This is Us

Josh and I were married in Riomaggiore, Italy. We eloped. No one knew we were leaving; no one knew we were getting married. We dropped letters to our parents in the mail on our way to the airport, and the two of us spent nearly a month traveling across Italy. There were no destinations set in place and no plans that needed to be followed. We didn’t know where or when we would get married, instead figuring that when the moment was right we would know.

Riomaggiore is the southern-most village in the Cinque Terre on the northwestern coast of Italy. All five villages that make up this territory follow the Ligurian Sea coastline. These small fishing villages have no roads but are connected instead by a trail called Sentiero Azurro, or Blue Path, that winds its way through terraced olive groves and vineyards. The part of this trail that connects Riomaggiore and its nearest northern neighbor Manarola is called La Via Dell’Amore. This name translates to The Way of Love and it is littered with symbols and the graffiti of lovers spanning back generations. This is where we got married spontaneously just as the sun set over the sea on October 20.

The years since have been the very best of my life.

Firstly, let me say that we married young. I was only just twenty-one when we ran away together, and we had been together for over two years at that point. I firmly believe, however, that age doesn’t matter. If you are ready, you’re ready. But to be ready, I do believe that you need to know some things. You really need to fall in love with yourself-sharing that love with someone who appreciates you rather than looking for love to compensate for a self-love deficit is the only way this can work. If you don’t first love yourself, you will never be able to totally love someone else because you just don’t know how. For many people, I think this is the hardest part of the journey, and the most overlooked.

Unless it’s crazy, passionate, extraordinary, shout-from-the-rooftops love, it’s a waste of your time. There are too many mediocre things in life-love shouldn’t be (and isn’t) one of them. Straight up, Manlegs is my greatest weakness and yet somehow also my greatest strength. There is nothing within my power that I would not do for him and vice versa. True love knows no bounds and that is that. I could never hurt him because it would be just like hurting myself. When someone becomes a direct extension of yourself, you begin to think of yourself as two seamless beings. Every act, or lack thereof, is immediately considered from all angles, as it should be. With him I am home. I am more myself when he is by my side. It seems contradictory, but it is one of the biggest truths out there.

Everyone always says “Marriage is work.” Yeah, I get that, but really with the right person you don’t have to work so hard to be happy. It just happens. A couple who was having problems once told us, “You guys make it seem so easy!” Well, guess what-it is easy. It is so easy, I can’t even understand how and why this illusion of love and drama first started. Seriously, if it isn’t easy there is a problem. The moment you feel like you have to prove your worth to someone is the moment to absolutely and utterly walk away, close the door, and move on.

Someone years ago once said to me that no one is actually afraid of the dark, rather, we’re scared of what it conceals from us. We’re afraid of having something with the potential to hurt us standing right before our eyes and not registering it as a threat. People can be like that, too, which is why love is so difficult. Our basest human instinct is for self-preservation, and that does not lend itself easily to trusting other people, especially when it comes to our very fragile hearts. However, a certain amount of darkness is needed to see the stars, and a certain detachment from self-preservation is needed to immerse yourself in the impossible, reckless pursuit of love. It is one of the hardest, scariest things you can do, but you must do it. Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being one of the biggest steps of your life. Tiptoe forward if you must, but take that step. When Josh and I started dating, it didn’t matter who had hurt me, or broke me down in the past. Josh looked at me with a light in his eyes that I had never before seen. He looked at me like I was everything he had been looking for his entire life. I can still see it in his eyes when he kisses me good morning every single day.

I’m not really a sappy person. I hate romance movies because they are so outrageous and they feed on the unhealthy expectations of people. I didn’t want poetry. I didn’t want flowers. I didn’t want a special song. I didn’t want someone to promise me the moon and the stars-I wanted someone to watch them beneath the heavy night sky with me. The best portions of my life with Josh have been the small, nameless moments we have spent smiling together over the things that only matter to us. Someday we’ll look back on our life together and the memories we will cherish the most will surely be unspectacular to anyone else.

He said he found me the most beautiful not when I was all fancied up (with my Chuck Taylors), but rather, when I wasn’t. When I was lying on the floor, my hair all a mess, laughing in my reckless, uninhibited way about something ridiculous that happened years ago. That’s when he couldn’t take his eyes off of me. He said my happiness made me pretty-my happiness made me beautiful. It just shows that those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They see only your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness whe you feel broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; your purpose when you are confused.

I knew immediately after our first date. I told a friend that I had just had a date with the man I was going to marry. I was done. The whole thing was finished. In that moment, I saw that this was more than I ever believed it could be, and that the years we would share would be stronger and better than the years we had waited to find one another.

In a sea of people, my eyes will always search for his. And I know to the very depths of my being that I will find them, always, alight on me.

And *BANG!*You’re in love.

And you don’t look back. Not for anything.

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