Last week, Stephen and I went to dinner at this little Italian trattoria a couple blocks from our apartment. Before the food came out, I raised my wine glass for a toast. Naturally, I did this right when a guy was trying to clear an empty bread basket and plates from the table creating a bizarrely awkward situation. But hey! It's me.
Once the awkwardness subsided, I said:
"To nine years together!"
Stephen (romantically) said, "Not yet."
I said, "But you came to my Yale game."
[We celebrate our dating anniversary on New Year's Eve, but I Googled and my Yale basketball game was on December 5, 2009 and our Italian dinner was December 6, 2018. Almost nine years to the day! And yes, I remember exactly which games Stephen attended—there weren't too many other students in the student section, believe it or not. ;) We went to the bar with a couple other people after the game, and Stephen walked me back to my dorm room like a gentleman. :)]
The reason I'm starting this week off by embarrassing my dear husband is I've been contemplating the difference between knowing something is right and thinking something is right.
The thinking process is intellectual; the knowing process is intuitive.
The thinking process can be explained (pros and cons! reasons!). The knowing process sometimes cannot, but it can always be felt.
After a semester together dating at Bucknell, Stephen graduated and we began a long distance relationship. In March of 2011 he began a job in Little Rock, Arkansas, and in July of 2011 I began a job in Madison, Wisconsin. We stayed in this situation for over two years. Long distance relationships are, by definition, not "reasonable." People came out of the woodwork to tell me how dumb long distance relationships are, while I was in one.
"Oh? Your boyfriend is in Arkansas? I tried long distance, lasted two months, it isn't worth it."
"What's the point of dating someone if you can't see them, you know?"
We continued long distance dating, even though it didn't "make sense." Even though it wasn't "reasonable." Even though we saw each other at most monthly for over two years. Even though the cost of plane tickets between Little Rock and Madison was comically high. (Am I going to Bora Bora, or am I going to Arkansas, Delta?)
This is where I want to step back from our personal situation and ask: Is the aim of life to be reasonable? Is the point of your life for it to make sense to other people? Is the goal to check off a series of predictable boxes that make all of your extended relatives feelcomfortable about your situation?
I just don't buy it. I think there's more to living than behaving rationally and predictably. Jane Austen explores this theme in her novel Sense and Sensibility, which I read about nine years ago.
There are many definitions of Sense, but the primary one refers to the way your body perceives external stimuli, i.e., the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. It also refers to being sane and realistic.
Sensibility, though, seems to transcend the five senses and the thinking mind. It is defined as "the ability to appreciate and respond to complex emotional or aesthetic influences; sensitivity."
We know—intuitively—that life is more than sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. And we also know—intuitively—that life is more than thinking. We've all met people who have all sense and no sensibility, and often those people can be rather frustrating to get along with. So why let sense run our lives?
If I'd thought too much about my long distance relationship with Stephen, I never would've seen it through. I would have ended it. He was in Arkansas working long days, I was in Wisconsin working long days, I had no idea when we'd be living in the same state again. It "made sense" to call it off. (It pains me to type that; it's such "rational" bullshit.)
Thankfully, I didn't need to think about it—because I knew. (Don't get me wrong: I went through low points where I unnecessarily tortured myself with swirling thoughts, but, honestly, I didn't need those thoughts.) I knew. It wasn't intellectual, it was intuitive. As Bob Dylan sings in Up To Me:
"If I'd-a thought about it, I never would've done it,
I guess I would've let it slide,
If I'd-a paid attention to what others were thinking
the heart inside me would've died."
Today, I'm a different woman than who I was when I fell in love with Stephen—and he is a different man. And yet, there was something within me, nine years ago, that knew. That knowing sustained, even in situations where it didn't "make sense" to keep dating. I'm so glad I didn't ignore that inner knowing. I'm so glad that I didn't let reason override my feelings, that I didn't let my Mind override my Heart.
Never ignore your knowings—the world will give you "reasons" to ignore them, because the world consistently prioritizes meaningless things. The world worships at the altar of reason, completely suppresses feelings, and then mentally wonders, What's missing? The world will encourage you to reduce a loving relationship to a crude pros and cons list. The world will tell you to reduce your beautiful, infinite Soul to a piece of paper called a résumé and claim that's what matters most. (Bullshit.) The world will tell you Love is transactional. It's not. The world will tell you Love is scarce and about possession, when Love is truly abundant and about freedom.
Don't ignore your inner knowings; ignore most of the messages the world is sending you.
The key is to try to be in the world, but not of it. (I definitely didn't coin that concept. H/t: Jesus of Nazareth.]
And to remember: "The art of knowing is knowing what to ignore." (Rumi)
You always, always, always know more than you think you do. For the Mind thinks, but the Heart knows.
with Love and with Light,