Romance as a Life Choice
July 14, 2011 by Amy Sundberg
Last week Theodora Goss wrote a beautiful essay about finding romance in life
. I’ve been thinking about it ever since, enough so that I asked a few friends (hi, guys!) what makes something romantic. The consensus was that something was romantic if it was both thoughtful and meaningful, and done by the right person (by which I think we mean, someone to whom you feel romantically inclined to begin with).
Thinking of romance as having to do with romantic love is probably the baseline in American culture (except perhaps for anthropologists, folklorists, and scholars). Certainly that is the definition my friends instantly attached to. Our culture sells us a certain idea (or perhaps group of ideas) of what romantic love should be, and I have heard more than one rant about how these ideals build unrealistic and unhealthy expectations for what to expect in actual relationships. So I really like Theodora’s reminder that romance has many meanings, and her call to embrace the romantic:
I know this probably sounds silly, but why not make your life romantic? Why not surround yourself with things that make you feel like a heroine?
To me, this doesn’t sound silly at all. I am a very romantic person, which I think contributes very materially to my happiness. I don’t go about it in quite the same way as Theodora, perhaps; I find romance in my life more in the people I meet and the situations I face (or even the situations I could potentially face, or the situations I’m merely making up in my mind). I find romance in my surroundings not so much by design (surrounding myself purposefully by things I find romantic) as by accident or general frame of mind.
When I lived in London, I found going grocery shopping to be incredibly romantic. Imagine, grocery shopping, a chore I avoid like the plague here in the States, being romantic. And yet I loved walking through the quiet residential streets and coming up to the main hub of Crouch End. And I loved that I could only buy food for a few days since I had to carry it home. And I loved all of the unfamiliar food items lining the shelves, and discovering my favorites that I would buy week in and week out. It was all an integral part of this amazing adventure I was having.
I can’t keep it up all the time (which is unfortunate), but whenever I remember the romance, my life becomes more interesting. I have to do all these stupid strengthening exercises all the time because my body is cranky. But when I imagine the exercises as part of a training montage, suddenly it becomes a lot more inspiring. When I’m teaching, I’m engaged in the romance of instilling a love of music and helping to grow self-confidence in young people. In my mind my romance with my husband is an epic love story on a par with Wesley and Buttercup in The Princess Bride
, only better because I am not vapid like Buttercup. And writing, well, writing has been my ideal of romance since I was seven years old.
This romantic view doesn’t hide all the rough edges. I’m perfectly aware on one level that a lot of life is a slog: to improve at something, I need to repetitively practice over and over again. To have a good relationship I have to keep working at communicating and making decisions together and ‘fessing up to my mistakes. To be a good teacher, I have to encourage repetition with even more patience than I show myself. To travel, I have to deal with discomfort and stress and things going wrong.
But I believe that seeing the romance in these things is what reminds me of how worthwhile they are. I love being the heroine! I love appreciating the romance of life, whether it be big and sweeping or small and easy to overlook (the rose bushes in front of my house are a good example of the latter; I find them so romantic…or else I forget about them completely).
So tell me, what do you find romantic in your life? What makes you swoon? How do you cultivate a romantic life?