A friend once sent me an article decrying the myth of romantic love. It said what we all know: that our idea of what love should look like, sound like, feel like is pure bull:
"The myth is that there is someone out there with whom your life will be complete, and conversely, without whom your life would be a half-life. A major task of modern life is, therefore, to find this person and, falling in love, to cease to be two and become one".
Been there, done that. I’ve been married, I got divorced. Since then I’ve met some seriously interesting men. Yes, interesting. Also, smart, talented, even brilliant - but all deeply involved in serious navel-gazing (their own, not mine). And yes, I have said this to their faces.
I know some good loves - couples whose relationships are like museum pieces - acknowledged by those around them as something good, solid. The rest of us observe them, and no matter how close we are to them, we are on the outside looking in, standing apart from what we are witnessing.
There are a few of these couples in my world, like strange weeds that refuse to bow down, to be mowed down, to break with the passing of time or the arrival of temptation. These couples are not necessarily the “exciting” ones, they are inward-looking and focused on what they can handle, what they already have. It’s not glamorous, it’s quiet. It’s not the flashy love of movies, of passionate embraces - it’s comforting shepherd’s pie, not spicy, raw tartar. Are we ready for that? Am I?
“The true art of loving is to navigate the shift from falling in love to standing in love”, to borrow the psychologist Erich Fromm’s phrases.
These couples have navigated this shift, they’re standing. I haven’t done that in so long - hit that point. I have fallen, and I have been fallen for, but the standing in love is the hardest part.
I am not waiting to cease being solo, I am not looking to become one with someone. All I ask is that he can handle himself, handle me, bring something good to my life, and let me do the same to his. Be my equal - but different.
- Guess how many boys at school like me Mama?
- How many?
- How do you know they like you?
- Because they’re really mean! And when boys are mean, it means they like you.
All of us are better when we’re loved.
This long weekend I’ll be driving 7hrs. each way to see my grandmother, who lives in the lonely depths of the most perfect little Connecticut village you ever did see.
I wasn’t sure I could face the drive, but she called last night to check, because a few weeks ago, I mentioned that Ailsa and I might visit her at Easter. She is 91 and she forgets things, a lot of things, sometimes in the course of one conversation. However this information she had not forgotten.
- Are you coming? she asked in her tremulous voice.
Ailsa looked at me, raised her eyebrow. “Yes, we are”.
- Oh thank goodness. I’m so glad. I might cry.
- Don’t cry Abwe, unless they are happy tears!
I can feel when she needs me to call her. I’ve always had this internal clock that ticks louder and louder if I let too many days go by without reaching out to her. Sometimes I ignore it, because she knows me well, and I don’t want to infect her with my bad day, I can’t smile down the line. But sometimes I call her because I feel so good that I want to send that bright strong whatever-it-is down the line and feed her with it, like a bird.
We call her Abwe. It comes from abuela - grandmother in Spanish. When I was a little girl growing up in Buenos Aires, I spoke Spanish, so I decided to call her Abwe - short for abuelita, which means “little grandmother”. She taught me to look at everything, to see how the crack in that wall looked like a bird, or how that tree was bent over as if to greet us. She was so far from little, she was so aware and alive.
But these days, she is a little grandmother. She is shrinking - voice, size, the energy around her. She is preparing to take up less and less space in the world. She will not be here much longer.
The smaller she gets, the more my heart recognizes how huge she is for me.
The heart is like a muscle yes, but sometimes it goes into spasms and won’t let go.
A relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies.