An Artist Finds True Love in P.S. I Love You

“My business is to create.” 

In this post about art-related films, I mentioned that I thought P.S. I Love You was “not a good love story, but a good art story.” After my traditional St. Patrick’s Day viewing of the film (more on that in a moment), I’ve decided that I may have made a hasty judgment, and that art and true love might be more closely related than they seem.

So once upon a time, Josh and I went to Ireland for Spring break and St. Patrick’s day. It was a wild ride and totally exhausting, but absolutely beautiful. It’s something we would love to do again. Spending time in the land of the shamrocks those years ago put me in an inexplicable mood to watch P.S. I Love You–inexplicable because when I last watched this flick as a single and hormonal teenager, I completely hated it. The critic in me thought it was depressing and cheesy as all get-out.

Relax, you swooning and now-irate Gerard Butler fans. Upon watching the film again as an adult in conjunction with Dear Frankie (Butler accent marathon!), I quite surprisingly found it among some of my favorite films of the decade. Not only this, but Josh was quick to second the motion–and it’s a chick flick, guys. Needless to say, it’s now a family favorite.

I’m pretty sure that where I went wrong when I first watched this movie was in watching it as a chick flick–as a cliche story of romantic love, romantic love lost, and romantic love rediscovered.

As a traditional love story, P.S. I Love You is mediocre at best; however, as a story about art, identity, intimacy, and true love it is quite touching and maybe even outstanding.

According to the quirky Holly’s quoting of William Blake in an attempt to impress roguish Irishman Gerry Kennedy, “My business is to create.”

As an art student with no idea what she wants to do with her life, the only thing of which she and (she believes) everyone else on the planet can be sure is that we each need to create something–not because we are obligated to offer something beautiful to the world, but because this something is an inescapable part of who we are, how we are unique, and how we communicate that.

“All I know is, if you don’t figure out this something, you’ll just stay ordinary, and it doesn’t matter if its a work of art or a taco or a pair of socks! Just create something . . . new, and there it is, and it’s you–out in the world, outside of you–and you can look at it, or hear it, or read it, or feel it–and you know a little more about . . . you. A little bit more than anyone else does.” 

What do you know about you?

Not enough? Well, you don’t have to know everything, believe it or not. If you did, what would be the point in looking for yourself through the soul-searching act of pure creation–of pure art?

Which reminds me of another favorite P.S. quote . . .

Holly: “I see people buying bigger apartments and having babies. I get so afraid sometimes our life’s never gonna start.

Gerry: “No, baby. We’re already in our life. It’s already started. This is it. You have to stop waiting.

Man, this scene hits me like a ton of bricks every time.

I know that I and many others like me are constantly guilty of looking to the next milestone of graduation or getting our dream job or buying a house or having kids. We’re too busy looking ahead to inhabit our own lives in the moment.

As far as I’ve been able to figure out in my meager 22 years, life isn’t about scrambling to find out what you’re supposed to do with your life so that you can blissfully do it for the rest of your days ad infinitum.

The scrambling–the journey–the search is your life.

Personally, I believe as Holly does that creating is a big part of that search. It’s a part of the process of knowing and being known–or trying to. It’s reaching deep down inside yourself and and pulling out a piece of what you value or how you see the world, and it says out loud (even if only to you) “This is who I am.” When you appreciate the creations of others, you’re stepping into a bit of who they are and taking a walk around, willing to share that intimacy with them.

This ideology is how I try to approach every moment of each one of my days on this earth. It’s my goal–my mantra–

To know and to make known.

This is love to me. Self-love and love for others all wrapped up in one beautiful life mission. This mantra includes tolerance and acceptance but also challenge and discussion when it comes to really getting to the bottom of what makes a person tick. It sounds so over-simplified, but it’s really not simple. Sometimes what you know about yourself, your God, and your friends/family/etc don’t quite jive, and you have to reconcile that.

But somewhere in the process of constantly pursuing a depth of knowledge of yourself and the world around you, you encounter people who love and understand you for who you really are.

So make something. Make a poem. Make pasta. Make a mess. Make love. Make mistakes.

Every time you let that glimpse of who you really are and who you want to be out into the world, you are leaving yourself vulnerable–open to being known and loved fully, or fully rejected–and you are promising that same love to those who open themselves to you.

Okay, so I know that I waxed a bit philosophical in this post, but I hope that I’ve encouraged lonely people everywhere to let art lead them to every pure form of love.

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Awkward and Awesome Thursday: My Baby’s Birthday

Awkward:

  • Not really having spare money to buy Joshy a present :-(. But hey! It means I get to be creative!
  • Spending three and a half hours in the library trying to get Josh’s surprise gift printed (for 25 cents a page) and the darn printer just will not cooperate!
  • Josh texting me from home when he gets home from work all like, “Where’s mybaby and the dinner she was supposed to make me?” Fail. I’m thinking he would have been more blessed by me remembering to feed him than by his birthday present that totally didn’t work out.
  • No present + no dinner = not the super awesomest birthday ever
This is basically the worst photo ever, but it is the only one I have from tonight :-/

This is basically the awkwardest (worst) photo ever, but it is the only one I have from tonight :-/

Awesome:

  • I got him Taco Bell and a muffin with seven bucks my mom gave me, so he’s pretty sure I still love him.
  • Soul Calibur IV date! It was only fun because we’re pretty evenly matched. There’s no way I would have let him win just because it’s his birthday . . .
  • I am so conquering that printer tomorrow.
  • Party this weekend with old and new friends 🙂
  • My grandma is coming up from PA to visit!
  • Family is coming from far and wide next week to spend some time on the lake.
  • The only job I’ve gotten an interview for so far is for the position that I want most of all! It went well, too! Please God, this is all in your hands . . .
  • Feeling hopeful about my IC symptoms after a routine appointment today.
  • The man I love said “Hey world!” 23 years ago today. Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Thurston!
  • Josh is no longer the only one around the house that I call “baby.” Think a little bit about what that means . . . 😉

Our Marriage Adventure

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Josh and I had the privilege this weekend of participating in the second annual Marriage Adventures retreat.

You may remember my review of Cheap Love by professor friends Carrie and Erv Starr. Well, they rewrote the book with the title Marriage Adventures, adding lots of information and tips for a splendid married life in every aspect of a relationship–not just finances. This year and last, they held a small marriage retreat on their property, bringing to life a lot of concepts inspired by the new book.

We joined four other couples (who we hope to count among our new friends beyond this weekend) to learn and talk about communication, finances, and intimacy in our marriages. There was home-roasted coffee, date ideas, tools for avoiding unnecessary arguments, and more shameless sex talk than I can ever remember being a part of . . . It was awesome.

The one great tool that Carrie and Erv taught us about made Josh and I absolutely giddy with how well it worked. The Starr’s called it the Couple’s Dialogue. It’s this simple:

1) One spouse “has the floor” for 2-5 minutes. He talks, uninterrupted, about an issue in the relationship while the other spouse listens.

2) The second spouse mirrors back what she thinks she has heard. For example, “What I’m hearing you say is that you feel attacked when I confront you about financial problems.”

3) She validates what her spouse has expressed about his feelings and empathizes with him. “I understand why you would feel that way. If I were you, I would be frustrated in that situation.

Framing the issue in terms of “If I were you . . .” really helps Josh and I remember that we are not each other. Even if we don’t process situations in the same way, we can imagine what it would feel like to experience a situation through the other person’s shoes. We tried the Couple’s Dialogue technique with a topic that we had fought about in the past, and we were amazed at how talking in this way kept the hostility out of the disagreement. We couldn’t believe we had never tried anything like this before!

Just a few more things to carry with us on our own marriage adventure.

“In a Cabin in the Woods” (Naples, NY)

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Josh and I were blessed beyond belief by a graduation present in the form of staying for four days in a rustic cabin owned by our pastor’s family. The property is in Naples, NY overlooking Canandaigua Lake–an area that I have loved as I’ve grown up because it is near my grandparents’ beautiful home. The above photo depicts the view from our front room during our stay.

That’s not even the best part. Josh and I left the laptops at home and only brought one of our two phones along (with internet capabilities turned off.) We wanted to get away from everything during this first week of freedom from college life.

And, boy, did we.

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Took this picture by accident while trying to take one out of the bedroom window . . . and Josh loves it

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We talked for long hours, wrote poetry, photographed and sketched pictures of nature, cooked and ate great food, chopped wood, drove down winding roads around the lake, and cuddled. There was a lot of cuddling. It didn’t get above forty degrees while we were out there! Thank God for wood stoves . . . both for warmth and for making my husband feel like a dashing woodsman.

So yeah . . . that’s where we have been 🙂

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The best woodsy little brunch I have ever had

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The view out of the window of the best cafe Josh and I have ever had the privilege to enjoy . . . and it’s in the middle of nowhere

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We Did It Together: Marriage and College

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Josh and I graduated from Roberts Wesleyan College today–pomp, circumstance, tassels and all. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and he in Spanish. We were surrounded by friends, family, and mentors . . . and we were absolutely honored.

There was a moment during the commencement ceremony in which the speaker asked all of the parents and spouses of the graduating students to stand and receive thanks for the support they had given the graduates throughout the years. Seated at the very front of the crowded gymnasium, I leaned forward and prepared to hammily stand in support of my spouse a few rows back (who would undoubtedly blush, groan, and pull his mortarboard down over his eyes in embarrassment.) As I rose from my seat and peeked over my shoulder, there was Josh–already standing and beaming at me.

It didn’t feel hammy at all.

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Being college graduates is a very strange feeling in light of the fact that up until now, Josh and I have never been together when we were not both students. We have never been married and not been in college. School has been a part of our relationship for as long as either of us can remember–a big part.

We both work (or used to work) very hard academically. We have forever been in competition for ultimate academic excellence. In high school, Josh edged me out as valedictorian of our class. I took salutatorian. In college, he landed Cum Laude while I managed to eke out Magna Cum Laude. The meaning in our accomplishments is clear, even more so since that moment when we stood and honored each other at commencement.

We never could have done it without each other.

What started out as just a playful rivalry turned into precious and invaluable support for four long years. We saw each other through six finals weeks, dozens of projects with both each other and others as partners, countless papers, and a whole lot of stress. And no matter how much we felt like ripping out hairs (both our own and each other’s), we always emerged loving, needing, and appreciating each other even more.

Josh would quiz me on communication theories, not letting me off easy because he really did want to learn more about my field of study.

I would sit him down and have him talk me through nerve-wracking oral presentations, helping him form neat outlines complete with examples.

He would chase me away from the textbook- and paper-piled couch to the bed and make me snuggle at least five minutes a day “for mental health.”

I would chatter at him in Spanish, making him practice even when he didn’t want to.

He would search for assignments I had long-since lost, always taking the blame for their disappearance.

I would meet him with a hungry gleam in my eye when he would tease at 1:30 in the morning, “Taco Bell?”

He would heat up my cornbag on the way out the door to class when IC flareups would keep me at home.

And we would get through it.

And we have gotten through it. As surreal as it seems, this chapter of our life that has meant so much to us is over, but what isn’t over is how much we have meant to each other during this season.

I reflect back on the judgment for our decisions that Josh and I received over the years. I can see in so many people’s eyes the meddling mindset of

“There go those poor, married college students that couldn’t wait any longer to have sex and will spend the rest of their lives paying for it.”

I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but do people our age realize that there is more to marriage than sex? Then let me just take this opportunity to say, there is so much more to marriage than sex!

There’s friendship, fights, prayers, problems, trust, travel, work, play, adversity, adventures, backrubs, back-seat driving, campfires, picnics, late-night swims, sushi, sing-alongs,  midnight premieres, nightmares, deep thoughts, theatre, Thanksgiving dinner, pregnancy tests, plans, failures, fears, hopes, dreams, desires, days, nights, today, tomorrow, and forever.

There are, in fact, a lot of things that come with marriage that have made our college experience what it was. So you know what I say to people who think it unwise to marry during college (as if it’s any of their business)?

“There go those poor, unmarried college students who will never know what it’s like to have the ultimate supporter and soulmate walk them through every step of their adult journey.”

I love you, Josh. We did it, baby!

Acts of Renewal

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When I was a fifteen-year-old junior in high school, my mom, my aunt, and I made a trip to Roberts Wesleyan College for a preview day. They were both RWC alums, and I was casually looking for a Christian school to attend for my undergrad.

As a part of the preview weekend, I attended a chapel service. I was blown away as chapel consisted not of praise songs and a stodgy speaker, but of an American Sign Language performance to music followed by an amazing drama performance by husband and wife duo Acts of Renewal. The team merged teaching, humor, biblical stories, secular themes, and eternal truths into an eclectic, beautiful, and powerful theatrical performance. I was hooked.

Coming to the end of my Roberts career having been active in drama ministry myself, I couldn’t believe my luck when Acts of Renewal appeared on the chapel schedule in the final semester of my senior year. I wasn’t about to let this opportunity slip away. Following the equally inspiring chapel performance, I introduced Josh and myself as the founders of Muse Creative Arts Ministry and told them about the impact they had had on me as a young Christian and artist over five years ago.

That was the moment when Jim Shores and Carol Anderson-Shores became my friends.

It was so surreal that the artists who I had idolized as the embodiment of what Josh’s and my theatrical love could grow into as a couple were sitting down to lunch with me and wanting to hear about my life and accomplishments. Jim and Carol were a total encouragement and inspiration. They offered specific advice for projects Josh and I have volunteered to participate in for ministry purposes, and they expressed general excitement that people with similar passions and talents were coming behind them.

I am so blessed to have met them, and hope that Josh and I will have the joy of knowing them for years to come.