What the men in my life taught me about love.

The world I live in is filled with women: strong, brave, hilarious women.   Women who dream and work hard and make things happen. Women who write, love, and feel deeply. Women who live fearlessly and boldly. Women who laugh and cry, often at the same time. Women who take the world by stage and say, “This is my time. Take my hand as I tell you a story; my story. Then watch me make it come true.”

I love them with all my heart and soul. All I have to give is at the ready, because without them — each one of them — my story would be different. They have stood beside me and handed me thread as I stitched myself together, tying me to this life. My sisters lent me laughter. My mother lent me courage. My grandmothers lent me history. My aunts lent me determination. My best friend lent me books and words and a bottle of wine. My friends lent me dreams and adventure. They are woven into my spirit, different colors catching light at different times and when I see it, I smile to myself and feel them beside me.

Each day, they teach me what it means to be a woman, what it means to become yourself. They surround me with comfort and hope and life like a forest, tree after tree reaching and blooming and thriving in the midst of each other. And I walk through them all, seeing something new with every glance and touch and season. Never ending, always growing.

And each forest needs a treehouse. Maybe two. Or three, at least for the sake variety. Treehouses filled with whimsy and safety and love. The men in my life are my treehouses. They are my anchors, my stability, my safe place. They have taught me ridiculousness and passion and trust and, most of all, they taught me about love. But not in the same way, of course. They’ve left their mark on it, a different style to match the man.

My father taught me of love’s infinite patience. Love knows mistakes will be made and disappointment will come and there will be phone calls made in hysterical tears. Love knows that sometimes all you need is to be welcomed home and told, “I’m proud of you.” Love knows that you have dreams and imagination and you will find them when you’re ready.

My best friend showed me that sometimes love is more than romance. Love is simple and free and without expectation. Love is texts but no phone calls. Love is honest but never brutal; kind but never false. Love is a partner in crime and words and a shared dream. Love is sharing all that beauty of who he is with someone else. Love is knowing he will be there if you fall, sitting next to you and saying “You can do better. You are meant for better.” Love is rolling your eyes and knowing he’s rolling them right back.

And then there is the great love of my life. The man who found me and my words and my inappropriate jokes and thought I was worth the chance. The one who taught me the most. Love takes risks. Love fights and makes up and agrees to disagree. Love teases and laughs and seduces. Love sends letter and postcards and chips in the mail. Love reads together and loses video games together. Love wants to know every little thing that happened from the moment you opened your eyes. Love holds your hand like it is more precious than any gem or metal. Love fits an entire lifetime into each kiss as if it’s the first and last. Love forgives when it hurts. Love smiles through tears and holds you close and says “Let’s begin again.” Love trusts and believes in tomorrow. Love stands by you, good days and bad. Love brings you coffee in the morning and doesn’t blink when you wear pajamas all day. Love travels across the country just for a few days, a few kisses and hugs and smiles. Love stays up late just to say goodnight.

Love, it seems, is everything all at once. Fitzgerald once wrote, “There are all kinds of love in this world, but never the same love twice.” That’s the beauty of love, I think. The wonder that accompanies each relationship: they each show you something completely new. They take you to the top of the treehouse and show you a different view of the world. A new perspective, colored with care and strength and possibility; a sunset sky over the forest.

And on a day dedicated to love, this is what I’d like to remember. Not the romance or chocolate or flowers. Not who’s single and who’s a couple. We limit love when we reduce to such simple terms. We do it a disservice. Because we are each surrounded by a wealth of love. We are shown love and experience love every day in little and big ways. And we do the same for others, even if we aren’t aware. Love is more than one day a year and it’s more than romance, and if we take a moment to stop and look around, we might learn something new about love.

{Thank you for reading! And maybe (definitely) follow me on Twitter >> @cassiclerget. I’m pretty entertaining.}

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