For the modern girl, hoping for romance

Romance isn't what I once imagined it

The flowers on the doorstep. The guy who knows all the right words. The love that crosses seas and splits atoms. That kind of thing. 

It's a more subtle, hiding kind of beauty. It's in the serendipitous moments when a perfect orange fall leaf drops onto your lap through an open window, and you swear someone is conspiring to give you a gift in this one moment in time.

Mother Teresa was canonized as a saint by the Vatican this past week, and her words ring true for those of us who dare to notice the small, and appreciate the things that others are rushing by or trampling:

"The Lord likes small things best, especially those done with love." 

A lot of joy can stem from the small, seemingly insignificant acts —but the weight of our expectations can crush the enjoyment we have in these things.

For me, romance is a word that has a boatload of expectations that it tows through the waters of our culture like a tug boat. 

It carries scenes of pining lovers from Pride and Prejudice and from The Notebook,  when Allie discovers the photo of the white house with blue shutters in the newspaper, which Noah built as a monument to their undying love.

I could name thousands of other vignettes that are stunningly romantic, and closely attached to my notion of what romance should mean. And if I'm honest, romance in the twenty first century, to me, feels a little underwhelming.

From the modern girl's perspective, love looks a little despairing when the value of meaningful words has been reduced to text messages. When Tinder has replaced being asked on a date in person, we worry. Things of this nature make us wonder if romance is nothing more than a relic of the past. 

That's scary when you're searching for an authentic experience of romance. But let me tell you something I've learned in the void of these expectations for romance, and the reality I was forced to reconcile in that gap. 

When romance has acted like a no-show date and is hard to find, or seems like nothing more than the cheesy plot of a bad romantic comedy, here are a few tips you can use to begin tracing its lovely footsteps in your life. 

Romance is more about the setting than the love interest

With all epic love stories, there's a central ingredient to creating the magic of romance and It's not the main character, or their struggle —it's the setting.

Think of how lackluster Noah and Allie's love story would be in The Notebook without the romance of a southern summer as its backdrop?

A few years ago I visited the town of New Bern, North Carolina where the romance novel savant Nicholas Sparks lives with his family. As I walked the side streets of that little town and toured the walled gardens of Antebellum mansions, the romance of my surroundings was overwhelming.

Inspiration was everywhere, and I was right at the center, sweeping my fingertips down mahogany staircases and lingering beneath giant Spanish moss chandeliers. I experienced romance in the coolness of shade beneath the ancient trees that had witnessed thousands of stories before mine pass beneath its branches. I imagined those stories. I thought of Nicholas Sparks and all the stories he's penned that have captured the human desire for love.

I felt my own smallness, and I was content in it. 

Deep fulfillment in romance, strangely enough, has little to do with a man pursuing your affection. It is satiating your sense of adventure and filling your world with small but important moments.

Stillness always commingles with our experiences of romance

One of my favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes is this:

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience."

There's something about the slow moments that invite us to savor the beautiful, romantic things happening all around us. There's a reason why everyone can't stop talking about a slow Saturday morning cup of coffee on their Instagram feed or a quiet, sun drenched brunch on the patio.

These moments invite us into the magic.

Impatience removes us from the moment and feeds off unrealistic expectations about what should be happening. Harboring impatience in your heart will mercilessly destroy a romantic moment that is trying to break through into your awareness.

So slow it down girl.

Because in these slow, nondescript moments of life, we catch up with ourselves. When we invite all of our senses to participate in small luxuries that are actually important parts of who we are, we experience romance, and maybe even redemption. 

So open a bottle of wine, cook a savory dinner, bite into a bar of dark chocolate

One of my favorite movies ever made is a film called Chocolat based off the book by Joanne Harris. Is the story of a woman named Vianne and her daughter Anouk whose quiet arrival into a prim and proper little French town causes a stir when they open a chocolate shop during the season of Lent. 

It is a story of belonging, of the triumph of love over legalistic zeal, and the importance of embracing the pleasure and beauty of a single moment, or a small piece of chocolate.

This film and it's characters remind me to be a conspirator of romance, even when it's a little irreverent like this quote from Joanne Harris: 

"I could do with a bit more excess. From now on I'm going to be immoderate—and volatile—I shall enjoy loud music and lurid poetry. I shall be rampant." 

Some chocolate and a little irreverence is a recipe for romance to come bursting onto the scene of your life. 

Romance asks us to be conspirators of the cause

While it's not difficult to find something romantic about a little French village, or a Southern summer, sometimes we can struggle to bring this idea of romance into our every day lives. Or we sigh away this desire by saying "I don't have a budget big enough to travel the world chasing experiences of romance."

If that's you, this quote by Emerson might change your perspective:

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not."

Romance asks engagement of us, and even requires a little creativity. We can only enjoy as much of it as we make space for in a day. Light some candles around your bath and dream up a few ways you can invite romance in as you go about your day. Bake your favorite pastry on a Saturday morning. Open the windows and invite the cool of fall to invade your living room.

Savor the small, practice patience, and be aware of how your immediate environment affects your mood. Maybe you're starved of alone time or you need an optimistic friend to come along and infuse your world with some creative tips to experiencing life anew. Follow my Spotify Playlist "Feeling Romancey" to help you find your fresh start:

Romance is different for all of us, but if we don't invite it into the conditions where it thrives, we will be hard-pressed to find it in our daily lives. So from one modern girl to another, slow it down, soak it up, and like an old radio, begin tuning your heart to that slightly crackly, yet wonderful sound of a love song coming through the airwaves. It's all for you, baby.