Sometimes I think about what seem like simpler days, when I had a boyfriend who called me every day at more or less the same time, and we would go out twice a week and do more or less the same thing. We would plan our future bit by bit, thinking nothing could be better than first love. He was routine, safety, comfort, a shoulder to cry on, an audience. At some point, he was an inspiration as well. When I realized he wasn’t an inspiration or a hero or a prince charming anymore, I broke up with him. This single action was formative to my concept of myself as someone would would prefer freedom and searching for the unknown right or good situation over known mediocrity. The wake up call came in the form of a handsome stranger who made me realize how little I had in common with my boyfriend of 3.5 years and the personal qualities I wanted for that my boyfriend at the time lacked.
Now I’ve been going out with someone for about 2.5 months, who lives in Paris but is fortunately visiting America right now so I’ll see him even though I do not reside in Paris for the time being before my master’s is done. This is my longest running “relationship” since, in quotes only because with impending departure and all it wasn’t really labeled as such but we were exclusive and more or less acting like we were together. As the time grows closer to when he will leave and I don’t know when I’ll see him again, although we have mutually expressed a desire to stay in touch, my feelings are becoming unruly and irrational. I feel frustrated not knowing what I will want in a month after he’s gone, or even not knowing how he and my family will get along yet (he will come to visit and have dinner soon). I want to know now what happens, I want to have some kind of resolution or conclusion to the story. Or do I?
Loving someone is the most risky, and most rewarding, thing you can ever do. Even if you match up on paper and have been sharing Christmases between your families and even living together, you really never know how the emotions of another person will evolve. You can also only employ situations so much in shaping their feelings and expectations towards you. Love can seem to require all kinds of logic games and hypotethical situtations, but it is instead the truth that sets you free from them. The truth that shows you no Path is better than another’s, and without your heart there is no one or now way to find you home. And withotu your heart negging you on, you’d probably end up in some less savory places and mistaking addiction for something greater.
Then I realized, gradually, that no one person is really going to fill all of my emotional needs. Be it friend, lover, parent, cousin, teacher, child. I read somewhere once that the people you depend on and love the most, who also love you the most, are also going to let you down, and frequently- cuz hopes are so high and you are in contact with them so often.
With this guy, I haven’t known exactly what to call or do with my feelings for him. I don’t really moon over him and think of how wonderful he’d be, I have no illusions that he’s perfect, he’s not exactly what I hoped or planned for, and if he’s not the one, my intuition’s ego won’t be disappointed, because I didn’t have the “feeling” when we first met. No, with this guy, every day is an adventure. Our relationship changed from something very light hearted and casual but steady and sweet, to a bit more serious but not at all heavy or confining or difficult. Every day I realize a bit more how damn good he is, but also learn not to judge and take things too personally because we are still getting to know each other. I used to get kind of offended and insecure that he didn’t make plans with me in advance and even for our first date, didn’t really think the outing through. Now I realize, he’s just kind of spontaneous and doesn’t think things through to the point of not having clear plans of where to go and where to sleep for his long “planned” trip to the US. I always wanted someone more dependable than me, someone who could compensate when I’m disorganized, but honestly I can’t be too harsh on this guy because to an extent, that’s the way that I am too. And being dependable means a bit more than being a good planner, or calling at the same time everyday.
I’ve been shocked at just how sensitive I can be towards this guy. Every now and then when i don’t hear from him that day, every time I find some double meaning in his words or read into an action somehow that he is indifferent to me, mad at me, doesn’t like me anymore, or is distancing himself, I have realized it is not just a sign of how much I do care about him and the feelings he has for me, but how little I value myself sometimes. I see everything that is wrong with me, all the reasons he wouldn’t want to give things a fair shot, and wonder if it has any hope for the long term to make all the ups and downs and challenges worthwhile. I get into hardened moments where I can only see my point of view and how he’s not responding to me the way I want, and assume automatically that means he doesn’t feel the same way or he’s just not the guy for me.
I’ve gotten pretty overdramatic thinking he’s not making any effort to spend time with me my last few weeks in France and hence our last few weeks together, and then the last time I saw him in France, he definitely didn’t seem to act like it was our “last” anything together or the ending of anything. We have had plans to see each other and for him to visit my family in the US during his visit for a while, but I still thought he would be anxious to see as much of me as possible in Paris.
When i think of the nine-ish months before I can possibly relocate to Paris, and the fact that unless we make serious efforts we won’t see each other until September, I can get a little sad and overwhelmed. He has mentioned something about coming back to the US for a “language holiday,” meaning to see me for at least part of it. And I could try and figure how to make Paris a stopover destination for the other trips I’ll be making with my grad program. Nothing is impossible, I guess. It’s hard to feel like anything is the end when I’ll be just a Skype call away and he even has free calls to the US on his cell phone. I think about whether he will want to find somebody new, and what will happen if I meet the “perfect” guy, interested in travel and economics and Catholic and maybe even Irishy, who will understand me so much better and come from the same place(ish) and speak the same mother tongue. The truth is, all of that wouldn’t matter, I like to think, unless he was a better man than the one I’ve kind of got now. Despite the fact that he’s Muslim and his mother tongue sounds like gibberish and I can’t relate to a lot of the hardships he’s been through and I don’t think I could get married in a church if he was the one. No, right now he’s one of the best men I know, quirks and all. He may not have thought of reserving a hotel in NYC for Christmas before a week of arriving there, so there was no room for him at the inn, but in my heart there is space for him. I think my God is big enough.
And we’re still getting to know each other. There’s not so much predictability as yet, but we seem to go together. i don’t really know if I’m the person he was looking for, but I think I know him well enough to know he wasn’t going out and looking for a specific person, unlike me. I wanted the unavailable guy, the Irish Catholic economics major who had so much potential but it wasn’t the right time so he took his space instead. I wanted someone who fit my plan, who would take away all uncertainty and fear and insecurity from my past. Instead, I found someone whose voice makes me feel better and who strokes my hair when I’m worried.
What is intimacy? What is love? What is truth?
The truth is, I can’t get my feelings for him to harden like day-old Play Doh into a master plan of how my life should be and the person I planned to be. I can’t weep and pine for him and think of all the romantic sacrifices I’d make, because he’s there. I can’t daydream about the perfect life we could have if only we can execute milestone by milestone my strategic plan. I can’t stress out about it, thinking that I’ve messed up my life if things don’t work out between us and he’s the one that got away. I can’t obsess about how cute and perfect it is and how great we would be together, because we ARE. He’s really there. He really likes me and I don’t have to think of complicated strategems to make it work. I don’t have a five year or five month or five day plan, I just can’t wait to see him again, and I look forward to him meeting my parents. I even text him first sometimes and he encourages me to talk openly about what I want, what my concerns are. Do I just like being in a relationship, being in a healthy relationship? Why do I like him- is it for a romanticized vision of him, for generic qualities that he’s not necessarily the sole man in posession of, or for something different. Something that is still growing and developing. I can’t tell you exactly why I just like being in his presence, that I like knowing he’s there, and how the fear that he might not be made me realized how little getting married in a church actually means if you know you’ve found a good person, regardless.
That’s really about all I know about him, besides the fact that he likes to swim, keeps tv on all the time when he’s home alone, carries a backpack to work, eats the same thing for dinner every night, likes Heinekin and Leffe, watching Ultimate Fighting Champion, and a couple of other sundry facts. He reminds me a lot of past loves lost sometimes, even his facial expressions. But he’s not the same. He’s actually there, I hope, I pray, I wait. I don’t always understand him, I don’t know what the future holds, I don’t have a plan. I am still considering what I want for when he leaves, and I feel like him meeting my family and hanging out with him in America will shed more light on that. He’s crossed over to the other equally real side of my life and has me texting in French on my American phone. Sometimes I feel like I don’t know how much I like him cause any suffering has been brief and any disappointment with him quickly mitigated. Where’s the hopeless yearning, the anxious planning, the feeling you’re messing up your whole life cause he’s everything you dreamed of?
For the first time in a long time, I don’t like a guy based on movie taste, or how well I think he’d fight in with my family, or how we have the same interests and could “get” each other. I’m not in love with a possibility, which I ardently hang on to knowing it won’t be realized and will prevent anything else from getting too close. I’m not in love with a figment of my imagination that brings pain, self-loathing, and the feeling it’s my fault that this guy who’s so good for me is unable to see it. No, I’m getting to know a real person who is actually available to me. Who, if I weren’t leaving Paris, I could probably call my boyfriend at this point with no hesitation whatsoever.
I don’t know if we have a future together, but I know I feel good when we are together, so I hope so, if he continues to make me feel good. I hope my own insecurities and neuroses won’t prevent me from embracing this wonderful person, another free spirit, a sweetheart, someone who has set the standard relatively high for himself. If embracing him into my life means letting go of the life I planned, and letting go of planning my life, so be it.
It feels like a risk, but it’s really a reward. The prize I gain is freedom, to live in the present moment and let time do its work instead of trying to bend it to my will. The freedom of living in the moment instead of thinking of the apres-demain, knowing that it will come in line with what I am creating now. Let the truth set me free that love is about finding someone to share your life with, come what may, not something or someone you need to plan your life around. It’s not something that can be lost if you take one road instead of another, if you text him first, if you say Hey or Hello. I think love is a little more resilient than that, if it’s real. It is something that brings you happiness where you are, not necessarily a secure feeling about five years from now. Maybe, after a long time you have both comfort and love, but they are very different things. One is a wild stallion, or a unicorn, and the other is a teddy bear. Both are magical in their own way, but love is wild and dangerous and fantastic.
Love can make you leave everything you thought you had thought you knew thought you wanted behind, and make you realize you are free. Free to choose your destiny, free to live your life as you see fit, free to find the goodness in the world and add to it. Love doesn’t tie you down, it sets you free. Love doesn’t make you sacrifice yourself, it forces you to find a bigger and more loving God than you ever imagined who will provide for you at each step of the neverending quest. Love can be towards a person, for yourself, and can come from God all at the same time. I haven’t found love, I have lived it, have let myself experience it. It is not a pearl of great price that sits in a drawer only to be occassionally admired, but would make me feel incomplete without having. It is the sunlight warm on my face, the rain that falls soft upon the fields. It is a song like the Irish blessing, to be sung till we meet again, and after.