This semester, I’m teaching a humanities course, and my class is writing a credo based on NPR’s series This I Believe (www.thisibelieve.org). I was so intrigued with their responses that I decided to share mine here:
Five years ago, my husband and I were sitting in a room, waiting for our daughters to finish ballet class. I remember it being one of the first times we had been alone, without a child hanging around our knees. We were fresh out of the toddler phase and hadn’t communicated forever, or so it seemed. I was tired. Exhausted, really. This is the thing I remember most. I remember yawning and tears coming to my eyes and not being able to stop them.
My husband noticed and reached for my hand. What had happened? What was wrong? Part of it was insomnia. I had quit a medication that affected my sleep; I hadn’t slept well for days. And there were other side effects, side effects that I didn’t want to share but finally did. After I relayed the hurt I had kept hidden for weeks, he said everything was going to be okay. That I was going to be okay. And I believed him, not because I knew I would but because he loved me even if I weren’t.
Relieved, I looked up for the first time since sitting down. I imagine when he is an old man, his eyebrows will look a little like Einstein’s, arched and gray; they have just the right amount of defiance. It was then that I realized one of them looked sparse, not all together there. “What happened to your eyebrow?” I asked. He didn’t say a word, but his face began to change. His smile made me smile before he could explain. “It fell out.” He shrugged. “New blood pressure medication.”
We both started to laugh, not the giddy laughter of the children waiting for the next dance class, but the universal laughter of human beings. The bored parents in the small, boxy room must have had quite a start. Honestly, I didn’t even think about them until later. For that moment, it was just us. My husband’s eyebrows would grow back, I would start sleeping, but it didn’t matter. If they had never grown back, I wouldn’t have cared. And I knew he felt the same about my problems.
To love unconditionally is a give in. We all know we’re supposed to do it. But when someone truly does, it makes the world a little less scary. When we know we’re being loved not for the things that we have (or don’t have) but the people we are, it makes us less hesitant, brave even. It gives us the courage to be ourselves.
In the world today, there are a lot of conditions to the love we give: native/foreign, black/white, rich/poor, republican/democrat. Conditions make love so hard. They make love an uphill battle and a stingy thing. But if we take those conditions away, if we see people for who they truly are, the world and all its inhabitants become worthy of our love.