By Brianna Wiest
Whenever I talk to my married friends, or anybody who has actual, real, professional experience in something to do with family or relationships, I always ask what makes one relationship so distinctly better than the others that one would agree to commit to it for the rest of their damn life. They all basically say the same thing, which is that it’s really nothing, other than that there’s an almost instinctive draw to the person, and because there is that indescribable connection, you keep trying. Every last one of them has a story of pain and poor timing and worse behavior and all the things that would have, in any other case, ended a relationship. But they carried on anyway.
It makes me think of work, in the sense that writing is very similar. Or, really, anything is. If you don’t love it enough, you will never find the fuel to keep going. You just won’t be able to do it every single day. And you’ll see pretty quickly whether or not you love the idea of something or whether you actually love it, when you have to show up and try to do it even when you’re tired and uninspired and don’t feel like it. I always say that people who make it aren’t usually the most profoundly, exceptionally talented, but that they love what they do enough to keep working on it, and in the process dissolve their illusions about how glamorous and easy it should be. Basically, the things that work out are the ones you love enough to love the grit.
And I guess people are like that, too. Because when your heart is closed to one thing, it’s closed to everything. The same as how in trying to avoid pain, you avoid pleasure, because you can’t just pick and choose what you want to feel. You’re either in or out.
In Tiny Beautiful Things, otherwise known as the little orange book of my becoming, Cheryl Strayed talks about how her husband cheated on her when they were first together, and how choosing to stay with him was one of the hardest, darkest and most worthwhile things she’s ever done. I now look back and realize that this changed the way I thought of relationships. It demolished the “rules” I grew up believing in, such as if someone cheats, you walk away and it’s done, or that people don’t change, or that if the spark isn’t there initially it will never be, or that if someone doesn’t commit, they don’t care about you.
People are far too complex to operate under such one-dimensional ideas. They exist to keep us “safe,” or really, to keep us out of the disgusting, heartbreaking, endless bucket of shit and wonder that accompanies anything worthwhile.
Cheryl loved her cheating husband enough to keep going. Some writers love their work enough to go on for 100,000 words at a time. That’s what I aspire to, basically. The stuff you love enough to suffer for. I don’t want to be someone who is great because they are perpetually inspired or talented or privy to perfect timing or a great body or the best partner or incredible life circumstances. Just someone who has unburied themselves and allows their core to drive them.