You have to be a little skeptical of happy endings. They make us forget the thorny paths you have to take to get there.
I’m going to go down that path with you today, but don’t get mad if I’m a little vague about the details. Much more than the first kiss, the moment when you really start to know someone, to reach a level of real intimacy, you sort of become the guardian of that intimacy, and that’s when the real love story begins.
The details aren’t that important because all love stories are the same. Two people meet and if they take the risk of truly opening up to each other, beautiful things can blossom.
Chris and I started living together almost right away, without even talking about it. Soon after, and with a sort of chivalrous sense of duty and honesty, Chris opened up to me and gave me all the elements I needed to really understand his story and who he was.
It was really heroic, this need to be real. Especially coming from someone who, unlike you-know-who (a.k.a. me, life-story-teller-in-chief) who doesn’t open up as easily. I took it as a real testimony to his respect and love, but that didn’t stop me from totally freaking out.
I don’t know what got into me. It all probably went too fast. Something about the depth of the feelings I almost immediately felt for him. It was also this damned shell I’d built to protect myself, in New York.
One minute before meeting him, I felt invincible. I wasn’t afraid of anything. To make it out of my previous relationship, I’d had to create a new narrative for myself. One that said I was a free, independent, urban, single-and-happy-about-it girl who didn’t need anyone else. Ready to have a baby by myself if I had to. A real New Yorker. It worked for me perfectly. It’s a beautiful story, after all.
And suddenly, I was this tiny, vulnerable thing, overflowing with feelings, incapable of stepping back to get perspective. My armor was totally crumbling and I was discovering all the feelings of failure and sadness that I’d smothered.
But instead of taking a moment to cry and pull myself together, I projected it all on my new love story.
I started to become anxious, vindictive, too serious, melodramatic, weepy. I’d pretend to be the strong and fun and cool girl one moment, then fall apart a second later over a detail. I was a mess.
As for Chris, he must not have been doing much better. It was the first time he’d opened up to someone in a long time. And he also had 40 years of baggage and carefully chiseled, perfected, tried and true defense mechanisms in place.
He expressed himself the best he could. Like a man. Don’t call. Say weird things. Do weird things. In retrospect, none of it was that big of a deal. But at the time and within the context of my sudden abysmal lack of self confidence, they felt like crimes!
Suddenly, we weren’t understanding each other anymore. Suddenly it wasn’t all romantic violins playing and knowing smiles. Instead, it was messy, complicated, and it almost seemed obvious it was never going to work. I was questioning everything. Every little flaw, every tiny missed moment became a valid reason to end it.
Often, I thought it was over.
It was hard, for me and for everyone else in my life who was there to support me the whole time, poor things.
Of course I knew that no matter what, everything would be okay. That’s the advantage of having experience. You know losing someone is hard, but you survive. You know being alone is actually pretty cool. And you know time heals your wounds.
But I’d also learned that fleeing is not a good solution. In love, you have to see things all the way through. At no time did I feel like we’d reached that limit, the end. So I put away my pride and kept moving forward.
And I think he did the same. Despite all our misunderstandings, there was one thing that never changed. I trusted him deeply. I knew he had a huge heart. And most of all, I sensed that he didn’t want to give up.
Until the end. Until the day when, exhausted, I asked him not to stay at my house, and he…wouldn’t accept it. He stayed. Of course I wanted him to stay, deep down. And that night, he did something rare. He opened up to me, he talked to me.
He explained the effect my crazy behavior was having on him. The doubts he was having because of it. We were in a downward spiral of misunderstanding. The more my fears came out, the more he protected himself, the more I protected myself, the stronger his fears became… he went back through every time I’d ended up in tears and told me how he felt in those moments. He talked to me for hours… And he told me the thing he missed the most, the thing we’d had at the beginning, but had completely lost, was our sense of humor.
Nothing could have touched me more. Of course there was the fact that he was opening up to me even though it was difficult for him. He expresses himself through music, not so often through words. But most of all, the fact that he told me I had lost my sense of humor…
One of the things I cherish most in the world! My sense of humor! My perspective on things! The thing that makes the world look like a sweeter place! The thing that helps me in every part of my life! The reason I’ve been able to write to you on this blog for so many years, making fun of myself, laughing at the strange world I live and work in…
He was right… We’d finally had it, “the talk” the real talk. The one where you face each other and decide to continue, to keep loving, accepting, and laughing at each other’s flaws. To own up to your weaknesses and stop playing the “who cares the less” game and that you want it to work, you want to give your heart, if he’d take good care of it, please?
I decided to learn how to be a better person. Stop taking everything so personally. Deal with my own insecurities instead of projecting them on the other person. And every time I felt impatience, irritation, misunderstanding, or vindictiveness come up in me, to remember to respond with love.
I know how stupid that might sound to some people, and obvious to others. But for me, I assure you, I needed to learn that. That those are the little things that eventually end up creating walls of hate between people. And that it’s in those little things, not in grand gestures or ceremonies, that love is really expressed.
After nearly a year of emotional storms (and amazing moments too, of course, otherwise we never would have made it) and most of all, after a year of getting to know myself better than ever, we finally started sailing on calmer seas. And we started laughing again, and having fun again.
We even told each other that if we’d managed to spend a whole year together in my micro-apartment-dollhouse, we could probably move in together. And, uhhh… well, all the rest.
What do you mean, all the rest?
Translated by Andrea Perdue