I believe in romance for a living. In doing so, I collect love stories. In all their glory. I collect these stories by seeking out couples I know to be in love. I seek out people who have been in love anywhere from 5 minutes to over 50 years. Each story is unique as a fingerprint. I listen for lessons, I look for magic and I learn from each one. Couples share with me things about their relationship they haven’t thought about in years. We laugh together. We cry together. We each come away feeling grateful for the experience. There are those rare days when it is important to sit back with the one you love and take stock of where you are and how you arrived at today, together.
You see, I believe romance is found in the small moments that make up the stories of our lives. I believe in the magic and fatefulness of how love is found and in the beauty and care with which it stays. I believe love is at times as spectacular as a fireworks display but more often as subtle as a whisper or the squeeze of a hand. I believe that love is the unifying thread that connects the human race. I believe that by telling the stories that demonstrate both the depth and simplicity of love, the more apt we each will be to recognize, appreciate and participate in love in the everyday moments.
When I first started collecting love stories, I sent letters to those closest to me that I knew to be in love. In doing so, I reached out to my cousin. She and her husband have been married just over 20 years. When I asked to interview them, she hesitated. “You know our history, Alicia,” she said. “I’m not sure we are what you’re looking for.” Absolutely I knew their history. Knowing their history was the precise reason I wanted to interview them. They were far from perfect. They had made mistakes. I was witness to their pain. Individually and as a couple. I had a front row seat to the hurt. I held the tissue. They had separated, but they chose to come back together and their relationship survived. Not only did they survive, they came out stronger, and with a greater understanding. And their relationship, in all of its flawed imperfections, was more beautiful to me as a result. Their relationship had more depth, experience and ultimately more to offer us on the lessons of love than one that was newly minted. My cousin’s relationship had something from which we could all learn.
The translation from Japanese of kintsugi means “golden joinery” or “to patch with gold”. When a ceramic object of value is broken, artisans use a lacquer resin made to resemble gold, often using gold itself, to patch cracks, splinters and completely shattered pieces. The belief behind the process is that something that was broken can be fixed and made more beautiful than the original. This beauty is acquired by overcoming suffering, by putting the broken pieces back together. Kintsugi is a means by which to value the marks of wear, it is a celebration of frailty. It is believed the piece holds more value once repaired in this manner because it has a history.
What is more valuable than a loving relationship? What value is there in sharing the stories that didn’t break us? What value is there is not pretending to be perfect? What a revolutionary thought then, in my mind, that rather than hide the flaws, the ugliness, the brokenness of our relationships we instead bring these flaws to the forefront. We both honor and learn from them.
I believe in romance for a living, yet I firmly believe that ‘happily ever after’ is a fatal standard. I believe as many marriages fail because they measure themselves against a yardstick of perpetual, unwavering contentment. To deviate from the path of complete satisfaction and joy is a fatal flaw. To crack is to fail; to splinter or separate is irreparable damage. What if we gave as much value and respect to those things we overcame? What value is there in showing the strength and beauty of choosing to come back together? Not in spite of, but because.
What if, as in the case of my cousin, we gave ourselves credit for what we went through? What if we regarded both ourselves and our stories with respect? What if, when I called her, she felt a sense of dignity in what she and her husband chose to overcome? What if, when I called her, she was not ashamed but was given a sense of fulfillment knowing that their story may give another couple hope?
What if, when I or anyone else called and asked you to share your love story in all its glory, you decided to honor the cracks, splinters and breaks in your relationship by highlighting their beauty rather than regarding them as flaws? What if, rather than lamenting the fact that things that have been broken will never return to their original state, you chose to celebrate the new-found value, honor the frailty and let others learn from your history?
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