How did this happen? It’s only been three days. I’m leaning against the lamppost and listening to a random street performer strum his guitar and sing lyrics that I swear are written for me.
“When the truth keeps searching for your heart…words that will never leave. Don’t say it unless you mean it…”
I close my eyes and though I’m in the middle of a crowded market, I feel as though I’m somehow floating ten feet in the air. There’s an unprecedented fullness in my heart that I didn’t know was possible. I breathe deeply as a contented smile pulls at the corners of my mouth. Goosebumps wash over my body in the most delightful way.
I know the three words this guy is singing about, and as crazy as it seems, I’m ready to say them. All the telltale signs are there. Rationality is out of the window. Nothing bothers me. I find myself laughing at things that usually annoy me and the mundane seems magical. I’m not really interested in food or sleep yet somehow I wake up each morning with supernatural energy and stamina for the day. It’s like being on a drug.
Yep. I’m in love….
With Sydney, Australia.
If someone asked me “why?” I would probably feel compelled to give a list of reasons:
1. It’s a runner’s dream with long jogs available through parks, botanical gardens and along the beautiful harbor
2. There are incredible beaches, like the one we visited in Bondi
3. Art museums here are free and feature stunning pieces
4. The Sydney Opera House and performances (we went to the symphony there) are exquisite
5. The food is delectable and you can pretty much have any ethnicity/type you want…including Irish tea and scones …YUM!
6. Every person I’ve encountered so far has been absolutely lovely, especially the cajun couple I met because he was wearing an LSU hat…GEAUX TIGERS! 🙂
7. Aussie men are hot. I mean, flat out HOT. (Remember Aussies Hugh Jackman and Liam Hemsworth?)
8. There are street markets, artists performing and always something to do or buy around the city…like my new lemon quartz ring!
9. You can pet and hold adorable Australian animals at zoos around the city
10. There is an energy pulsing in this place that is absolutely invigorating
But the truth is that beyond all the tangible and logical reasons why I adore Sydney, there is just something “special” about this place that I can’t quite define but has completely intoxicated me. It’s something I’ve never felt before and certainly wasn’t expecting.
In fact, when we first arrived in Australia, I wasn’t interested in staying more than a week. Just enough time to see some highlights and move on. But 72 hours later, I don’t want to leave Sydney…at least anytime soon.
I open my eyes to make sure I can still see Natalie and Katy. They’re busy shopping for handmade cards at a booth nearby, so I allow myself to slip back in the moment.
“I’ve been guarded underneath this heavy load. And a doubter, a cynic and I’ve been cold. But now you’ve warmed me like a gentle rising sun…”
The truth of these lyrics bring unexpected tears to my eyes. I’ve been so afraid to open my heart. So scared of getting hurt again.
I’ve been jaded and questioned if being in love is even real…or possible for me. But here I am in love. And while I can’t marry a city, the way I feel about it gives me hope for the way I might one day feel about a man.
I close my eyes and imagine meeting that special someone. The unexpected attraction, the first time our eyes meet. How we’ll smile at each other. How being around him will make me a little nervous. How eager we’ll be to get to know each other. How it will feel when he holds my hand. Hugs me. Kisses me…
It all seems so effortless. So carefree. So exciting. Yes, I’m ready for this, I think.
It’s a week later and I’m enjoying my last full day in Sydney. It’s not the big clear blue sky I love, but despite the clouds I venture to the beach. The tide is fierce and though I am brave enough to get in the chilly water, I’m too nervous to go out too far. The waves are crashing with such force that they hurt and I have to work to keep myself standing. They’ve knocked me over a few times, nearly stolen my bikini bottoms and flooded my nose and mouth with salty water that burns in the back of my throat.
After returning to my room I decide to go for one last long run in Sydney. The usual path I take each morning is different at dusk. I can’t see the vivid flowers anymore, just dark outlines and a lot of shadows as I jog to the Opera House. I have to be careful not to trip and the extra vigilance makes the experience much more challenging.
When I arrive at the harbor I pause to admire the view at night and reflect on my love affair with Sydney.
I still think this is the most incredible place I’ve ever been, but I don’t feel giddy and intoxicated anymore. I’ve grown to appreciate this city not just for all the things I like and they way it makes me happy, but also for it’s not so stellar conditions, like packed trains on Sundays, the stormy weather, sometimes violent waves and dark nights that chill me to the bone. This too is Sydney. And this too is love.
When I think about my Mr. Wonderful (wherever and whoever he is), I imagine falling in love will be the same. At first I’ll be head over heels and captivated by everything amazing he has going for him. But eventually over time, I’ll come to know his flaws and shortcomings and he mine. The novelty of our relationship will wear off and that’s when I have to decide whether or not to transition from “being in love” to “loving.” The former is an emotion, a feeling. The later is a choice.
I’ve learned firsthand that the words “I love you” are easy to say, but they don’t mean much if they aren’t based on action. On sacrifice.
I know that this kind of real love will challenge me, require hard work, sometimes cost me more than I think I can give, but also give me more than I ever imagined.
As I write this, I’m looking out at the Sydney skyline and listening to the song that evoked such emotion in my heart at the market a week ago. “Don’t say it unless you mean it,” Mark Wilinson sings. He’s right. These words mean too much to be thrown out carelessly. To be written in a card or typed in a text message but never lived out.
I’ve heard “I love you” from a few men in my life but looking back I think maybe it was just “I’m in love with you.” That’s not a bad start, but in the end I want more. So, I’m going to make sure that I differentiate between the two. That the next time I think about saying those three words I really mean it. Because when I one day hear “I love you” from that special man, I want him to mean it too.