I rarely read print newspapers, except at my parents’ house. But every so often when I pick up one of those papers, something sticks with me. No article has done so more than a Jon Carroll piece from 2002, entitled “Love is just a series of actions.”

I was thinking about this particular story this morning while I was running, pondering the fact that I am getting married in about oh, four months. Given that my parents have been wed for thirty years now, I have been raised to take the sacrament of marriage very seriously. But instead of making me nervous, rather this fact makes me confident. I’ve been raised with a great example, and so has my significant other. I think we have an excellent shot at emulating our parents.

In thinking about these wonderful examples in my life, there is one thing that stands out more than anything. As Jon Carroll says, love is a series of actions:

I do believe that love is not an emotion. There are all sorts of emotions that resemble love — lust, pity, compassion, trust — but they are not the same thing. Love is a series of actions, actions often taken against self- interest. Love involves walking it like you talk it. Love involves generosity of spirit. Love involves sacrifice. Love is not for sissies.

Although I had been reading the Carroll piece for five years, I still didn’t truly get it. I always focused on the earlier part about broken teapot people, which I will probably write about in the future.

But now, after the past year, I think I am starting to get it. During this time, I have watched my parents’ love take them down roads that would have torn other marriages apart. I have also learned how to love them in the same way, as an adult, sacrificing my own needs when theirs take precedence. In the past year, I have become a better daughter, granddaughter, niece, and sister.

As an integral part of this process, I have also started to learn how to be a good partner. Learning how to coexist with another person has taught me endless amounts about selflessness, about generosity of spirit, sacrifice, and walking it like I talk it. I am still working on all of these things, and have a long way to go. Perhaps after thirty years I too will understand how to truly love someone.

For now, I can tell you that love is not what I thought it was a year ago. Yes, it is passion and romance and gazing deeply into each other’s eyes. I had these things before, but could never figure out why they always fell apart. Now I am finally starting to see that the thirty-year kind of love is so, so much more. It is standing by hospital beds, celebrating raises and mourning rejections, raising children, pets, and gardens, walking, talking, cooking, crying, laughing… loving.

Love is a series of actions. It is choosing to put another before oneself. It’s been a tough one to wrap my head around, but I’ve had some great examples.

I’ll keep working on it – check back in a few decades.