There's an old, ragged tee that's crumpled in the back of my drawer that even I - the ultimate lover of purging - can't bear to part with. It hides a message written in Sharpie on the inside, a secret that only I can see, scrawled hastily during the sunset of a particularly difficult time in my life nearly ten years ago. The threads of the tee are worn and faded, sprinkled with dot-sized holes and tiny shreds. But the message is strong and true and relevant - even a decade later:
"This is love."
I'd written it as a reference to a shiny new romance I'd been swept away into - the initial, whirlwind relationship between me and my now husband. It had meant everything I thought love was: kindness and chemistry, compatibility and trust. It was my declaration of commitment at the ripe age of 20, signed with a Sharpie and sealed with a kiss.
I sometimes look at this old, ragged version of love and think that perhaps I'd had it wrong. At 20, it looked a lot like mixed CDs and weekend road trips and late-night conversations with burning cookies in the oven. At 30, it looks a lot like taking out the trash in subzero temperatures. Like matching toothbrushes and rusted silverware and aging dogs. Like compromise and community and respect. And at 40, 50, 60, I'm imagining we'll have only scratched the surface of creating the love that only we can define.
But then I think, in a way, I'd had it all right. "This is love." It's what you have, what you see, what you treasure. What you do. It's right now.
I've always been a firm believer that love is a choice, a calling. A challenge to fall into something bigger and deeper in an environment that beckons you to become your most vulnerable self. Love is a quick stop to the grocery store for wine and cheese before celebrating your best friend's new job. Love is a postcard sent to your old English teacher, thanking her for the gift of education. Love is shoveling your neighbor's sidewalk, cutting your baby's veggies, holding your sister's hand.
This month, we're celebrating love in all of its forms: we'll share how to create a loving home and how to - finally - stop comparing yourself to others for good. We'll chat about foods to boost moods, beauty indulgences to boost skin, style to boost spirits. We'll talk about how to celebrate Valentine's Day - with or without a Valentine - and why it matters so, so much.
Because this is love. It is here and now. It is faith and anxiety and imbalance and joy and sorrow and endurance. It is the everyday, the always.
And because long after the threads of today are worn and faded, sprinkled with dot-sized holes and tiny shreds, we'll still have this. We'll still have love.