Hello friend! Welcome to Scrap Facts.
I’m a health care reporter, and a general maximal enthusiast. Each issue, I'll write to you about what I’ve learned through life and on the job.
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I’ve been thinking a lot about love recently.
From a young age, I got this idea in my head that the only love worth celebrating on is Life-Altering Love — the kind that inspires you to switch careers, move across the country, or generally put yourself second for someone else.
Of course, that kind of love is absolutely worth celebrating; I'd even argue that it's a bright spot of humanity. But it’s awfully rare. Most people experience that kind of love only a handful of times in their lives. (Frankly, that’s probably for the best — I’d be exhausted if it were much more.)
But I think that in holding Life-Altering Love as the gold standard for much of my life, I’ve accidentally overlooked another phenomenon — what I’d call Everyday Love.
Everyday Love is what's possible when you let yourself cherish someone without expectation. It doesn’t beget grand gestures or pining. It’s an ability that exists as quietly and steadily the breath.
I started noticing Everyday Love when I started picking apart the moments in my life that made me happy. I felt it when working with a team mate in my running group as a deep appreciation for his commitment to others. I felt it with a friend when they answered the phone to my sobs over problems probably won’t matter in a month. And I felt it my partner made me tear up with laughter over a silly video on the internet.
Books and movies rarely highlight Everyday Love, probably because it’s too humble to be exciting. Sure, it can be the foundation of Life-Altering Love. But on its own, Everyday Love is simply too ordinary to spotlight.
I’ve always felt, though, that even if something is ubiquitous, it can still be special. Sunrises can still inspire you no matter how many times you’ve seen then.
I’ve been questioning recently if love really needs to be big to be announced. If noticing what makes us happy is the first step of feeling it, and Everyday Love makes us happy, why not acknowledge and share it?
The biggest reason for me is not wanting to make anyone uncomfortable. The kind of love I’m used to celebrating often comes with so much expectation, I want to make it clear that I don’t expect anything in return.
The way around this, I think, is to focus on tangible actions. “I love the way you made space for me in a moment of need yesterday,” or “I love the way you surprise me with deep conversations when we run together” are good examples. The more specific, the better.
Time and place also matters. Work is not a good place to acknowledge love, due to the inherent power dynamics at most companies. (Though I always encourage complimenting a teammate’s job well done.)
And, unless you have a clear understanding that such a comment would be welcome, appearances shouldn’t be a part of a declaration of Everyday Love.
The second reason I don’t share my Everyday Love more is I don’t want to appear vulnerable. Admitting you love someone means, in part, admitting that they could hurt you. It’s the price of admission.
I’ve found that sometimes, sincere kindness and compliments are so surprising, people don’t know how to respond. I’ve even had people think I’m being sarcastic with my enthusiasm. It can be awkward and embarrassing, which doesn’t feel great.
But, I’ve been embarrassed enough times in my life to know that it’s not fatal. I’ve found that if my words genuinely held no expectation, then ultimately, they don’t soil the relationship. In fact, they usually strengthen it.
Maybe, this past week you’ve thought about Life-Altering Love. Maybe you celebrated it in your life, or maybe you lamented that you don’t feel it right now. But I’d bet every penny I make on Scrap Facts* that if you look for it, you’ll find an abundance of Everyday Love all around. And maybe, that love isn’t everything — but it is enough to celebrate in its own understated way.
*You caught me — I write Scrap Facts for free. But I’d still bet you’ve got Everyday Love in your life.
What else have I been up to?
A selection of my work for POLITICO from the last few weeks:
I ran the Algonquin 50k last weekend in Pokomoke City, MD. It brought me so much joy, and it made me feel grateful to be alive.
That’s all for now. Stay curious, friend! ❤️
Top image by E. Y. Smith; headshot by Matt Anzur.