How are you with campy movies? Last weekend we had a friend visiting from the US, a friend who speaks great German, and we were talking about campy German movies of the Til Schweiger ilk. These movies are usually equal parts funny, awkward, and inappropriate. We were watching a trailer and a line stuck out to me: "Liebe ist nichts für Feiglinge" (lit. 'love is not for cowards'). And it struck me just how true that statement is.
Yesterday I read this Atlantic article about a Marriage 101 course one of America's top research universities offers (yes, really). Its focus wasn't on how to find the right partner, but rather on communication skills and knowing yourself and what you bring to a relationship, with the premise that this will significantly help your relationships. And again I thought, so true.
Until you are brave enough to know yourself, including your limitations, I don't think you can bring too much to a relationship. Granted, this can take some time, but you also have to be strong enough to keep caring for the other person, despite their weaknesses; the closer you get to a person, the easier it is to see their flaws. Love really isn't for cowards.
Last summer we found ourselves in Verona, Italy. There in the fabled Capulet courtyard you can find scores of tourists (and probably a few pickpockets) surrounded by statements of love. Most of these are consumerist trappings made in China, but there are also the heartfelt notes and letters written or posted on the walls, or jammed into crevices. In a variety of languages some declared their love, some begged for it, and some grieved it. An iron gate is covered by engraved padlocks, keyless now that the love they represent has been proclaimed everlasting. Strong.
There is nothing factual about this symbolic setting, and apparently the walls are cleared regularly for maintenance, but there is an odd inspiration hanging in the air. This place is a memorial to love and there's something strong about that, despite the tacky trinket shops and camera-toting tourists (myself included). But really I think the strongest part, the part that meant the most to me, was being there with my husband and just looking through all the pink and the plastic and the tourism to see what was true love.
True love isn't for cowards, and yet it is for the weak. In many ways it's like a three-legged race: it takes some getting used to, and sometimes there are tumbles, but you're in it together. It's also a garden that takes tending, a spot to be treasured and cared for. And in this way I find it transcends the relationship typified on Valentine's Day and in Giulietta's Verona courtyard.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
These words, which are so often read at weddings, were actually written to a mixed group of people reminding them to care for each other -to love each other- despite their differences. I find them convicting. It's not easy to love like this, but it's easy to wish to be loved like this. And yes, some people are easier to love, some less so. But today I'm asking myself -and maybe you, too- not who do I love, but how do I love?
(this post was outlined & drafted, but not completed, in five minutes for this writing challenge)