The Way I Am Around You


With you, I forget things. Not big things, of course, but I let many things slip through my fingers unnoticed. I would have thought it impossible before I met you to let go of the self-imposed anxiousness which used to color my nights spent staring at the ceiling. My life often feels so full of unimportant matters and obligations which talk at me from every angle, noises which somehow quiet into a dull hum when we’re together. I know that it’s not a universal positive to be rendered so uncritical, so unaffected by the outside world, when you’re with someone, but I am. I tend to forget the minor work stress that was nagging at the back of my head all morning, following me around my commute or my lunch with a friend, whispering in my ear that I have so much left to do — with you, it is silent.

And I’m not one to usually love silence, either. In everyday conversation, I am often overwhelmed with the desire to fill awkward silences and spark conversations. Even if the thoughts are mundane, I’m glad to be filled with them, because it will mean that I don’t live with a kind of echoing quietness in my own head. But with you, the silence is never awkward. It’s never something forced upon me by the overwrought rules of polite conversation. The silence — both internal and in our interactions — is one of calm, of peaceful conviction and satisfaction. I am reminded, in those warmly quiet moments, of dogs lying in the sunlight with their belly facing the window. All day, they’ve been running. All day, all they long to do is make noise and play and be seen. But when the sun hits them just right and surrounds them on all sides with that hushed kind of comfort, they have never been more happy to be still.

With you, I feel a kind of confidence that I used to imagine was only possessed by those incredibly pretty, well-liked girls in high school. You know, the ones that used to walk down the hallway and seem to be at once loved and loathed by everyone they crossed paths with. To me, their ability to carry themselves with such assuredness and poise was always foreign, always frightening. Now I understand what it feels like to be loved, to be admired. Perhaps it isn’t coming from a million directions at once, but I don’t need it. In fact, I’m not even sure it is your gaze which renders me so full of life and certainty. It is perhaps the version of me that I am able to see in your eyes. They are two tiny reflecting pools in which I am the person I have always wanted to be, smart and beautiful and worthy of being loved.

It is something that I have borrowed, something I take with me when I go to work, or walk to the corner to pick up a carton of milk. While I know that the paintings of one another we’ve constructed in our own minds are perhaps too forgiving, too fuzzy around the flaws, I see no reason to look for a clearer picture. If only we were all capable of seeing each other the way our lover sees us, the way we must look on a Sunday morning while walking in with breakfast in bed. There is no reason that we can’t smear a little Vaseline on the lens of who we are and appreciate that perfection is not something we should ever be striving for — and I try to do this with myself. Your compliments do not fall on deaf ears; they are actively creating a portrait that I am trying to commit to memory.

With you, I am generous. I want to be this way because I understand it’s the right thing and I have learned to extract more joy from the act of giving than of receiving. Few things make me happier than seeing your face light up with something I have done for you — a surprise, a gift, a kind word when it is needed most. I don’t think that you need these things to live your life (just as I’m sure I could make it the rest of mine without another lunch in the park with you), but there is no reason we should have to. If life can be made more beautiful with generosity, and care, and affection, there is no reason to stifle it or keep it in some confused concept of moderation. With generosity, there can always be more.

I know that all of these things make me better. And I know that I am better when I am around you, and that the real goal is to learn how to apply these lessons and desires and streaks of unabashed confidence to every aspect of my life. I should be just as generous with friends, just as confident at work, just as forgiving of my daily stresses as I am when you are with me. Because that, I think, is the greatest gift we can ever give another person: To see that life can be lived more beautifully and more honestly, and that you don’t even need to be in love to do it.

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