I was at work yesterday, and as I stood at the drive through window, a van pulled up. It was an old man and an old woman. At first glance, the old woman just looked very still, but on second glance I realized that she was paralyzed. I saw her wheel chair all strapped into the car, and she was frozen in one position, which made me believe that she was quadriplegic. As I talked to them briefly, told them to have a wonderful day, and gave them their order, I noticed that the man seemed oddly cheerful. I knew he must spend lots of time taking care of his wife, and I knew that it must be difficult for him. Another family had pulled through earlier, and they were all able to eat in the car. This man did not have that ability if he was driving his paralyzed wife around. I thought about all of the times that I had handed my husband unwrapped food from the passenger seat so that he could eat and drive. I thought about the many conversations that we’ve had, and that many of our best, deepest conversations happened on car rides. I thought about how we love singing along to songs together on the radio. And I also thought about how I take all of that for granted, and that this man doesn’t have any of those things but he still drives his wife around and smiles and (at lease seemed) cheerful despite the hardship that life had given him.
There is a quote by (I think) Mary Anne Radmacher. She said, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” This is something that holds true for me as far as my own experience goes. As I thought about the old man that I saw at work, this quote came to mind and I realized that it would be just as true if you replaced “courage” with “love.”
There is an obsession that I see in our culture for love to be loud and proud. Love is seen as this thing that you proclaim to the world over and over, always and forever. Or for as long as the feeling lasts, I guess. It’s something to be shouted from the rooftops and shouted at everyone you meet. It’s something you take pictures of, tell people about, and can’t stop thinking about and therefore cannot stop talking about, either. I think that this is largely symptomatic of our social networking culture, where “pics or it didn’t happen” has been taken too deeply to heart.
The truth is, love doesn’t always roar. Of course love does roar. But it doesn’t always. In fact, most often, it is the quiet putting of an arm around the one you love, a listening ear, a smile, putting away your electronics and having conversations that last for hours of which there is no digital record. It is not just something that is broadcast to the world, but something that you broadcast, most importantly, to one another. Even if the rest of the world never knows that you’re in love, the only way to make the love last is for your lover to know that you are in love. I have seen relationships fall completely apart even though, if you judged them based on Facebook updates, seemed perfect. It’s almost like people try to love each other for the sake of public opinion and approval, rather than loving each other because they really do.
But what you will never see in any of the status updates, the tweets, the pictures, is the quiet love that is napping together on the couch after a long day; the removing of glasses when they fall asleep reading; the songs sung together on long car rides; the snuggles on a day off; the laughter shared on date night; the time that dinner was completely burned and wrecked, and he ate it anyway because she was on the verge of tears; the t-shirt that has been soaked through with the tears of someone who couldn’t lift their face from the other’s chest because of the weight of their sadness. Nor do you see the hands held, the footsies played, the steadfastness of true love, the determination to remain together, the way that she looks at him while he’s sleeping because he just looks so peaceful, or the moments spent having deep conversations about where we’re going in life, about hopes and dreams and disappointments and family and deep hurts. You do not see the friend who wakes up to a ringing phone in the middle of the night and stays on the line for hours because there was a crisis. You do not see the many “How are you feeling today” texts, sent just because. You don’t see the prayers prayed, the tears cried, or the long, late-night conversations, and hugs. You do not see the difficulty that was had when it was time to, again, say goodbye to a friend.
What you will never see in any of the status updates or Instagram pictures is an old man and an old woman, one of which is paralyzed, and the other still smiling despite everything. You do not see the way that he bathes her, clothes her, kisses her hand, and smiles, beaming, at her (and to me). You do not see the way he wakes up every morning for another day of caring for her every basic human need. You do not see the way he’s never abandoned her just because it’s difficult.
Because some things just should not be broadcast to everyone but should simply be known, deeply and intimately.
Love does not always roar, because it does not need to if it’s true.
Alena Rivas is a college student from Tucson, Arizona. She has been married since August, 2013. She and her husband don’t have kids yet, but they hope to once she graduates! Alena writes about life, love, loss, and God. She works to incorporate her own experiences in such a way as to inspire others and encourage people to think about things in new ways. If you like her writing and want to keep up with it better or just want to have access to her awesome witticisms that may not always end up in blog posts, you can find her on Facebook (facebook.com/authoralenarivas), Twitter (@mrsalenaeous), and Google+ (Alena Rivas).