As the coronavirus has developed over the course of the past months, weeks, and days, my plans have changed and so has my life. And it appears this will be the norm for a while. However, I will share and continue writing. This helps me to cope with this insanity. Meet me in unexpected and interesting ways. Let’s talk. Leave comments below.
“I love you very much and look forward to marrying you… but if we have a fight you can always sleep here” – Saw this tiny plaque on a park bench at the playground when the playground was still accessible
Forever, as a concept, has always terrified me. I think it is the finality of the word that there’s no end, no second act. It is especially intimidating in the realm of relationships, which are often only deemed “successful” if they never end. I kind of move in with the presumption that I will never move out. I got married (twice!) with the intention of never being on my own again. I get into bed with someone one night and wake up believing I am through sleeping alone. For a control freak like me, that permanence is overwhelming. When I mentioned this anxiety to a good friend of mine who has been together with her husband for over 45 years, she brushed it off like a piece of lint. Don’t focus on what could have been. Think of all that could be. She said that after seeing each other through countless moves, career changes, childbirths, illnesses, and losses, their love isn’t made up of one continuous commitment, but many smaller, fragmented adventures. That is the lesson that stuck with me the most. That forever is a perpetually growing field of possibilities, one that continues to bloom no matter how many times you mow it over. And when you reframe it like that, all you are left with is an adventure. Remember, when the path reveals itself, follow it.
Marriage according to Nietzsche: He suggests, it be just “one long stupidity”, in which tow desperate people mask their neediness with all the trappings of a conventional life.”
There are these weird TV shows like Love is Blind, The Bachelor, or The Bachelorette when these mythical couples found the love of their life and know that they want to be holding hands until they die. I feel that these shows are just dumb. Why would anybody watch this? Is it just me? Is it okay to not be sure something or someone is for forever? Does happily ever after even exist? I am equal parts romantic and cynical about this notion of one relationship lasting forever, a lifetime. Here is one unsatisfying answer: I am not sure that we can ever be sure about anything.
My friend told me: “Married for 45 years. And happily ever after. We never get into arguments. Instead, we go to the park and read. Or go to the gym.” What do I know about happily ever after? After two! divorces. A woman who has collected more earthly evidence that relationships are sometimes very difficult because I have my own well of experience to draw from.
I think happily ever after is a myth. I don’t think one can seek validation through another person. This won’t pave the path to fulfillment. And anyway, I think I am setting myself up for disappointment if I adopt the mindset that one person will be everything to me. If I had to decide between this one mystery person who fills every void and checks every box, and all of my friends and family who fill my life with joy at present, I am inclined to choose the latter. I believe there is no such things as the one true love, the one soulmate, but rather the right person at the right time. And if you meet this person, go for it. I see how this idea looms large and ominous in my mind: What prepares someone to commit to another person for 45-some-odd years? And guess what? Nothing is fixed. Nothing is assuredly permanent. Everything is always changing, even in a relationship, we want to padlock. What could be less fixed than another person? Hitching your wagon to someone else’s does not mean the wagons stop moving.
I recently read a quote by John Updike on the topic of temporariness. Updike writes “that a marriage ends is less than ideal; but all things end under heaven, and if temporality is held to be invalidating, then nothing real succeeds.” I don’t subscribe to the idea that a relationship that does not last forever is a failure. How do I learn to enjoy something while recognizing its transience, without requiring a certain firmness of it? Is it possible? Doesn’t it feel like some people are much better at it than others? Do you need to come to terms with your own transience before you can do that? Every relationship is transient, after all. Some just last longer than others. So, does happily ever after exist? I don’t know how many friends’ weddings I attended who exchanged vows that I started to cry but who are all divorced now. Lately in these crazy Corona-Times, everywhere I walk, I still see couples. Maybe because it is almost spring. One seated on a bench reading, another laughing and sitting on the grass face-to-face with their legs crossed and their knees touching. Spring feelings after all.
Every moment in life is a teachable one, every disappointment and every curveball is an opportunity to move and grow and change. When I realized this, I became free. An understanding of divine intervention will always be just slightly out of grasp, but it is a journey that leads to fulfillment. This is not how my story ends. It is simply where it takes a turn I did not expect. In the glow of late afternoon in early spring and Corona madness, it is hard not to indulge a glimmer of hope, a feeling of anticipation for the sprawl of the future, and the kind of resolution it may or may not hold. Time will tell. I just enjoy it, don’t expect anything and see where it all goes. Then he will be next to me. And my heart is wide open but well protected.