i went to a movie screening tonight, of a movie i don't really want to put here to be forever known as one i viewed in the theatre before it even was released. it's not a movie that i'd have paid to see. we'll just say that.
and it struck me that movies play a huge role in why people find relationships so difficult. movies portray 'true love' as what is felt if a man is willing to go against stereotype and convention to be 'romantic', 'emotive', to sing and dance to you, to profess his love and perform a Grand Gesture.
and i feel like a lot (not all) of women absorb this message and eat it up. they decide that this is how their significant other *should* treat them, or how their future mate needs to treat them. and they put so much value on this showy stuff that someone & something perfectly good for them will be tossed aside because it isn't the fairy tale. people want the happy ending.
the thing, to me, is that the happy ending is just where the story stops being told. fact of the matter is, this is a bumpy ride, this Life. it's rough sometimes, there are ups and downs, some of them horrendous downs, and no one gets out alive. someone is always going to have to die before someone else. someone is always going to have to be the strong one when shit is happening, someone is going to have to be the rock, someone is going to have to be the one who adapts more readily to flaws and issues. it's the way of the beast where interactions and interpersonal relationships are concerned. some truly horrid shit might happen to the strong one which reduces their ability to be strong, and the other person is either going to learn to soldier on without being spoiled, without being treated like a prince/princess, without all the romance and grand gestures, or they decide that what they want is more important than any other thing and they walk away.
but, to me, that's not love. to me, love is not something which is solidified when times are good and the gestures and the romance are there, when the sex is constant and great and the times had are always great. to me, love is solidified when things are mundane, common, and not so great. to me, love settles when someone can acknowledge that i talk too much and my sleep schedule is fuct and i'm outspoken and sassy, but place value in my myriad of good qualities which they respect and admire beyond those...and let the positive be the focus. love, for me, is solidified when i care about how he eats, how motivated he is to find the joy in his life, how much he cares about politics and knowledge, but i care more about him as the person that i have chosen to love more than any of those single things and so i can choose not to nag or snark him about things he does that i don't agree with.
and i think that a kind of love that maybe alters us is built in times of struggle, hardship and difficulty. for instance, when i got sick again not so long ago, i had been dating someone new-ish. i knew that i liked him, that he intrigued me, challenged me, made me laugh, made me comfortable, made me question things and pushed me to question myself and grow. but, i didn't know love for him then. and then, the words from the doctor came. and i expected that he would run, and run far and fast. treatments which put a young woman in hormone suppression, menopause, and do all of the physical/emotional/mood altering things which mine did would probably cause someone years into something to pause and think 'i did not sign up for this.' so, i was not expecting someone whom i had only had in my life for less than a year to absorb it and still care.
this person, however, stepped up to be what i needed more than anything right then...he stepped up to be a good friend. he took me to doctor's appointments and treatments, he hung out with me when i was so sick that all that i could do was lay and look in the direction of the t.v. & he took me for soup at weird times and brought washcloths to me when i was later throwing up that soup. when the hot flashes took over, he showed up with a fan and tolerated frigid temperatures in which only i could be comfortable to hang out with me. he endured raging hormones and constant mood swings, neediness and pushing away, meltdowns and the physical changes, and while he wasn't perfect in how he handled those things always, he was good for me far more than he could ever even know, and i grew to love him so much.
in retrospect, i have been awed by him. at the time, i wasn't able to see clearly what it was like for someone in that position. i wasn't able to think about what it must be like for someone to watch a person that they care about be ravaged by something so beyond their ability to fix, or even attempt to fix. i wasn't able to process how difficult it must be to watch all of these things happen to a person that you like - both the physical things and the ways that it altered my personality and my moods - and know that there is a chance that they could die at the end of this. i can't imagine how difficult it was to make a decision to keep being a friend to this person, which means that feelings continue to grow, and to know that there is such an uncertainty while doing so. to watch them hurt and need and lash out and not be able to do anything but absorb it.
all that i could do, all that i could think about, in that time period, was ME. all that i could do was continue on every day, muster the courage and the strength to endure it and try to hope. i couldn't see how hard my moods and neediness and pain and hunger and desire-for-something-certain were to be on the receiving end of. i couldn't see how much my pain hurt the people close to me, because my pain was all consuming. my anger was big. my resentment was big. my moods were shitty. and i wanted the people that i loved to help me to carry something which only i could shoulder. i wanted constantness because there was so much inconstancy. i wanted promises because so much wasn't promised. i wanted to be comforted and told that *he* would be there because i wasn't sure that i would be. and in the face of all of these needs and wants and desires, he was able to be honest with me about what he could and couldn't do and give, even though there probably wasn't very much of anything which could have satisfied me in that time period...and so i could not be pleased.
i realize now that no matter what happens to me going forward in this life, i will always love this person. i will always want for him happiness and health and every good thing. my love for him is something which was cemented by all of the things that he didn't do and not by the things he did do. i didn't grow to love him because he brought me flowers and candy, because he said the right thing all of the time, because he took me to romantic dinners or bought me trinkets, because he didn't do those things. i love him because he didn't turn away from the bullshit, he didn't endure a crying fit or a screaming episode or a harsh tone and walk away. he didn't stop being my friend because things got tough for me and so for him by proxy. he didn't wash his hands of me because this wasn't what he signed up for. he didn't tell me to fuck off when i called at 3 a.m. and asked him to take me to the emergency room or to get soup after being a total bitch to him earlier. he didn't write me off because i wasn't able to be perfect in the face of some pretty not perfect shit.
i love him and hope that he is always a part of my life for how much i appreciate all of this now. i regret that so much time was 'wasted' during my time of hardship, and that so much of the tone of how we interact was set during a time when i was so not my true self, but i do not regret keeping my heart open to him or growing to love him. and i recognize that hoping for the fairy tale may be what gets some people through, but i know that for me, i'll take someone who will bring a fan and some soup and sit with me during hospital visits over someone who gives flowers and jewelry but can't handle the less than perfect times any day. for me, there is no fairy tale. there is only this life, and it is hard just as much as it is good, and it is flawed and dirty and there are often tears, but it is so amazing to get to live it every day. and to have people who will be there in the valleys just as tough as they are at the peaks.
and for this amazing story of friendship, there have been far more of those who didn't maintain. who couldn't, for whatever reason, be there until the end. like i said, it is hard to care about someone who is changing so much, who is so affected by external and internal stimuli every day, whose strength and hope and humor fades as her body diminishes. it must be so incredibly hard, i can't imagine. so, losing friends as i did during that time period, my ability to trust took a hit. i started closing myself off to most people, because if i couldn't trust the people who had been a part of my life for so long to be there, why trust new people enough to let them in? or why trust those who were there to stay? but what i've decided to embrace is this...
people aren't going to earn it. this measure of trust that i hold back which keeps me from being able to fully give myself to friends or lovers or whomever, no one is going to earn that. they can't. i have to give it, as a gift, both for myself and for the people that i care about. so, i'm going to try that. the space and love and happiness that i want in my life, i'm going to try to give it to those whom i care about and trust that they will treat it with respect. i am going to try to trust that when people make mistakes which hurt me, that it isn't a reflection of how they feel about me, but rather their own internal issue which has nothing to do with me. i am going to try to trust and love without expectation.
and i am going to try to be as good a friend to the people that i enjoy as i am lucky enough to have enjoyed. i am going to try to trust enough to know that when someone isn't behaving as i think they should to me, that it isn't about how they perceive my worth but more about their desires and capabilities. and i am going to try to trust the universe enough to believe that my needs will be met even if all of my desires aren't fulfilled, and that it is for the best for me in ways which i can't see right now.