47 /365: My date cancelled, so I wrote this
Here’s a profound piece of advice a relative passed to me as if it were their’s when they were just beginning to figure out what it was like to be seen by others––as if it were the mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving dinner, as if something in my face warranted their help, though my lips refused to ask for it:
“Try to be a person who is worthy of being loved; don’t expect these things to show up at your doorstep without effort. Definitely don’t ask for them with hands stretched out, as if you were accepting a gift you knew was on its way. Life is not that forgiving––and any life worth living requires sacrifice, patience, dedication.
(If it helps, think about climbing a hill. Do you think the person who climbs to the top of the hill next to this house feels anything superior—or even close to—the deep satisfaction—the overflowing euphoria–– of the mountaineers who saw the top of Everest first? What about the men who built a railroad over 3,000 miles of terrain, without even knowing how to speak the language of the man across from them? Do you think any conductor can fathom what that moment was like, when one, golden spike connected two oceans and millions of people?)
Now, I’m not saying to be loved, you need to do something incredible or unimaginable. But love isn’t like doing your math homework. There are no formulas. You can’t pass it in half done or give up because it’s too hard. It requires a deep commitment—to be faithful—to know yourself. Not in the way that you know what your favorite color is, not even in the way that you know your own habits and thoughts.
Look at that picture of Nana on the wall. Look at her eyes. I love that picture of her; you can tell how happy she is. Grady, do you see, in her eyes, the kind of woman that found a boy without having a conversation that must have lasted 20 years if we timed it? Can you even imagine the time it takes for one person to truly love another?
Before you go anywhere with this boy, just listen to me. You can’t expect someone to love you if you don’t love yourself. The person that people see in you is the one you project, but it’s easier for everyone if who they see is who you really are. Don’t get so con-fuddled with your hair and fitting into those jeans that you forget what matters most to you. Do you think that the person you’re going to marry will give two shits about the kind of clothes you’ll wear during your life together? Do you even think that, after five years, ten years, fifty years, he’ll even notice what you’ve done with your hair? No. Because he’s going to marry your soul—not your clothes. Your soul. Those jeans won’t do a thing for him if he gets cancer; they won’t make him dinner after he gets laid off; and they certainly can’t talk to him.
Don’t settle for a love that leaves an aftertaste. You want the kind of love that tastes like the moment you walk into your home after being away for weeks. Familiar, sweet, yet completely undetectable. Do you know why? Because our love, and our homes for that matter, ought to be direct extensions of ourselves. That’s not to say people can’t make it work by putting on an act; if anything, that’s probably easier. But that’s not for you, dear.
Now do me a favor and pass the salt. This turkey tastes more like cardboard every year, and if I have any hope of making it to Christmas, it’s in that salt shaker.”