As I said in Sydney's post, Sydney and Averill were meant to be my roommates in Seattle this last summer.
(Syd, Ave, Me)
(Here Averill is wearing "the dress"; both of us had the same anthropologie dress with slightly different floral patterns and it was our dress to wear when we wanted to look especially good/for special occassions)
I feel like I learned a lot from Averill as we had long chats about all the things and shared the upstairs of the house for the majority of the summer. Seriously the second day she was in our house (June 3rd), we talked for almost three hours on the porch when I came home from school until I went to do a session at the temple with Laurel later (see, I told you all, I really do have the greatest women in my life). And as she talks about in this post, we were together amidst the battlefield of love this summer...everything from jumping into Green Lake after institute on a uncharacteristically cold summer night to waking each other up after exciting dates to tearfully sharing stories on each other's beds. On top of being a wonderful friend, she is a fabulous writer. She has about 50 little notebooks/journals with her at all times and along with her theater/musical background, I think it's the perfect storm for her creative mind to come up with beautiful little stories and memoirs. She kept track of the happenings of every day during the summer and it was so fun to tearfully go through that before we said goodbye and she moved out to Washington D.C.
Love you, Averill!
Love. What an extraordinarily complex, universal and yet ineffable topic. How to even approach it?
I used to visit an old lady on the weekends just to keep her company for a bit. One day I asked her about her and her late husband’s courtship. She said “Oh Johnny was so sweet…but there was this other man who came all the way from Boston—and he had a car… but it was Johnny in the end … Took seven years before we got married. It was the war years.”
I replied in my head, “I hear ya, sister. The war years.” Schlepping through bad date after worse— it is war out there.
Of course I then realized my sweet old lady was referencing actual war years—World War II. And suddenly my silly dating life didn’t feel so dramatic.
But the more I thought about it, between the crazy highs from wonderful romantic moments, and seemingly bottomless lows from crushing romantic losses, the dating world certainly feels like a kind of war. It can be as annoying as life in the bottom bunk of the barrak, or it can be as painful as continuing to fight in the trenches with a gaping open wound in your chest.
I’ve been on many a bad date. Highlights include a charming gentleman who, while wearing a shirt that said, “who wants a ticket to the gun show?” with arrows pointing to his (very small) biceps, dropped me off at my car, and scripted a ‘secret message’ on my back windshield: “Wash Me.”
I dated a guy who kissed my best friend and me on the same night. True story.
After 3 weeks I fell madly in love with, and was sure I was going to marry a man who turned out to be a certifiable psychopath, (and was also engaged to another woman.) That one was about 5 months navigating through the trenches with an open flesh wound in the head.
But I’ve also had some really wonderful relationships, too. Some D-Day Victory equivalents in love. I once had a boy who would have crossed oceans to bring me lemonade. When I first moved into a single apartment, he would talk to me on the phone every night until I fell asleep so I wouldn’t have to go to be alone. He called me at 4:00am (his time) to wish me good luck on the morning before I took the GRE. Stayed up very late helping me edit grad school applications. He took a 2-hour train ride to the airport, so he could help me pick up a rental car for the first time. He promised that he’d always answer when I call. Always. Ending that relationship was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. But it was the right decision at the time.
And those are the kind of decisions that are the hardest. The sticky jumble of romantic entanglements that leave us all with the constant status of “it’s complicated.” It’s always complicated. People are a part of your life, and then they hold claim over a little piece of your heart, whether you want them to or not.
And then there’s the bullets pelting you from every angle: Tinder, blind dates, expectations from parents, from culture, the temptations of wild passion, and the regrets of rash decisions.
In the words of Joni Mitchell, in her immortal song, "Both Sides Now",
I really don’t know love at all:
“Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air
and feather canyons everywhere, I've looked at clouds that way.
But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone.
So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way.
I've looked at clouds from both sides now,
from up and down, and still somehow
it's cloud illusions I recall.
I really don't know clouds at all.
Moons and Junes and ferris wheels, the dizzy dancing way that you feel
as every fairy tale comes real; I've looked at love that way.
But now it's just another show. You leave 'em laughing when you go
and if you care, don't let them know, don't give yourself away.
I've looked at love from both sides now,
from give and take, and still somehow
it's love's illusions that I recall.
I really don't know love at all.”
So we don’t know anything about love. We slog, and search, and wrestle through the painful years of war. But we find solace in the friends with whom we share it—In the soldiers we fight beside. We commiserate and compare battle scars. And in them we find witnesses to our lives.
Then we glean strength from the success stories of people who have found love, and who decided on commitment.—the warriors who made it out of the combat alive.
And we live to fight another day as hopeful romantics.