Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Simple Affection and Deep Truth

There are two ways of looking at relationships.

I had a rocky relationship with my family growing up. I used to think that it was a lack of Deep Truth in our relationship. A fundamental missing piece, that when put into place, would smooth over all the everyday problems and resentments: open windows in winter, little thoughtless comments, cockroaches in the sink. And I believed that no amount of friendliness or "How was your day?" could ever make up for the fundamental puzzle piece that wasn't there. I got plenty of that friendliness from my parents, and it never seemed to help.

But I think, now, that the little things and the big puzzle pieces are both needed. The little things are Simple Affection. And the big things, I call Deep Truth.

Simple Affection is treating someone like a child: they will forget about bad things, as long as you give them something good to think about instead. Deep Truth is treating someone like an elephant: they never forget, and they forgive only with deep deliberation.

Simple Affection is my mother carefully ignoring my hurt feelings and bringing up a neutral subject. Deep Truth was the apology she never gave.

Deep Truth is the late nights she stayed up with me when I had school projects due the next day. Deep Truth was when she sent me her thesis to proofread at the last minute, and I took the day off work to do it.

Deep Truth was my stepfather staying up late nights with her to write the thesis, and taking my side over hers in arguments. Simple Affection is the stilted conversation that he and I have never been very good at making.

Deep Truth is heroics and yearning. Deep Truth is taking someone to the emergency room on New Year's Eve, standing up to bullies for them, giving them your diary to read with everything you wrote about them in it.

Simple Affection is mundane, forgetful, habitual. It resets every morning and night.

Deep Truth is enduring. But Simple Affection can be too, in a different way.

Simple Affection is going on a fun camping trip to make the family happy together again. Deep Truth is the older teenager pulling ahead of the family during the hike because he's ready to be away from all of this.

Deep Truth is the Nicholas-Sparks-novel love, love against all odds, love far apart, separated by years, miles, love that is still real despite having no physical form and substance but a small structure in your brain, waiting in the wings for its moment that will make It All Worth It, make Life Truly Worthwhile.

Deep Truth is your Great Love confessing, under great duress, that he is gay, and changing your life forever. Simple Affection is slowly forgetting the loss of Great Heterosexual Love and bonding over Ouran High School Host Club instead.

Deep Truth is "never go to bed angry." It's picking apart every relationship disagreement until you've discovered the deepest root of it. Simple Affection is saying "we've had enough of this for one night, let's go to bed" and giving each other a hug.

Deep Truth is remembering your most intense and harrowed moments together and thinking "He supported me then, so it doesn't matter that we fight all the time." Deep Truth is remembering one perfect evening of banter and forgetting how he's changed.

Simple Affection is taking a deep breath when we're having an argument. Simple Affection is not cancelling our weekly date night even when there's something else more interesting happening.

Deep Truth is scheduling a lunch with a friend in panic because I think maybe it's time to break up with my partner and I don't know what to do, and almost crying when they say "Of course. I want to help my friends with things like this." Simple Affection is keeping up the lunch dates once the crisis has passed.

Deep Truth is sharing bits of your upbringing that hurt you deeply, and knowing that the other person gets it. Simple Affection is the friendship that never materialized around those revelations, because of a simple lack of common interests.

Deep Truth is the little place in my soul that is kept warm by the memory of my sister's house throughout the year. Deep Truth is what kept me thinking of her through the years when we had fewer common interests. Simple Affection is sitting in her living room twiddling a ukulele in companionable silence.

Deep Truth is shared values. Deep Truth is having a goal you want to share your life with someone to achieve.

Deep Truth is a marriage ritual. Simple Affection is taking their hand and walking away from the wedding party to ask if they're feeling okay, because weddings are stressful, and it's not quite right and it doesn't fit with the day but it's a little thing that matters anyway.

(Simple Affection can sometimes be its own kind of Deep Truth.)

Deep Truth is permanent sacrifice. Simple Affection is repeated little inconveniences.

Deep Truth is taking a grenade for you. Simple Affection is shopping at Target with you.

Deep Truth is writing a loved one deeply felt poetry. Simple Affection is writing them "Roses are red, violets are blue," decorating it with glitter, and putting it on the fridge.

Deep Truth is saving that terrible glittery poem for decades, taking it out years later to hold onto as a fragment of something fleeting and precious.

In short, Deep Truth is the axle of love, on which the small gears of Simple Affection turn.

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