Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cross My Heart

Now the reason we’re here, as man and woman, is to love each other, take care of each other. When love walks in the room, everybody stand up, oh it’s good good good

-The Pretenders

Once, many long years ago, I felt love at first sight. I don’t actually believe in such a phenomenon and yet, it happened to me . . . or at least it seemed that way. I remember it right now like it just happened two seconds ago. I remember his smile, his laughter, how much he made me laugh, and how many times we each said “Hey, me too!”, when discovering how many things we had in common that we hadn’t found in anyone else. It was instant, and when it was over it was unbelievably painful for a very long time.

I thought of him last night, he was a young man then, a boy really. I wonder what he looks like now, nearing 50. I wonder where life took him and if he’s happy. I also wonder; will I ever feel that way again? Is that something reserved only for the young? Is it only in youth, before the jade of age tarnishes our belief in fairy tales, that we fall in love . . . truly madly deeply in love, in the time it takes a humming bird to flap it’s wings?

I was only 18 and nothing so instant has happened to me since. I have learned to control such nonsense, and what has that gotten me? I have learned to question and be wary and “reasonable” and still, I have fallen in love other times with people that are not reasonable for me . . . at all. Love is a tricky, sticky wicket. In the years that have followed I have learned that two people in love can grow apart. I have learned that people you do not fancy will fall in love with you. I have learned that you will fall in love with people who fail to recognize your beauty. I have learned that love is elusive, happy, painful, joyous, sad, unpredictable, and the word love can be used to describe the depth of your feeling for another living soul just as easily as it is used to describe ones feelings for pudding cups.

I saw him once, briefly, several years after our time had passed, and I nearly jumped out of my skin. The good thing was I knew I wasn’t wrong. After years had gone by and there he was, standing in front of me, a chance meeting in a crowded mall, I knew I loved him. I would have walked out on the relationship I was involved in at the time, thrown everything away, to go with him . . . but he didn’t ask me to do anything of the sort. When I saw him I wanted to run to him and leap up, he would catch me and life would go to slow motion and we would be twirling around in a wide open field of daisies. But instead I maintained my composure, walked slowly to him, gave him a chaste hug, shared polite chatter, and then we both went back to our lives. I have never seen him since. I doubt I will ever see him again. I’m totally fine with that, it was years ago and time really does heal all wounds, but it was so fun to feel that way. It was so exhilarating!

Bear in mind I did not have a real relationship with this man. Our time together was brief and long distance. It consisted mostly of phone calls and letters, long before email and cell phones and texts; ships that barely passed in the night, plenty of room for fantasy when there is no dose of reality. Maybe if we had spent more real time together I would have reached the conclusion that he was not the man for me, maybe I would have decided that there really is no such thing as love at first sight and it was just childish frivolity. But that didn’t happen. What did happen was I met someone who made my heart do a back flip right from the start and made me laugh until my stomach hurt. Someone who called me once, long distance, and we talked long into the night and when I fell asleep on the phone, he didn’t hang up. I woke to discover the phone still on my pillow and I could hear his peaceful, sleepy breathing on the other end. The phone company had to have been delighted with the profit they made on that call, and I was delighted with all it symbolized to me. But none of it came to pass. He told me he loved me, and then he disappeared. I have fallen in and out of love since then. I have gotten married and divorced. I have been proposed to, I have broken up with men, and men have broken up with me. My life is pretty much like anyone else’s, moments of sorrow shouldered with moments of absolute fried gold.

This whole falling in love business, it can be tough, eh? We are all unique, we are all special, but the human condition remains the same. The human condition is the foundation of sameness that binds us in our uniqueness. We all want to love. We all want to be loved. As we get older, do we make it harder? Or, do we learn to give in a little on the movie style fantasy and be happy with what’s real? Recently I have been sick so I've gotten to lie around on the couch and watch a lot of movies with no guilt whatsoever. One of my favorites is “Giant”. I love its hugeness, truly an epic saga, but what I really, really love is the imperfect, genuine, and, at times, embattled relationship between Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. They love each other . . . and they fight. He can be Lord of all the assholes at times, and she lets him know it. She does not back down, and yet, she knows when to be quiet and let some things go. She is gracious and gentle at times when I would, perhaps, be having a fit. They battle, they argue, and they love each other all their lives. They know when to just give it up, accept each other for better or for worse, and move on. I also watched “Bridget Jones Diary”. Now here is every woman’s dream come true . . . in a movie. This story has clearly stood the test of time. It was originally written as “Pride & Prejudice” by Jane Austen (my personal fave) and now, all these years later, the story is still selling as Bridget Jones and her mad cap diary capers. Where am I going with all this? Do I have a point? Yes. Yes I do. People want to be loved . . . just as they are. But unlike love at first sight for an 18 year old girl, people want it to last. People want meaning and devotion.

The world is smaller today than it once was. We don’t just fall in love with the girl or boy next door, our fish bowls are bigger than that now. We can meet people from other countries as easily as from other counties. The world is faster. All this new technology has not made our work load lighter or our days freer and the four day work week is still a utopian myth. As our ideas grow larger, I wonder if our eyes do too. “Sure, Simon looks pretty good, but what if I marry Simon and then I meet someone even better?” To some extent this has always been a question I would guess, but now it seems so much more plausible. We hold off on something great just in case something utopian and mythical comes along. I’m not saying it’s bad mind you, don’t settle, I am not condoning settling. I’m just asking the questions, and if you know the answers please let me in on it! I’m down here in the gutter with everyone else, but when I look up I see sunshine.

There are some people that imbed themselves in our psyche. Some people that you just cannot shake, like Henry for Drew Barrymore’s character, Lucy, in “50 First Dates”; she has no idea who Henry is when she sees him, but she dreams of him and paints him. Somewhere deep down she knows she loves him. There are some people that remain. When I think of the young man I knew almost thirty years ago I don’t think of him per se, I think of the possibility. The possibility of what could have been but moreover, the possibility of what still can be . . . not with him of course, just in general. When two become one and still keep the “two”-ness of each of them distinct, there are changes that occur along the way and the beginning can be rocky. Forming a new relationship can, in some ways, be harder than the time honored difficulty of keeping the fire burning. You learn about each other and how each of you handles money, monogamy, malice, and malcontent. You learn about yourself; where can you be flexible, where you need to stay firm in your decisions, and how you can nurture your relationship and your partner while still honoring yourself. Relationships are a commitment you enter into freely and joyously. Relationships change your life, as they should, otherwise why bother? One of the joys is the freedom a good relationship brings, not the freedom it takes away. Being in a committed relationship makes your priorities easily prioritized. You know what is right and what is expected of you and you do these things happily. Why wouldn’t you? You chose this person and life is a bowl of cherries with them, and even when the cherries taste a bit sour, it’s still a fruit that you would never dream of parting with. (I’m not crazy about cherries so this is not really the best example but, a bowl of blueberries or dark chocolate covered raisins or steaming hot oatmeal just didn’t have the same melodic resonance). So, when you look across a room at someone that maybe you’ve just met or maybe someone you’ve known for years and know to the deepest core of your being that you will always love this person, you still have to plant the seeds of love and tend the garden. There are times of drought and times of fertility and they both provide an opportunity for learning and growth.

I feel like I’m rambling now. I am, I’m sorry, I know I am. What I am trying to say is I think love really can be a feeling we have for people and/or pudding cups with equal depth, including people that weren’t right for us. And the people that leave, the people that weren’t right for us, were at least right for a time. There were gifts from each of them. In my relationship travels I have learned “righty tighty, lefty loosey”. I have learned to cut up those plastic 6-pack rings so they don’t get stuck around birds necks, and I have learned about the odd way a soccer game is timed. I remember finding notes on my windshield. I remember angel food cake on my birthday. I remember the gift of chicken soup being brought to my door one night while I was sick; the Steelers were playing, and a dear friend went out of his way to bring me soup.

You know how in 60’s era Doris Day movies the women were always pictured with the soft lens? They have that warm fuzzy aura about them, all misty and angora sweater-ish. When I was a very little girl I thought that’s how men see the women they love in real life, all the time. I thought that when I grew up someone who loves me very much will see me in soft focus. Maybe it’s true. I think there is love at first sight, and I think it can happen with someone you’ve known a long time. I think that just like our 50 first dates friend, Lucy, you can see someone you’ve known a long time with new eyes and fall in love with them again, every day of your life.

At least I hope that’s true.