Idaho: What Makes Love Last?

When I left for Idaho one of the things I was seeking the answer to was, what makes love last? How do people make it stick?

I kept crashing headfirst into the reality that it isn’t years that produce success; it isn’t stability that creates longevity. Finding out these were not the answers started to blow my world apart. I always believed these were secret ingredients that my millennial generation couldn’t grasp with our microwaves and fast-food upbringing.

Waiting to board my plane to Boise, I met a man with a bright red backpack; his stories had me leaning in with awe.

“I got divorced a few years ago. It took some time to get my stuff together after that, but now I just travel all the time.”

His pain was visible. I asked him what he did before he got divorced, before seeing the rainforest, kayaking in Belize, or racing motorcycles in the desert.

He once built beautiful homes that were stable and strong. He built one for his wife. I sat there willing to bet they had muffin tins. I imagined his wife baked dozens: blueberry, chocolate chip, and pumpkin. But after years inside that home, they still didn’t last. Now that house sits empty on acres of land. He told me that he doesn’t know how to let go of it. It is lonely and empty, but he can’t let it go.

I had plans to find him when our plane landed. I needed to ask him what he would have done differently.

But he was at the front and I was at the back. By the time we touched down and deplaned, it was too late. The man with the red backpack was long gone.

It isn’t the house. It isn’t the stable job and the keeping our feet on the same piece of land. That’s all I could think as the doors opened and Idaho greeted me with her sunshine.

It isn’t the muffin tin. Heaven help me, if there’s one thing I’m learning after my break down in Kroger, it’s that. Those aren’t what make it last. It isn’t the perfect life that we build and never move our feet from. It isn’t an illusion of stability that we can fit inside of cabinets and between four walls. That won’t keep us in the arms of another person. It isn’t just forty years of furniture and picture frames that keep it together.

So I set out on this restless adventure across what I anticipated to be the most boring state in the continental United States. And it was nothing I expected. It was an incredible mix of learning how muffin tins are not the answer, but they are not the things we can blame for why we fall apart.

I don’t think I found a secret ingredient or all the answers. Still, I found something I needed, but not until the trip ended and I was crying at the gate waiting to fly home.

I sat watching a man and his pregnant wife. He was so exhausted that he could not keep his eyes open. She was far enough along in her pregnancy that she could barely see over her baby bump.

She attempted to put her shoes on, but it’s not an easy task when you cannot see your own feet. Immediately, her husband slid to the floor and began to help her. His eyes so heavy, his mouth opening with a yawn. When he seemed certain that she was mostly settled and could finish the task, he slid back into his seat and shut his eyes. I could tell he was literally seconds from falling into a nap.

A few minutes later she exhaled with frustration, struggling as she reached to finish the final stretch of tying the last shoe. Almost there, but not quite.

He heard it. He knew the sound of her. Without even opening his eyes, he slowly slid back onto the floor without hesitation. When his knees hit the carpet, he cracked open his eyes. The sweetest and softest smile covered his face. He tied the shoe.

She giggled. He laughed. I cried.

I thought of my friend with the red backpack. I thought about all the trips he’s taken this year. I thought about how he is getting older and how one day he’s going to be sitting at Gate C2 and he will sigh because his bones will be aching.

Connie won’t be there to help him tie his shoes.

The big strong stable house might be standing, the muffin tins might be inside of the cabinets. The plane tickets might take him to all the places he resented his marriage and house for never letting him go, but they will not tie his shoes. 

We’re all looking for something to give our lives for. Something worthy of sliding onto the floor, digging our knees into the dirty airport carpet for: something worth the words and the fight.

A life that looks perfect and stable will not make us stay. Good jobs, paychecks, houses that have bay windows, and the years we spent building them will not be what make us stay in their arms.

Somewhere in the stretch of those few seconds that her husband almost fell back asleep, there was a building in my chest as I watched her struggle to put that shoe on. But when that man fell to his knees to help her, despite the fact that he had just been down there minutes earlier, despite his exhaustion, regardless of the ungodly germs on that airport carpet, that’s when I realized that it isn’t years, it can’t be.

It’s something more like not letting the years pass.

It’s realizing that sometimes only seconds pass before it’s our turn again.

I cried in that airport because I realized that I don’t always know the kind of love that takes another turn a few seconds later. The kind of love that doesn’t have to follow a perfect rhythm of give and receive.

Sometimes it all goes out of order and you don’t tally it up. Sometimes the clock ticks by and you don’t remember who owes what and why. Sometimes you’ve been the one to slide to the floor the last eight times. Sometimes you’re the one in the chair and their sleepy brown eyes are staring up at you. Sometimes you’re the one learning how to let go and receive the help your tired body needs.

Friend with the red backpack:  I hope that you will forgive yourself for the years in between. I pray you find people whose shoes are worth tying on airport floors and who will slide to the carpet when you can’t tie your own. That you come to find God and see the way He ties our shoes when we’ve taken our lives to gates where no one else knows our names. That you’ll come to know your loafers are worthy of a good double knot and that it might be time to let that old house go.


99 thoughts on “Idaho: What Makes Love Last?”

  1. Ash, this post is so good. I’m about to graduate from high school and I’ve been struggling with the ‘pace’ questions. Am I just being a millennial? A product of our current society? I don’t want to slow down though, but I feel like I’m gonna miss out if I don’t, but also miss out if I do. I want to love people, but I don’t know how to do that when my life is full of inconsistencies (always moving around).

    1. One of the biggest lessons I’ve been learning in life is how to stop making time an idol. It’s the hardest thing. I’m learning how to not make it the deciding factor in everything I do. I’ve made so many decisions based around time, rather than God or rather than love. Asking God to teach me to take time out of the equation is so painful, so messy, so difficult. But he started teaching me in 2016 that He spent the first 30 years of his life just “living” with his family and friends and growing in his relationship with the Father while in Galilee. He used only 3 years for “ministry” and what we consider “the big stuff”. That seems so backwards to what we would do. God doesn’t view time and “missing out” the same way I do. I’ve been asking him to change that perspective for me and it has been so challenging, but so important! Thanks for commenting and reading!! You’re asking God good questions and you’re seeking good things! I’m so confident He’s got something really beautiful He’s going to show you and teach you!

      1. LOVE this post. I finally found the man to tie my shoes at aged 50 and am so blessed. A year before that I changed my words to God. Instead of asking for specific things I asked him to give me the strength to make good choices. Now I treasure every minute and thank him for giving me the strength to change my view. Look forward to reading more of your posts – awesome.

    2. Moving around is not a fence against loving people. Love from far, love from near. Just love and have them in your heart and when destiny favours the truth in your heart. It’ll bless you with all the smiles of the world. Regards.

  2. This was so well written! I absolutely loved it!
    And I know my opinion doesn’t matter much, but I believe it is stubbornness of the people involved in a relation that makes the love last. But this was really such a great read!

  3. A beautiful piece of writing. Currently sitting in a hut in Wales, the wind and rain pounding against the structure with my fiancé of two weeks and this certainly resonated with me.
    Thank you for your writing. I look forward to reading further posts.

  4. Ashlin, this is absolutely beautiful! I just wrote a similar piece but from a different perspective. Twenty-three years ago I married my high school sweetheart. We’re still smitten. But we’re also still learning every day what makes love last. You’re on to something. It is about sinking to the floor to serve the one you love even when you’ve barely got an ounce of strength left. Love–true love–is sacrifice. Thank you for not just telling it; thank you for showing it.

  5. Dear Ashlin, this is one of the most beautiful blog posts I’ve read. So much wisdom and so beautifully written. You really have a God given talent. Thank you for sharing your experiences, thoughts and feelings and thank you for this beautiful, encouraging truth. This is so deep. Thank you Lord for having made me come across this blog.
    I wish you and your family peace and blessings!
    Debbie from Switzerland (:

  6. This striked me and opened my mind to more questions .
    Thank you so much for sharing this story in such a pleasant way . Many blessings your way .

  7. Great post. I’m divorced 7 years now and almost cried when I gave away my dining room set that I had for all of the years of marriage and all the ones after. I knew I had to let it go. Not because it wasn’t still beautiful and well built and in good condition. But because it was time.

  8. Well, goodness gracious. Just thinking on strolling through looking for something to read, and You were my first stop and WOW. You put it so beautifully. I have a friend who has been married for years. I’m talking 37. Now we’ve known one another since we were in 7th grade and we are both 53…

    I am the runner. I was the one who was looking for “him”. She hunkered down. I had WONDERFUL men want to be mine. They scared me. It felt like chick-flick B.S. because I had not had that kind of male love and protection (fatherly…he was gone at 2) in my life and did not trust the kind of man who was not tit for tat. Let’s keep it even. Let me know where I stand so I understand when You bolt. Cross the t’s. Dot the i’s. Who loved me and would drop to the floor in their sleep and tie my shoe? Those men frightened me. And I ran. It would hurt too bad when they left…which men do. So I thought. My friend and I lost touch. She found me a few years ago and has a trillion kids and even more grand and great grand kids. I was stunned. We had similar upbringings.

    I have been with my sweet, beautiful man for 5 years now…a record for me, and him, I might add. When we came together it was stormy. Neither of us possessed trust and both of us seemed to be wading in our own brand or “my way or the highway” B.S. Our politics are vastly different. He leans very right and I float. I am a vegetarian health nut. He is absolutely not. I’m an environmentalist, he finds all of that to be ridiculous. He is Christian and we live in the Bible belt. If a Hindu, a Wiccan, a Buddhist, a Native American and a Christian had a baby; that would be me. God we fought. I was talking to my son, then about 22, during those stormy first years and I listed all of my and my boyfriend’s differences to him. My son said to me, “Do You love him?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “That is all shallow, surface stuff. Who cares. Grow. Don’t let any of that stand in the way. Get over it.”

    So we have. We actually get along great and spend much time laughing. There is a deep mutual respect for one another’s way of being. No ridicule. We are playful with life. It works.

    Once, during one of our silly breakups that never would stick, I spoke with my friend of the crazy long marriage. I asked her how in the world do you make it work? She said, “You never, EVER, walk out that door.” You stay. Sometimes You REALLY don’t like them, but You stay. You breathe. You reassess. You learn. You grow. She confided in me that her love life with her husband was absolutely AMAZING! But that there had been years when she couldn’t stand his touch. She said it cycles….trust….flow…..give space.

    I dunno. Obviously Your beautiful writing and pondering has made me really think! But I tell You, as one so hungry to learn how to REALLY stay, I appreciate Your thoughts and observations. To just stay. Not in an abusive, awful relationship, of course! But in a wonderful sometimes off-beat dance with another…..

    One of my favorite discussions on the matter was by a teacher I like named Adyashanti. He said something to the degree of that when we think we know our intimates inside and out, we are fooling ourselves. Look. Listen. Breathe. There is always something new. We are all alive and changing and growing constantly. Pay attention. Let go of our thoughts about them and pay attention to them.

    Okay. I don’t think I’ve ever written such a long comment! You are a LOVELY young Lady and You stirred my thoughts and soul. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!! Cheers and Namaste!

  9. God! This is so honest and beautiful. I myself have almost become of the opinion that finding love is not everything and that I can be without it (haven’t been able to make it last yet…you know). Reading your post brought me back to reality! It’s like looking at a speck of hope. Maybe we’ll all find it today or tomorrow (I hope). Much love ❤

  10. This was a damn good post 👌. I had a girlfriend once in the two decades I’ve existed on this planet. She cheated on me and left. Since then I’ve been wondering why she left and I came across your post, realised that she just wasn’t worth tying those shoes up 😅. There were times when I would miss a family funeral for her, just to see her. (I still will never forgive myself for that).
    But like you said it’s about finding that person and I feel like it’s gonna take a long time to find that person. 😆

  11. Such a thoughtful piece! That’s life. We keep holding on to things that have nothing for us while paying no heed to the ones which are calling us with their arms wide open!! Love just happens if it is meant to.

  12. I’m new here and I love the heart behind your words. It’s a very interesting juxtaposition you are making that is rarely made. I was a little confused at first…but I see how you are contrasting different forms of stability, one external, and one, a deeper resilience borne of commitment. The empathy, thoughtfulness and wisdom I read here is so encouraging! Bless you.

  13. I’m currently going through a breakup and this made me cry because it’s something I’ve been asking myself. It was beautiful. Thank you.

  14. My sister in law who has been married to my brother for 50+ years swears it is luck. And determination that once you make the promise you see it through, but it is luck that what you get is a prize. Me? Never did get it right. Sigh

  15. Wow, this is so meaningful to me as I doubt my own marriage. Is love just about the emotional challenge in life? Or does the physical part of love play a big picture?
    I don’t think I really know what love is. I only know at the moment I don’t think I’ve been shown its true potential.

    Thank you for this blog xx

  16. Everyone is search of love. That someone who can knee down and tie your shoe. Here I wait foe the person who can kneel down and will not leave my hand ever.Holding His hand tightly so I could feel his beat knowing that he loves me more than how his heart beats.

  17. Beautiful piece of wisdom…..
    By not making time our idol we can provide ourselves a great deal of freedom and ecstasy to live our lives..
    But its the hardest thing to do…

  18. Enjoyed your piece. Isn’t it fascinating, the encounters we might have while traveling if we just look up from our screens? I also had an interesting seatmate on a plane trip several months ago to whom I devoted a blog post. Keep writing!

  19. Few things make me emotional. But this post hit home for me. I’ve been searching all my life for that kind of beautiful, long-lasting relationship.
    You write beautifully and held my interest throughout. I learned a lot.

  20. Reading this, I was so disappointed we did not get closure in regards to the man with the red backpack, but then: “She giggled. He laughed. I cried.” happened and my eyes welled up. I did not cry, but I was moved. Thank you for reminding me of the goodness of love.

  21. I was quite broken inside today and I read it, for the very first time someone’s blog helped me in realizing the worth of my people. Life is all about small things we do for others happiness or what our people do for us. It really matters. One day all will die but what we remember is small sweet memories. 🙂

  22. Dear Ashlin, this is a wonderful story I’ve read. With much wisdom and chosen words that are all so true. What still spontaneously inspires me, what love makes last! It is not the presumed things that a couple has created or their shared experiences it is the deep love and connectedness. It’s just this person, in whom you are more interested than anything else. You share secrets, which nobody else know and feel how the other feels, without speaking. Through him, you have rediscovered your life, felt proximity to God, and time became an unimportant unity. You can feel a destiny with this person and if you are looking forward to getting old, it is surely a sign that the love will last.

  23. Great post ! Worth a read…. Truly love is the reason why we exist.. love is what binds all our hearts together. Thank u for sharing this wonderful thought with us .🙂

  24. Great post, anyway I think the recipe of Love is actually TOLERANCE…if you use this in ur partnership so it will stay with you forever..

  25. What makes love last? My opinion only is that it lasts because you make it your first choice no matter how many other options there are. This is not to say that you don’t take other opportunities because of it but you discuss these and work out if the opportunity can be undertaken while maintaining the relationship and love. If you want something that your other absolutely is against then this is going to be incredibly difficult and ultimately may then be the reason for the love not to last… what makes love last? Communication (no matter how difficult)

  26. Hello. I like your blog. I think it’s a give and take situation. Most people that I have met have taken advantage of my niceness. Finally I found someone that for the last 11 years have been worthy of me and what I can do for them. Sometimes it just takes patience and a lot of love. Trust and a lot of appreciation.
    When the foundation is set and the other person respects you for you then the years will pass by and love will stay in the relationship. It’s about respect. No one wants to be in a relationship where the other person just takes and takes. There is more than physical. It’s a mental state.

  27. I think Happiness makes love last. You know love alone is not enough but when you base everything on happiness, you shall conquer it all. Now your question should be, what is happiness?

  28. This is truly a stunning piece of a writing. Thank you for sharing and I am officially following your work to discover more gems like it!

  29. Certainly, all opinions here have their justification and everything belongs also somehow together. It is impressing how much different ideas come up! Deep inner love means for me also respect, tolerance, trust and appreciation for me. Without communication, it is difficult in everyday life, since too many misunderstandings arise. Happiness should be the result, right? This post was a wonderful idea Ashline! Thank you!

  30. I am just in love with your blog and they way you right things. I also love your relationship with God and reading about your journey with him. Thank you for sharing. You have a new follower and fan 🙂

  31. Very well expressed. It is the giving which makes the relationships strong, be it marriage or friendship or others. Unfortunately today’s world relationships are expectations high and giving low.

    1. you speak right out of my heart Namrata, thank you! But giving is also a present for the one who gives, because at the same time he wins, even if others do not give…he wins joy by himself. Love is the only thing which grows while spending. And if it seems, that unfortunately today’s world relationships are expectations high and giving low….open your eyes here are still people who loves giving and long for a deep, true relationship!

  32. This post. It’s so hard to describe how intense it is, how it hits you like the sun’s rays in late summer and your immobilized. I especially enjoy that you’re eye for detail-none too big or small, comes full circle. The self reflection we get from succumbing to the annihilation of the self, of the moment is, ironically, one of the most moving lessons one can experience. Thank you for this. Your post resonates with my writing, feel free to checkout my live novel.

  33. Hey. You know, about a month after I read Your wonderful post I met up with the couple I referred to in my reply. Life is so funny. In a mind-shattering few hours of odd synchronicity it was revealed to me that this marriage that has been presented to me and the world as a wonderfully stick with You through anything deep kind of love has in actuality been abusive and mostly very unhappy. It was heartbreaking and very sobering for my friend to be blatantly honest about their life and everything they have been through. So. Geez. I REALLLLLLY know nothing and my earlier reply is apparently untrue and delete worthy!!! But it’s lovely to see how many people You have touched, myself included. Cheers and Many Thanks. 🙂

  34. I would also like to thank you for your contribution. All the opinions show me one thing. No matter how life was in the past, how you experienced the partnership. Important is the now that counts. If you have failed to make the partnership important and deep, it will not hold. Then it does not matter if there is a large family, and children and also together built prosperity does not matter.

  35. This was extremely beautiful. Something else that I’ve realized that makes love last that our generation is failing at is simply having a strong foundation and going from there. Building an amazing friendship first and then allowing the love to blossom so effortlessly. Understanding the other so well that you accept that they will never be perfect but every little effort that they make goes noticed. It’s about loving someone unconditionally. That’s the part that our generation and younger generations find hard to understand. They say they know what unconditional love is, but do they? I didn’t even know what that truly meant until a couple of months ago and I was an advocate for unconditional love. Thank you for your beautiful words. Your posts are lovely! Many blessings to you. ❤

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