© 2019 by Ashley Smith & Milagro Midwestern Spa Collective

  • Ashley

The stench of romance. A Valentine’s Day postmortem.

It’s St. Patrick’s Day and I’m just now writing about Valentine’s Day. This is why I’m a horrible retail manager. Did you know vendors start asking for fall orders in January?

I can’t decide at 4pm what I want to eat for dinner.

If you visited Milagro the weekend of Valentine’s Day, you may have noticed something different. There was just something…special in the air. And it was RANK.

We still haven’t figured out exactly what it was. It left as mysteriously as it came. Two plumber visits and $650 later, best we can tell there may have been a dead animal somewhere on the roof or in a neighboring space and when the wind blew just right….

This was a problem, obviously, since we are known for our ambiance and atmosphere which specifically include delicious spa smells. Luckily the stench was localized and came and went with varying intensity, so no one’s experience was ruined. The timing (during the most packed spa weekend we’ve ever had) was so unfortunate, all I could do was laugh. OF COURSE it smells like dead animal in here just in time to celebrate the magic of romance.

I don’t really do romance (at all) and therefore am not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. It’s supposedly a holiday about love, but best I can tell it’s really about all of the pretty, pleasant, charming, dressed up, fancy, shiny parts of human relationships. And what I’ve learned is love is actually the opposite.

Romance is easy and everywhere. Love is hard and rare.

I grew up watching the best illustration of this with my parents and my special needs sister Stephanie. I cannot imagine the difficulty and stress added to a young marriage when a firstborn child is unexpectedly a major challenge. In addition to cerebral palsy, Stephanie incurred brain damage leading her to function permanently at about an 18-month-old level. How quickly our picture of marriage, newlyweds, and romance (seen everywhere in magazines and movies) can change when life happens. Messy, inconvenient, impossible to ignore LIFE. Meeting needs for and showing patient compassion to someone who can quite literally do nothing for you in return is an amazing thing to watch. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have this example as my foundational understanding of love. And because of this experience, romance does not appeal to me. Is there a Valentine equivalent of the term “bah humbug”? I am officially the romance grinch. My husband is a lucky guy.

Love requires an uncomfortable amount of work. And sometimes the “work” is pleasant (giving gifts, spending fun time together) and sometimes the work is WORK (changing bandages, cleaning up sickness, sleeping in uncomfortable hospital chairs, navigating life changing curveballs, wading together through the stickiness of being human). Love is a practice. A lifelong practice.

One of my favorite books of 2015, Scary Close by Donald Miller, gave me this tough truth: “…human love isn’t conditional. No love is conditional. If love is conditional, it’s just some sort of manipulation masquerading as love.”

A lot of things we see these days can be mistaken for love. But when we see the real thing, it’s unmistakable.

Me, Steph, Allison (circa no idea when)