It is one thing to discover love, it is an entirely different thing to try and keep it. For most of my life I have walked around fantasizing over the whimsical kind of real love and what that might be like. To love someone so completely and unconditionally, to breathe and live another person. To surrender the only piece of floating wood big enough to carry a human body for the other person, no second thoughts, while you slowly die into numbness in freezing water, or less dramatically, maybe even be willing to movie cities, or quit a job, or break social norms and to fall utterly head-over heels in love with someone outside of your social status…..you know, all the novels and hollywoodesque cliches. The movies show you all the big picture stuff. The grand gestures, the key interactions, the important one liners that capture you and you cry when she cries because really if that’s not true love, what is? The reality of the matter is, and trust me I know, the grand gestures are the easy part. The making a big decision to be with someone come hell or high water is easy, because the one decision you make beforehand is whether you love this person that much or not. But it is the nitty-gritties of continuing to love the person, both of you with your every day flaws and the off-shoot decisions you have to make once he has decided to get on the roof of his car by your window with the boombox blaring a cheesy love song that will really get you. I have experienced love, like never before. The cant bear to be without you, the I would rather be lazy on a couch with you than attend the hottest party in town, the you are the most adorable person even when you take a piss kind of love. The kind that only seems to keep getting better with time.The kind I imagine is generally a unicorn in reality. It is the most wonderful thing to have happened to me. You begin to discover emotions within yourself you never imagined you were capable of. You discover all these facets of your own personality, its even better than the hour long session with Dr. Preuss. But then the thing that will get you will be the differences. After all you are two separate individuals. You have two different needs, wants, values, what you consider right and wrong, where that line blurs, and you will certainly have very different expectations of each other. While being in love with the most wonderful man, it has also been a time I have most struggled with my own values and expectations and aligning it with his so that the situation ends up being the most sensible and fair for both of us. We’ve both taken that route – the we are old enough to be wiser and more practical about this approach and it is exactly what is killing it. Certain approaches he has to the big questions in life I will never understand and certain values I think he needs to adopt he finds incomprehensible. We try to meet half way and I retreat because its too difficult. Because to be in love like this isn’t suppose to hurt this much. I go back to my whimsical notion of love, to have a man send me flowers just because it is Wednesday, or get up on stage and announce to the whole world how much he loves me in terrible singing. Because I dont imagine Richard Gere would have climbed up Julia Roberts fire escape only to tell her ‘okay now that you’re fine, I have to think of how best to hide your history before I can even present you to society’. Because the reality is, that would have continued to be an issue and had there been a sequel she would have had to deal with that and maybe they would have decided it was in fact easier to go their own separate ways. But the movie leaves it open ended because you and I know that love like that will overcome any and everything. Alas! that isnt true. Against my hoping and praying that it was, it isnt. Because while love like that can be discovered, its keeping the love that becomes the hardest thing to do.
The frenzy around who had just showed up on the other side of the bleachers where I was standing was palpable. It must be someone famous I thought. I didn’t rush, not like the other girls as they double hopped over the steely benches to run towards the right. I made my way down the steps, slowly and carefully. I even remember the way my bright purple New Balances with its grey undersoles touched down on every single step, planting itself over the aluminium grooves of the benches. I got down to the grass on the field and turned right to see what all the commotion was about. I am lucky I haven’t been dashed into or pushed aside by one of the crazier ladies from the lot jumping up and down in glee. Its funny how in moments of pure excitement, joy, elation, whatever you want to call it, even adults are brought down to their most guileless, rather child-like, versions of self.
In interest of trying to find out who exactly was there on the bleachers causing the spectators to lose their heads, I slowly made my way through a thinning crowd as he obliged to take selfies, sign things and hug or shake hands. Somehow, and I imagine it is because I am the creator of this story, I ended up smack in the front of the crowd phone camera all ready, thinking and partly hoping it is a public figure I would know. Unsurprisingly it is not. I have no idea who this man is, and just as I shrug my shoulders and put my phone away we make eye contact. His beaming smile pauses, not in those meet cute kind of ways, but almost flabbergasted that there would be one person in this sea of people who might, just might, be uninterested or unknowing of who he was. His eyes widen a little but he maintains eye contact. I look away in unease. And quickly make my way back through the crowd and out of the stadium. I take one last look back at him, busy posing, sandwiched between two blonde bombshells. Probably a famous athlete I think and walk away.
Few days later, I find myself out on the balcony of a beautiful Italian Villa, it may have been on Lake Como, it may have been somewhere in Santa Barbara, but I hope against all hopes that it was in Tuscany, Italy. There has always been a certain charm in the terracotta floors and an intoxication in the patterned limestone that almost guarantees any encounter one of romance, passion, sexy bed hair, wine and cigarettes. Anyway, so I find myself in what I think is my most beautiful Sophia-Loren-would-approve floral sun dress, out on the balcony looking down and ‘lo and behold’ who do I see? My unidentified, could be a famous athlete from the football field frenzy incident a few days back. His hair much lighter from the glow of the sun, on a brilliant blue Vespa, in a casual white and blue Henley, staring up at me after pulling into the cobbled driveway that the balcony I am on overlooks.
“Well, hello there,” he says. Smirk in place. I cannot tell if his accent is American or European. He speaks with no accent. What accent sounds like no accent I wonder. Shut up! I tell my mind that is going into unnecessary details from the nervousness. I fear if I step any closer to the sides of the balcony he will be able to see up my Sophia Loren dress. I furrow my brows in pretentious confusion, even as my insides burn up in nerves and I feel a deep flush beginning at the tip of my smaller than usual ears.
I want to talk about this interesting, almost epiphany worthy, talk I had with a dear colleague of mine a few days ago. (On a side note – doesn’t saying “dear colleague” almost make you think I might be a middle aged wise lady with unisex dressing sense and an uncanny liking for elbow patches and cigarette holders/pipes? I like it!). In all my sense of being I have always thought that I have been blessed with the ability to bond with people with ease. I cherish the fact that most people I get to know beyond courtesy salutations always seem to find it easy to come and talk to me about more personal and deeper things that they might be contemplating or dealing with. And while it may not entirely reflect very well on myself, I took a certain level of satisfaction and comfort in knowing that when they did talk to me about their troubles and sought advice (or so I thought) I was doing all that I could in my ability to help them. That the mere fact that I was, at any given point in my life, being confided in by at least a few people was reflective of the effectiveness of the effort I put in to scraping at the bottom of my wisdom, knowledge, and experience barrel to share what I thought were comforting words, advice, and helpful suggestions. It would however appear that I may have been mistaken. I might have even been a bit too presumptuous in thinking I could mean anything more to these people in my life than just a listening ear, a dumping ground of sorts to just let out the one thing they find themselves struggling to hold on to and fearing to admit or talk about.
As my dear colleague so plainly put it, no one really needs someone there to just listen to what they have to say. People NEED tangible help, they WANT every other kind of help. At first I was a little shocked, how can the figure of speech such as ‘a shoulder to lean on’ or ‘lending an ear’ be so easily dismissed I thought. Being there doesn’t only ever have to be at the rate of material or physical help I argued in my mind. But as my quickly deflating sense of satisfaction from knowing I am a trustworthy person calmed down I realized he may be onto something. Well basically he might be right. Or, he is right. My advice, or my lending ear, or even my uncomfortable shoulders, don’t add up to jack at the end. I sometimes go out of my way just to be there for people…..in intangible ways. I have an important presentation tomorrow but my friend in Australia needs to skype so she can vent about the horrible break-up till 4am? I am there! Its my own birthday dinner party that I am already late to but my friend’s parents have thrown him an ultimatum which led to a big fight so he needs to talk? I will hear him out and give advice on how to deal with it! Sometimes always being there is exhausting. And maybe its this exhaustion that’s finally catching up that makes me believe my colleague when he says, in the end people will do what they want to do no matter what you tell them. So even if I spend hours every week hearing them out, handing them tissues, and putting in my two cents, should the day come when everything is okay, we may or may not still stay in touch and they will probably be okay with it. When I am not around, I apparently will not be leaving a large vacuum space…a black hole….like my narcissistic self assumed. They will find other ways to deal with it and move on.
I guess in the end, its really about finding balance. Balance between being there for others and being there for myself. It is also putting (what I now guess is) my high sense of self in check because I might think the fact that people want to come to me to talk about their personal lives makes me a little bit more important than the rest when in actuality, it may be that I am one of five other people they bounce their stories off of. Hear that?……..Yup! that’s the sound of my ‘amour propre’ deflating un petit peu.