This one time I painted a living room with a girl.
This was a handful of years back. It was about eight months before the huge, flame-out of a breakup. That day, though? That day we painted the living room? It was pretty uneventful. We painted my parents living room for $50 between us and a pizza. That was it. I think we watched Anchorman or something after that.
But it still holds as on of the most indelible memories I have. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not still in love, it happened, it was good, it ended, and we’ve both moved on. But I’ll never forget that day. Because it’s never, in the long run, about the grand gestures. You can fly across the world and show up on her doorstep with a rose in your teeth and a ring in a little velvet box but I can guarantee you that - more often than not - she’s going to remember the time you built the birdhouse in the back yard, or what have you, a whole lot more.
Life wasn’t meant to be taken in large movements. The next day will inevitably arrive, you’ll sleep, and the moment will have passed. But when you have a hundred thousand small moments, you can step back and appreciate the picture a lot more than metaphorically blowing your load on some grand moment that, in all honesty, look, you’re not Bruce Fucking Springsteen, you’re not going to be able to blow everyone’s mind every single night. You’re not Romeo and/or Juliet. There’s no reason to drink the poison together in some flame-out gesture. So that leaves us with the small stuff. It’s all about the detail.
That’s what love is. Attention to detail.
And the moment will end. And then things will get boring. And it might get a little quiet. And it might all end horribly. And you might hate each other at the end. And you might walk away from each other one day and never speak again. But that’s just how it goes.
But she’ll remember the time you held the door open for her on your first date.
She’ll remember the time you laughed at her impression of the landlady.
She’ll remember the time you stayed up all night that first time.
She’ll remember the small things a lot longer than the big ones.
But everything ends. And I’ll tell you why you have to make the small things, the small moments count so much more:
One day, probably a while longer from now, when old age takes ahold of someone, she might just only remember your smile. Everything you ever did together, every second, every moment, every beat, every morning spent in bed, every evening spent together on the sofa, all of that - gone. Everything you ever did will be reduced to the head of a pin. She won’t remember your name. She’ll just remember your smile, and she’ll smile. She won’t know why. It’s a base, gut reaction. But she’ll smile, uncontrollably, and it will come from somewhere so deep as to know that you touched her on a primal, honest, and true level that no scientist, scholar, or savant could ever begin to explain. There is no more. There is nothing else. There is just this: She’ll remember your smile, and she’ll smile.
And you know what? That’s all that really matters in the end.
- Ned Hepburn