The “I love you forever” mirage.

I love you forever.

Like many, I grew up surrounded by love stories about couples pledging to love one another for forever. And when I married, this dream was realized. We swore to love each other ’til death do us part. I was all set, forever complete with my own happily ever after.

But that just wasn’t my case. The promise of forever created a complacency within me. What I believed was a safety net ended up being a beautiful spider web that lulled me into being lazy. Forever meant I could do no wrong, so I focused my energy on developing other parts of my life. I became blissfully unaware of the creeping comfort settling in, taking the guarantee of love for granted. I failed to acknowledge the receding attentions required of me to maintain our relationship. Near the end, I had stopped turning toward my partner. The illusionary security of forever was how the end began.

But this doesn’t have to be the case. If we can shed all the silly ideas about love that movies, novels and stories have socialized in us. Love, though wildly fulfilling, is hard fucking work. There is no guarantee of forever. Good relationships take conscious and constant acts of engagement. Requiring us to continuously push ourselves to accept, love, support and uplift our partner. It takes getting our hands all pruney while soaking in the discomfort of our individually evolving needs and desires. Falling in love is unconsciously easy, staying in love takes concerted conscious effort. If this doesn’t feel “right” let me ask you if anything really worth having has ever not required hard work or sacrifice? Why we hold love to a different standard is the small print we don’t acknowledge in all the romantic tales we hear. This is the paradigm we have been socialized to believe, that true love is easy or effortless, blissful with minimum effort. It’s time for a paradigm shift.

Another important paradigm to undermine is that we need another person to complete us. This is simply NOT true. We do not have gaping holes in our being just waiting for our soul mate to fill. Once we learn to see beauty in our less desirable qualities and accept that we are whole in our imperfections; we can then be open to accept another in their entirety, for all their bad and good traits. Otherwise, we will have a tendency to cast our partner as our saviour (eg. “I would be lost without her/him”); our other or better half; or our perfect complement (eg. “s/he is the yin to my yang”) – tell tale signs that we perceive ourselves as incomplete. The problem with these pedestaling acts are that they elevate your partner away from being permitted to change, to develop new faults or be anything other than your complement. Your partner ends up filling a hole in your life instead of existing as a separate independent entity. And this rigidity will crack when they evolve, which they will, or when you do, which is also inevitable. Imagine the synchronicity required to maintain being the perfect match to an ever evolving you, the pressure is crushing, selfish and unrealistic.

For me, the magic of being in love lies in loving someone for who they are, how they make us feel and in respecting them as a person who is also in evolution. It is about working hard to support each other’s personal growth paths; to function not solely as a combined unit but more as two solo artists performing better together.

Nowadays, I prefer a truth anchored in today over a promise lodged in the future. This truth comes as the answer to an assessment question. Do I love this person more today than I did yesterday? If the answer is yes, then we are on as solid ground as we can be. However, if one day the answer is No for consecutive days, weeks or months, then the end shall be near. This question brings no deception of forever to shatter nor any fantasies for what tomorrow may bring. It permits me to feel gratitude for the love I feel today.

With the present moment in mind, I boldly propose an alternative to “I love you forever”. A phrase that is more grounded and that minimizes unintended future promises that are often impossible to keep.

“I love you more today than I loved you yesterday, and I hope to love you more tomorrow.”

Saying this phrase feels real to me. It feels as certain as the ground under my feet because it is fixed in how I feel right now. If you had asked me when I was 20 or 30 if loving someone forever was unrealistic or full of hidden expectations, I would have said you lacked faith, will, imagination or that perhaps you just weren’t a romantic like me. But now, I know even magic takes hard work. So I am motivated to be vigilant of subtle changes in myself and my partner. I choose to actively turn towards him, one micro-action or micro-attention at a time. And I much prefer this active approach to the oversimplified fairytale, spoonful-of-sugar serendipity type of love often portrayed in books or movies.

Love is not entertainment, it’s a fulfilling journey that takes persistence and I am content knowing that I can give and earn love one day at a time, with each day building strength from the last. For me, having someone love me more today than they did yesterday, with the hope of more tomorrow feels much more respectful, evolutive, solid and secure than a blanket promise of forever.

Accidental collisions of the human kind.

Last weekend, my closest friend Rhonda married her best friend Amit. It was a hallmark occasion in our epic friendship and my heart was bursting with joy to witness their union. I write this post in celebration of their special day.

Back in the spring, Rhon asked me to speak at her wedding. To say I was deeply touched is true, but I also felt a profound responsibility to convey the joy I felt for my friend after 20 years of monumental ups and downs in both our professional and personal lives.

Those who know me, know that I can be entertaining, witty and relatively eloquent with little preparation on various topics but few know that I tend to shy away from expressing my inner feelings and thoughts publicly. I much prefer to discuss intimate matters only with those closest to me. So to speak publicly about my love for Rhon, in conjunction with the perfectionist pressure I put on myself, I felt nervous, in the truest sense of the word. Rhon tried to reassure me on Friday by saying my speech would be great even if I winged it, and though I knew this to be true, I still desperately yearned to get it right.

Unbeknownst to many, I had written two versions which I completely hated. A core essence was just missing, they felt generic and empty. Luckily, inspiration came knocking on Friday night at 2am. I woke up with a start, got up and started typing, words flowed magically from my hands onto the keyboard. Satisfaction came after 20 minutes. I went to bed, awoke hours later, read it aloud while recording myself, got verklempt and knew I had a winner!

So in honour of Rhonda and Amit (and with their permission), I would like to share my speech in celebration of their beautiful wedding last Sunday, September 10th 2017.

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“The life we all lead is a result of timing, circumstance and accidental collisions between humans. As social beings, I am often dumbfounded by the serendipitous nature of events that lead to coincidental meetings that change the course of our lives forever.

Nearly 20 years ago today, good fortune brought Rhonda and I into each other’s lives as Freshmen at McGill where we definitely Gert’s Til it Hurt. In the decades that have followed, to say we have supported one another through life’s hard knocks is to undervalue the magic and mystery of our relationship and what it means to me. We have helped one another mature into wonderfully accomplished individuals both professionally and personally; we’ve learned immensely from the school of hard knocks and as we like to say often, “this too shall pass and if it doesn’t kill us… it is making us stronger, right?”

Rhonda is undoubtedly the hardest working, clever, funny, smart and beautiful person that I am blessed to call my friend, she is the sister that I got to choose for myself. And seeing her follow the right career move to Toronto was hard but we both knew it was the right decision to turn the page on Montreal. And as life is often about accidental human collisions, her move brought Amit & Miki serendipitously into her life, in the same magical way that Charlie arrived and I can’t remember seeing her so joyful.

Over the years we have borne witness to many life events, we have travelled the world, loved hard and fallen even harder. We have been blessed with one another and an incredible circle of friends & family that help us get back up again and shine on.  And as her friend, my ultimate desire is for her to find contentment and joy in her everyday life. And I know today that she has found this in her relationship with Amit.

What I love about this couple before me is that they don’t complete each other, they didn’t have gaping holes in their spirits before the other arrived. Both of them are strong, brilliant independent people that are whole in all of their beauty and imperfections. Their coming together just compliments each other. It’s incredible how their shared light shines brighter than the mere combination of two stars into one.

In a lifetime there are magic moments that get burned into our memories and my fondest one is a moment of pure joy emanating from Rhon as we drove with windows down, high above Santorini’s volcanic coastlines. As I hugged the curves of the narrow road in our little stick shift rental car, she had her arms extended out of the window facing the sea and she just bellowed out WHEEEEEEE so spontaneously, gleefully and free, over and over into the great expanse, all while the sunlight danced on her smiling face. I honestly don’t remember a moment where I have seen Rhonda as happy. That is until I saw her with you, Amit.

Rhonda, I am overcome with joy to see you so content, full of life and just plain happy. Thank you Amit for giving Rhonda lots of WHEEEE moments to date and also in all your future years together. I am grateful for you, and love you for bringing such joy to my dear friend, who means the absolute world to me.

So to conclude, I would like to ask you all to join me in celebrating Rhonda & Amit with the most joyful WHEEEE that we can all muster because as we have all lived through many dark moments, these moments of light and love must be celebrated.

So let us raise our glasses and on the count of 3, let us shout out WHEEEE to celebrate the happy couple.

1…2….3….WHEEEEEEE”

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Thank you Rhonda for being my pillar of strength over the last 20 years and for decades to come. I feel blessed to walk down the road of life with you by my side, because as we both know, it is the journey that counts, not the destination.

I am eternally grateful for the accidental collisions of the human kind that brought you into my life and for the serendipitous collisions that brought Charlie, Amit & Miki into yours. I am so happy for you both. Mazel tov!

I love you.

Kindling the flames of epic friendships

Last Saturday night I spent the evening catching up with old friends and was struck by the beauty of friendships that span decades. I have personally enjoyed the pleasurable company of 3 extraordinary ladies for just over half my life journey. Since 1998, we have borne witness to each other’s lives. From trips abroad, nights on the town, new jobs, weddings, sickness, disappointments, heartbreak and even the birth of a beautiful baby girl who is now almost a woman – we have shared our lives openly and unapologetically over the years; with care and support radiating from a place of love.

Laced with life’s ups and downs, our friendship has evolved, stretched and repaired itself like a beautiful spider’s web – it’s resilience has enabled us to capture magical moments and bridge many of the obstacles that life sends our way. At times, the strength from our bond has helped me cross the darkest of valleys when I had no strength of my own to continue.

When I step back, I marvel at the serendipitous circumstances that brought us together during very different life milestones. Luck led us to work at the same retail store –reasons varied from a part-time stint while in university, to a full-time career in retail, and as a stepping stone during a brief career break – it is unlikely that any of us foresaw the creation of such a random, positive and long-term comradery back then. The uniqueness of our friendship lies in how incredibly distinct each of us are, all with careers in industries miles apart; to passions, lifestyles and friend networks that overlap but slightly. Yet the ties that bind us stem from our shared values –a thirst for living a life of kindness, generosity and love fueled by endless curiosity and self-discovery – and ultimately a desire to laugh and celebrate joy in our lives.

As we continue to grow older and life runs its course through habits and routines, I invite you to step back and marvel at the delicate yet resilient friendships born long ago, the ones you yearn to rekindle or maintain more often. I welcome you to look at them from a fresh angle, one where the light reveals the sparkle hidden in that old spider’s silk, which until perceived differently, had blended into the background, completely transparent. Perhaps it is time for us to see the beauty in what we may take for granted to always be there.

I encourage you to reach out to your beloved old friends – those with whom you’ve shared significant life milestones – those who have drifted, not due to a lack of commonality but due to a lack of action on both sides. Because life moves quickly and we sometimes lose grasp of important connections when our hands get too full.

The truth is that it will always be harder to connect with friends in different circles, life stages, time zones and industries. Why? Because it requires more effort and coordination. Because there are no happenstance occasions to bump into one another at the cafeteria, daycare or local park – it requires planning. But with just the tiniest bit of planning and desire to step out of our routines, we can choose to deepen these longstanding relationships with just one surgically-precise scheduled dinner. One that will reconnect and strengthen the strands of friendship so that the revitalized web can continue capturing new memories for us to cherish over a lifetime. There is great joy to come from reviving these relationships, I urge you to fight the divergence borne from inaction in order to rediscover the joy of each other’s company.

In 2018, we will be celebrating 20 years of friendship and our web is certainly more beautiful now than yesteryear. I am eternally grateful for the circumstances that brought these lovely dynamos into my life and enthusiastically look forward to our next 20 years together!

Cheers ladies!! Love you to bits!

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