Love Kindly But Love Boldly

My freshman year roommate (and best friend ever since) A, never wanted to get married. Instead of holy matrimony, she wanted to move to Italy to be a plastic surgeon and adopt a herd of children. (No really, she used to say she wanted eight!). But she quickly found out medicine wasn’t for her, and then she met this guy M, while doing an overseas school of business program in China — and something shifted.

Or really, everything. I knew from the moment she Skyped me to tell me about him – her cheeks flushing red (and no, not only due to the intensity of the Chinese July sun) that she was rather smitten with this new dude. It was still several months until I was introduced to him, but when I was, I couldn’t have created a more perfect or nicer guy for my best friend to be with.

This past weekend, she married that man on a lovely fall night in North Carolina. And I was honored to be a bridesmaid.

I couldn’t tell you what I loved the most — seeing someone I love literally glowing from the rehearsal to the reception, or seeing her new husband’s face as she cascaded down the aisle. Maybe it was the laughter from her friends and family or getting to know the other bridesmaids who have their own stories with her, and their own moments when they knew she’d marry M.

It could have been unexpectedly catching the bouquet (!!) or crying my eyes out when she danced with her dad.

Or when at the end of a great wedding weekend, they decided to have their guests cast Chinese wish lanterns into the sky instead of throwing rice, blowing bubbles or making a fluorescent path with sparklers.

It was probably all of those things mixed into one loving memory of this special, transforming time in A’s life — but the thing that stood out the most and kept me thinking, were the words of her priest during the ceremony. Though I’m not Catholic, I enjoyed experiencing a true, devout wedding and in those heels, appreciated a chance to get to sit down, too. As he was blessing the couple and giving them advice, he said five little words that held so much meaning:

“Love kindly — but love boldly.”

It seemed simple enough hearing it from the second pew, watching M and A share cute cryptic glances and holding hands as the church witnessed their promise to each other. But when I thought of my past relationships on my early flight back to NYC to avoid Sandy and rescue Lucy, it was clear that while I’ve most certainly loved kindly — I can’t say I’ve ever truly loved boldly.

Sure, I’ve fallen for a guy who was more wrong than right, who challenged me in a way that wasn’t healthy or conducive to anything longer than a torrid affair. I’ve thought I’ve loved someone for who they were, only to figure out it was the vision of what I thought they could be or what I could make them into that really fascinated and captivated me. I’ve loved what I’ve wanted more than what I’ve had, I’ve given third chances after declaring the second was enough. I’ve promised and willed myself to stop loving someone who wasn’t good, but given into the lust that argued he was. I’ve bent over backwards and forward, sideways and in circles to be what someone wanted. I’ve given someone everything they’d ever need without demanding much in return.

If there’s anything that I’ve excelled at in my relationships so far, it’s being a nice girl. A loyal, thoughtful girlfriend who knows how to please and well, to pleasure. But in most cases, I’ve forgotten about myself and what’s important to me while playing my part. I’ve also not pursued men who make me a better person, instead I’ve chased guys who I aimed to make into better men.

And that — that isn’t the beginning to a story that ends with kissing-the-bride. That isn’t loving boldly. That’s giving away your power and really, it’s not doing anything but making a guy far too comfortable to appreciate what he has.

Loving boldly means that you speak up when something doesn’t sit well with you. It means you don’t accept laziness or a complacent attitude. It means that being unavailable is a total dealbreaker. It means that you seek someone who wants to grow in his life, in his career, in his heart, in his mind — and with you. It means that you don’t let someone walk all over you or what you believe, but you’re with someone who may think differently enough to give you a new perspective. Loving boldly means listening to the other person and not just for the cue words you need to check off an imaginary check list, but you really hear what they tell you and what they promise. And then, you  watch to see if it happens — and if it doesn’t, loving boldly means challenging them to do what they say they will. It means that you lift your partner up without making yourself feel less worthy, it means you show them how great they can be without sacrificing how great you really are. Loving boldly means standing by your man, sure — but while standing your ground, too.

But what it really means to be ready for such a love is when you’ve found a way to love yourself boldly. For all the things you are and all those things you’re definitely not. For those flaws and those features, those dreams you wished and you found, and those that you had to let yourself let go of. For the curves that are beautiful and yours, for the men you were tough enough to leave because they didn’t deserve you. For all of the things that have rocked your confidence and made it wiser. For those chances you took that made you soar and the words you’ve been strong enough to speak.

Loving kindly is easy — it’s the way most approach everyone from strangers to dearest friends. But loving boldly — yourself and the person you decide to be with — is harder. It takes more practice. It takes much more patience. It probably produces more fights and tears than what we’d prefer to stomach.

But love is kind and it’s pure. It doesn’t boast and it doesn’t delight in evils. But it’s the boldness of love that makes it protective, trustworthy and hopeful. Because really, the boldest move of all is love. 

The Start of Happily Ever After

Saturday was the most perfect New York morning.

I woke up after a night of intriguing dreams, pulled back my curtains, and watched the trees outside my window dance in the wind. I think it’s ironic that the apartment I found in the city gives me a tiny reminder of where I came from with my window facing the “backyards” of the buildings around me.

I crawled out of bed, put on my mini-robe, and checked the slew of social media sites that keep my occupied: Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, and of course this blog. I woke up to find two encouraging Facebook messages, one from an old friend and then another a new one. Of course, that’s a wonderful way to start any day – to know you’re helping other people, and something that’s dear to you is special to someone else. It is one of my favorite things about being a writer.

As an avid gym rat, I got dressed and stretched while listening to my iTunes  – casually dancing along if I so felt inclined. On the way to the gym, I caught up with one of my best friends, N (who tells me if there are errors in this blog, so thank her!) and then ran three miles.

Walking back to my apartment, iced coffee in hand, the chilly Fall air blowing against me – I realized something so sincere and so true and so pure that I could feel it to my core:

I’m happy.

Maybe that sounds ridiculous or like something that every person has, but not me. I’ve been going, going, going my entire life towards something. In high school, I just wanted to turn 16 so I could drive. Once I was 16, I just wanted to graduate from high school and turn 18. Once I got to college, I just wanted to be involved. Once I was involved, I wanted to be in charge. Once I was in charge, I wanted to apply to be in the real-world and get to New York. And then once I got a taste of New York, I just wanted to go back.

But now, I’m here. I have a full life: a career (not a job), a group of new friends (and lots of old), an apartment that’s in the city, and I’m healthy and feel so young. I feel like I’m just beginning, I’m starting to bloom, I’m starting to radiate, I’m starting to realize this beauty inside of myself…and it just feels so good. So, so, so good.

I didn’t think I could reach that easy, peaceful feeling inside of me. I didn’t think I could get to the point where I’m content and satisfied, even without a man. Without even a prospect. And it is not that I’m “happy” about being single, but rather, I’m not defined by that term anymore. Yes, I’m single (minus my wonderful gay hubby) – but that’s not who I am. And I’m not defined by my career either, but by myself.

This happiness doesn’t stem from a great article that was published or from a man who kissed me in the middle of a sushi bar or from losing five pounds. I can’t even put into words where it comes from or how I got here, but it feels so right.

It feels like love.

I think I’m starting to sincerely love myself. I really think I’m in the start of the “honeymoon” stage of falling in love. I find myself blushing as I’m writing this and tears are starting to build up in my eyes because I’m so thankful. I’m so proud. Like any love relationship, it takes time and it takes patience and practice and an understanding, but I finally got to a starting point.

To celebrate, I think I’ll take myself out to brunch tomorrow. Hey, I may even buy some tulips and take a cab instead of the train.

And so the journey…continues. My happily ever after has officially begun.