relationships ever lasted.
But he has. And we're here.
I don't want to be a passion chaser anymore.
I just want to live life with him.