Culture Life

Why I am constantly drawn to lavender

I find that my most blissful moments remind me of the strong, calming scent of lavender. For one reason or another, I relate it to a lot of the more meaningful aspects of my life. To me, lavender is like a feeling; like the wind brushing up against your skin.

While I think that lavender is largely optimistic, I also find a certain sorrow that is comfortable, even humble, in its presence. I’ve come to appreciate it in every shape and form – the color, the flower, the scent. Its hard to place; not sweet or bitter, but rather musty. 

Lavender manages to incorporate itself into my life seemingly on a whim and in the most fleeting of moments. We have a peculiar relationship. I am stomach-knottingly anxious in the presence of many, especially when I first meet them. But, with some, I sense lavender, and I know that something great is about to happen. It is more of a feeling than anything else. Just talking to some people can be rejuvenating, and perhaps it is because our meeting reminds me of that warm, soft smell of a mid-spring day when the sun is bright and pure, and the entire day lies ahead.

Nowadays, when I am feeling an emotion that is simply beyond words, I say that I am overflowing with lavender. 

According to etymology, the English word “lavender” is derived from the Latin “lavare,” which translates to “to wash.” It is a necessary refinement – a cleanse. I am purified with every utterance of the word. 

Perhaps it’s not just me. In literature, lavender has been used significantly as a token of love. To me, it’s more like a notion of love at first sight. Shakespeare offers a bouquet of “hot lavender” in The Winter’s Tale. Cleopatra also roots lavender with love, as she is said to have used its sultry perfume to seduce both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Christians are also known to have used it as a repellent of evil. The plant is said to have been taken from the Garden of Eden and is sometimes found hanging in a cross shape above the doors of some Christian households as a means of protection. There are so many songs with the title lavender, my favorite being by The Beach Boys, and there have also been many poems written about it, too. Take, for example, this quote by an anonymous writer, “as rosemary is to the spirit, lavender is to the soul.” 

Lavender is swift, like a movement, carrying me in and out of perfectly imperfect moments. The vision of it is rather uplifting as well. It stands delicately tall among the rest, but it is not intimidating either. I adore its confrontation. In fact, I look forward to it. 

Love Life Stories

How ‘The Spark’ could be working against you

We are all, through experience or observation, aware of ‘The Spark’. We’re told about it in all the stories of how our parents met, in the dating advice our friends give us, in the anecdote about how an uncle adopted a stray dog on a whim. Every story chronicling the beginning of a significant relationship features ‘The Spark’ in some way, shape or form. Maybe it’s romantic love at first sight, or laughing at the same joke and knowing you’ll be friends forever. Maybe it’s instant, intense hatred. What it’s not is casual interest, or indifference, or anything that doesn’t jolt you awake and make it very difficult to get back to sleep.

Using the evidence I have acquired by being in constant observation of feelings and art and other humans, I have formulated the following definition of ‘the spark’: ‘the spark’ is a definite and undeniable physical, emotional, and psychological indicator of belonging. It is the closest we get to proof that Fate really does exist and that she is sending us one of those signs we keep asking for.

Popular 'The Muppets' characters Kermit and Miss Piggy stare lovingly at each other in the midst of a crowd.
[Image description: Popular ‘The Muppets’ characters Kermit and Miss Piggy stare lovingly at each other in the midst of a crowd.] Via Giphy.
My mother says she felt it when she met my father. My cousin says she felt it when she met her fiancé. Almost anyone I know that’s in a healthy and committed relationship mentions knowing. Meet-cutes in movies and impassioned lyrics about love at first sight have only reiterated this narrative. But do we always know? And is knowing a prerequisite for a successful relationship? Or are the pressures we place on first impressions standing in the way of real connection?

The science behind love at first sight asks even more questions of it – whether it’s love or lust you’re experiencing, whether it’s still love if it is unrequited, whether there’s still a chance if ‘the spark’ doesn’t come into play at first. To answer the first question, a recent study concludes that a lot of the same areas of the brain respond to both lust and love, making it confusing to pinpoint which you’re feeling. The difference in how your brain processes love and lust, however, is that it treats the former as a more abstract, complex representation of the latter. Whether love grows out of lust or whether the two can exist simultaneously remains unanswered.

A redheaded man and a brunette man speak to each other at a bar. The latter says to the former, 'Do you believe in love at first sight or should I walk in again?'
[Image description: A redheaded man and a brunette man speak to each other at a bar. The latter says to the former, ‘Do you believe in love at first sight or should I walk in again?’] Via Giphy.
Love at first sight is, apparently, often one-sided, although one partner’s intense initial reaction may influence the other’s recollection of that first meeting. And as for whether a relationship can be successful if there is no spark present initially – only a third of Americans have reported experiencing love at first sight, and yet more than half of them are in relationships. So maybe there is life beyond ‘The Spark’. Why, then, am I still so preoccupied with the concept?

It could be because I’ve heard more success stories coming out of love at first sight than not. Or that I’ve watched Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes stare at each other from either side of a fish tank one too many times. Or that I’m surrounded by romantics who could have, in retrospect, projected the intimacy and affection they feel in their relationships currently onto its inception. Which is why I wonder whether ‘The Spark’, and my fixation with feeling it immediately, is standing in my way when it comes to forming meaningful relationships. I’ve built my expectations up so high for the first meeting that I won’t give anyone a chance unless, when we first meet, a solar eclipse, a medical miracle and world peace all occur simultaneously.

A young man and woman, playing Romeo and Juliet respectively, stare at each other in wonderment from either side of a fish tank.
[Image description: A young man and woman, playing Romeo and Juliet respectively, stare at each other in wonderment from either side of a fish tank.] Via Giphy.
Perhaps we should stop putting so much pressure on first meetings, on first impressions, on all kinds of firsts. Second, third, fourth chances are all opportunities for a delayed Spark. After that, I’m drawing the line. If it’s not love at fourth sight, then it’s not love. And if it doesn’t keep me up all night feeling like several sparklers are being lit in my stomach, brain, and heart, then it deserves to be slept on.

Love Life Stories

When I first met my best friend, I couldn’t stand her. Then one day, everything changed.

Aside from the officiant and photographer, there were just three guests at my wedding.

One of them was a former coworker-turned-friend, a relationship I’ve only managed to make work a total of twice. While I keep up with several former co-workers via social media (don’t we all), there are only two I would actually count as friends.  It’s hard to go from spending forced time with someone wherein you’re both getting paid, to spending time with them because you enjoy each other’s company.

This friend is particularly special because of just how different we are.

In many ways, we are polar opposites—her, the “hot sorority girl” (which I tease her about constantly), and me, the “fat alt-girl”; her, the straight, professional caterer, and me, the lesbian kitchen witch—yet somehow, we’re closer than I ever would have expected.

When we first met, I didn’t think we’d even get along at work, so to see how far we’ve come is genuinely boggling.

The first time I met her, I was on the clock and she wasn’t. She came in one afternoon and ordered a drink with a dairy-based syrup and nondairy milk. I asked, “Is it okay that there is dairy in the syrup?” She met my eyes, rolled hers, then flipped her hair over her shoulder and replied, “I know that. I work here.”

I had never seen her before; the reaction immediately turned me off. But in my best customer service voice, I introduced myself, apologized for the mistake, and laughed when another barista on the shift with me told her to put the claws away.

Obviously, first impressions aren’t the be-all, end-all, but they sure do last. After that first interaction, I wasn’t overly keen to work with this person. I assumed she had an attitude problem, which wasn’t helped by the fact that my manager at the time didn’t like to schedule her “because she was difficult.”

I would later learn that in fact, this manager thought most employees were difficult, and it wasn’t a reflection on my friend at all.

The first few times we worked together, our interactions were halting and awkward. One night, she offered me food, which I declined with the statement, “No thank you, I’m vegan.” This put her on the defensive, which made me want to tell her off for taking my personal choice as an attack on her character.

Another night, she went on for a while about her sorority sisters and I had to fight not to tune out because I know so many people with sorority horror stories that I have a hard time supporting them. We continued like that, in fits and starts, until one day, some months into our working relationship, things just clicked.

We discovered that we worked well together; I could trust her to complete her tasks and she could trust me to not only complete mine, but handle customer incidents and other disasters in the store. Slowly but surely, we started to bond over TV shows, movies, and music.

She offered me rides to and from work (seeing as I don’t have a car and live in New England, where the winters can be harsh, her offer was a lifesaver). We shared recipe ideas and interesting facts about our lives. When she broke up with her boyfriend, she told me about it, and when I got engaged, I gushed to her about it. We split the tab on takeout, started texting about non-work-related subjects, and steadily developed a friendship that has lasted, despite her leaving town after graduating and both of us being wildly busy with work, relationships, and other obligations.

Having her at my wedding meant the world to me.

She brought me coffee, drove me to the officiant’s house where my spouse and I got married, told me about her life and helped me do my makeup. She held my bouquet while I read a poem for my vows, cried with me before we all took photos, and generally did all the things I wanted her to do, often without me having to ask.

I tease her constantly about the first time we met because it was such a disaster compared to how comfortable we are with each other now.

She tells me that I was a know-it-all snob, which isn’t untrue, although I felt the same about her.

In the last 15 months, our relationship has changed drastically, and we’ve both grown up significantly. Watching her turn what I thought was an attitude problem into a voice for the voiceless has been absolutely incredible; seeing her succeed in her chosen field fills me with a pride reminiscent of what I imagine a sibling must feel, though I have no siblings of my own to compare.

Being her friend has taught me a lot, but mostly it’s taught me this: second chances can change your life, not only when you receive them, but when you give them. I don’t know where I’d be without her if I’m honest.

And if you had asked me, two years ago, what I thought about this woman, I would have said she was a brat and walked away.

Love Life Stories

Is polite speech really worth it?

Picture this: You meet someone for the first time and you say, “It was nice meeting you!” Or you see an acquaintance of yours and enthusiastically ask, “How are you?” Or how about this one: you spend a few hours with someone you just met and say, “Let’s keep in touch!” and proceed to exchange numbers. 

But do we really mean any of these statements we say?

Considering the society we live in today – a world where people are immersed in technology, the economy, and only do good for the sake of gloating about it – does polite speech have any true meaning behind it? Do the phrases we’re automatically programmed to say have any value, or do we simply feel compelled to say them because it’s considered being polite? The sad truth is that the sense of community is lost in the world we live in today. As long as individuals can benefit themselves and prosper, they are satisfied.  What was once a genuine “How are you?” to inquire about someone’s well being has become a cliche, a frivolous question.

[bctt tweet=”Do the phrases we’re automatically programmed to say really have any value?” username=”wearethetempest”]

So why do we continue using such phrases if we don’t actually mean them? If you only ask someone how they’re doing to be polite and you don’t truly care about their health because you only see them so often, doesn’t the expression become valueless? I know it sounds harsh, but think about it -it’s true.

My theory is that people care significantly about first impressions and the way others will proceed to think about them afterwards.First impressions are crucial; they create an image we want people to remember of us. Of course, we don’t want to come off as rude. However, these “first impressions” tend to be fabricated because we’re trying so hard to be as “perfect” and polite as possible.

Even after making a good first impression, we continue to be polite because we don’t want to be judged. You’re not a bad person if the words “let’s meet up again” slip out of your mouth when you actually have no intention of engaging with the person any time soon. It’s unfortunately become second nature to us. 

[bctt tweet=”People care significantly about first impressions and the way others will think about them afterwards.” username=”wearethetempest”]

One of my favorite personal experiences that support the loss of meaning behind polite speech has to do with a close friend of mine whom I encountered on a daily basis but not once asked me how I was doing in five entire months. This friend of mine is one of the most genuine people I know. He never fabricates or sugar coats anything and if it something rude, he will refrain from saying it rather than being polite. So after five whole months, on a day I seemed quite tense, he approached me and asked, “How are you?” I wasn’t hurt that he hadn’t inquired about how I was doing every single day like other people. I wasn’t angry that he asked me after such a long time, because I knew that this time, he meant what he was saying. His “how are you’s” and “I enjoyed talking to you’s” were not meaningless, but expressed utmost authenticity because they came from a place of genuine concern.

[bctt tweet=”I am not discouraging you from being polite.” username=”wearethetempest”]

To say he didn’t care about me everyday sounds ruthless. But why should he ask and create a false persona as we all do if he actually didn’t care? It’s something we are all guilty of. And so I appreciated his “how are you” more than the others I had received that day. In that moment, I realized how overused polite speech is and the way it’s utilization has transformed over the years.

I am not discouraging you from being polite. In fact, it’s necessary. It’s necessary to maintain the peace in the cruel, heartless world we live in today. There are, of course, many exceptions: people who genuinely care for others, people who desire to reunite with others after their first meeting. These people are the only hope we have left in this world, and perhaps the reason why there is still some good left in this world today.