Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.


Someone asked me this summer if my husband and I were still like newlyweds, meaning, I think, were we still madly in love? We've been a couple for 13 years now, and married for six of those years. (We were both misfit preacher's kids who fell in love in high school.) I guess for most people, being newlyweds means being smitten, being lost in an unearthly haze of love. But really, being newlyweds means getting used to living with someone else and their new, bizarre habit of never pushing down the shower stopper or their unreasonable hatred of tomatoes in all forms except ketchup. You both have to figure out how to alter your routine to accommodate the other person, and this invariably makes everyone cranky.

So, I said no, we were better than newlyweds. Because we've had time to figure out how to live with each other's weird habits and preferences. Those things that truly drove us crazy at the beginning don't bother us so much any more, and if they do, we know we can look at the other person and say, "Honey, you're driving me nuts right now," without sending them into paroxysms of guilt and fear that our relationship might be unraveling before their eyes. We both know we'll be there the next day.

In books and songs and movies, love is always this tremendous, often-tragic, overpowering force of attraction that binds two people together no matter what. It burns bright and hot, and usually culminates in deep tongue-kissing and pyrotechnics. And yes, falling in love is like that, but I feel lucky that I've gotten to explore what's beyond the explosions and cascading fireworks. I feel lucky that I've gotten to experience the slow, constant burn of a long relationship. I often find myself saying, "This is what true love must be," only to discover some new and deeper level to it, like a deep sea diver who keeps finding new and more marvelous rooms in an underwater cavern. Wonders within wonders.

Jeremy and I have never had a song that was "our song," and I had trouble picking out a poem to read at our wedding, but I thought I would share some things I've discovered since that describe this quiet kind of love that grows and deepens over time.  The first is "The Book of Love," by the Magnetic Fields

I love that, "You can read me anything." Maybe it's because I'm a book-lover or a history nerd, or because I once tried to read The Book of Good Love in college (and it's totally true -- it's long and boring), but this is one of those songs that makes me wish I could sing, because there's no other way to express what's in it.

One of my other favorites is the poem, "Missed Time," by Ha Jin.

My notebook has remained blank for months
thanks to the light you shower
around me. I have no use
for my pen, which lies
languorously without grief.

Nothing is better than to live
a storyless life that needs
no writing for meaning—
when I am gone, let others say
they lost a happy man,
though no one can tell how happy I was.

Sometimes when I lose myself in a project, I read this poem, and it brings me back to earth. It reminds me of what's truly important. I've lived a life with too much strife and plot and drama, and while I love those things in writing, I think I would prefer to live a storyless life. But I also love the paradox of it - writing about not needing to write. Because even while he's saying it's possible to live this life, it clearly isn't, at least for him. There will always be a part that writes, strife or no. Strife isn't necessary to spur creation.

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