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What does love mean in 2021?

This week, love is in the air as we try and work around social distancing protocols and celebrate Valentine’s Day. Somehow, an elbow doesn’t seem very romantic. Air hugs, two metres apart. Blowing kisses, but keeping your mask on while you do it.

It’s made me think about what love looks like in 2021.

Over the last year, there’s been some hectic pruning in the Calder household in terms of priorities. We’ve sat down and evaluated life as we know it, made adjustments, re-evaluated it again in terms of our values and goals. And still we find that the season we are in is, quite frankly, nuts.

I’m sure it’s been the same with you. Life is busy. It’s full of distractions and things that vie for our attention. In the midst of all of that, it’s easy to neglect one’s soul. Our inner worlds get neglected and we reach for something to fill the inner gap temporarily.

But you know all of this. Back to the question: what does love look like in 2021?

I think, at it’s most simplistic, love notices. In a world where neon billboards and the perpetual ping of phones bombard us all the time, love cuts through all of that and simply sees us for who we are. Love sees others for who they are. Before love does anything in 2021, it is able to see. To me, that is the most apparent thing about love today.

I recall a Facebook comment at the beginning of the whole Covid chaos, written by Coral Sh Carte on a thread of a friend of mine. She wrote:

“Milan is surreal, deserted, more than half the shops are closed. The streets are empty. Busses pass occasionally sometimes containing a single masked passenger. We have no more structures… we go to bed when we please wake up when we please or in time for my son’s online lessons. I take the bicycle out clandestinely to be in the sun and get some fresh air. It feels like love in the time of cholera. It feels like I should have sex before I die. I know no one who has the virus or even who knows someone who has it. Yet it’s spreading like wildfire and people are really staying locked in and panicking and yet it’s not totally concrete. Maybe we all have it. Maybe we’ll all die. Maybe we’ll just starve cos no work now pay. An yet there are water eggs in the supermarket and blossoms on the cherry trees regardless.”

So vividly descriptive. And yet also able to notice the small amidst the bigger picture.

This year will be our 15th wedding anniversary. It strikes me that for more than a third of my life I have had to share plans, share dreams and share bites out of my own dinner plate at a restaurant. You change in that period. You lose some of yourself as you notice and give yourself to another person, and become more wedded to them.

A long time ago, I had a young guy ask for advice. He was refreshingly vulnerable, and genuinely concerned, in confessing to me that he had so much testosterone running through him. As a result, he wasn’t sure he would be able to stay married to the same person for his whole life.

“I just think I’m going to get bored,” he told me. “Surely everything gets familiar?”

I enjoyed his honesty. I thought for a minute, and gave him this answer:

“Dude, I think you’re in for a few surprises. From my experience, that is. We got married and moved in together, and I immediately noticed that sharing a fridge and cupboard space seemed to be with someone else – someone who had opinions of their own. The person I said my wedding vows to had sparkling eyes, was draped in white and we seemed to be in unison. This person in my house seemed different to the person I said my wedding vows to.

“I also did not anticipate having disrupted sleep, or disturbing her sleep. It turns out sleeping next to someone who moves in the middle of the night produces a very different type of person in the morning when the sun comes up. Not the person I said my wedding vows to.

“Then we travelled to a different country in Africa, I honestly thought we were going to die in the traffic. We were speeding along in a beaten up rickshaw vehicle. It was chaos and wild. I looked across at the person I married and she was gleefully enjoying the thrill of it all. Not the person I said my wedding vows to.

“Then we had our first child. I arrived home one day to frozen cabbage leaves on my wife’s engorged breasts, and was asked to turn around and go and buy McFlurries. Not what I pictured when I said my wedding vows.

“I could go on and on. In short, my bru, you won’t stay married to the same person. You’ll go through so many split personalities wearing the same wedding ring and it’ll be the biggest, wildest ride of your life.”

Perhaps it’s just where I’m at, but here in 2021, this is what I understand: love notices.

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