“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”
Hearing this a million times while everyone was reading The Fault in Our Stars, and then a billion times more as the movie came out, I always sort of thought it was sort of a ridiculous way to view love. You don’t fall in love slowly; it’s not a gentle sleepy feeling. It’s rock hard, immediate, bam! You see them and your world changes. You’re going about your day with no idea that something spectacular is about to happen, and then you turn and your heart never beats the same way again.
At least, that’s what love was to me up until about a month ago. Because up until about a month ago, I’d only ever been in love with my horses. I never dreamed I’d feel love for a person the way I love my babies. I breathe for them. I live for them. They’re the most beautiful, perfect things in my life, and without them, I’d be nothing. At the worst times in my life, my horse was there to pick me up, even when everyone else kept kicking me down. At my darkest moments, when I was actively deciding what would be the best way to go, and debating whether I wanted slow and painless: a bottle of pills, or fast and unknown: the gun in the closet, my horse was there to ground me, and more importantly, my horse was there to stop me.
When my first best friend died, and I was the one who had to make the decision to let him leave peacefully and nobly rather than force him to live unhappily just to save my selfish self, my world changed. My life was black and white, and I was lost, drowning, until the ghost of my gray horse found me the next love of my life. Suddenly, I saw color once more. I saw Her, and my bruised and battered heart started to beat once again. She was bruised and battered as well, and we clung to each other, needing each other to survive, although I needed her more than she needed me. Four years later, she was still my single solitary lifeline, until she and I welcomed three more into our herd of two, and my family grew to five. I never thought it was possible to love so much. I thought there could only be one absolute obsession, but apparently, hearts grow, because I now live and breathe for four four legged angels. It seems only fitting that two of my herd came to me with the names Lucky and Destiny.
To me, they are family. They are the definition of love. My wires were twisted, and humans had hurt me so badly that I could never trust one enough to let them into my family of five.
I accepted the fact that I was on my own, and more than that, I enjoyed it. I delighted in not having a partner/boyfriend/husband/other. I loved being on my own, and I assumed I would die that way.
He was different right from the beginning. I couldn’t chase him away, as hard as I tried. After six months of living with him, I still didn’t love him. I could still see myself leaving, wandering away, not because of a huge fight or because we were different from each other, but just because I’ve always been alone. I never expected anything different. I’m well suited to live by myself, and being with someone else- even as loosely as our “being together” was; living together peacefully, but not acting like Boyfriend and Girlfriend, not putting a name to our togetherness, not even making plans around each other, just doing our own thing and seeing each other whenever our paths crossed- was foreign to me.
I liked him, but still never had I felt anything that could rival what I had for my family of five.
Another month or two passed, and I’m not sure when things changed, but suddenly, I realized my plans that I oh so carefully made for my future included him. They didn’t exist around him, and they didn’t change for him, but suddenly, my daydream of looking out the window at my horses included him making coffee, his dog next to mine on the couch.
And I realized that I did fall in love with him slowly, and then all at once. So slowly at first that I didn’t even realize it was happening, and then as soon as I had an inkling of a feeling, bam, there it was, over and done with, I think it’s cute the way he snores and it’ll hurt if he leaves, love. And I realized that all love is not equal. My love for him is not the burning, beating, life or death love I have for my herd, but rather a gentle, slow, reassuring kind of love. I don’t need him, but if I want him, then he’s there. And that’s probably a healthier, happier kind of love if we’re being honest. It’s not a firework, it’s a candle. Not an explosion, big and loud and wild but over too soon, but an everlasting light in the darkness. Something that maybe isn’t as wildly exciting as that firework, but will last for a hell of a lot longer. Even forever, if carefully tended to. No one wants to hear that about love. They want the romance novel. They want the fireworks. They want the highest highs and to get that, settle with the lows being more frequent. They want hard and fast.
Well, I’m no expert, since my only idea of love is what I feel for my family of five, but I’m pretty happy with slow and comfortable instead. I like my candle. Too much of an explosion would probably scare me away. But what I like most isn’t the big moments that a movie would show, but rather the little ones, like how he can make me laugh and is friends with my best friend. How he’s a little selfish, and not all that humble, but he asks how my kids are every day, and tells me to give them a kiss for him. He’s imperfectly perfect, not quite a romance novel hero, but a perfect addition to my own book.
I still have commitment issues that would make Christian Grey look like a model member of society, and I don’t trust easily, if at all, but he doesn’t ask for more than I can give him, and that’s just right for me.