Love, Actually: Lesson Learned

Several months ago, I enrolled myself in an independent study course.  I was going to learn more about love.  In all its forms.  From those who had been treated fairly by it and those who had been repeatedly burned by it.  I would engage in a series of conversations about love with friends, my only expectation being to gain insight about love from others’ life experiences.  In this self-guided course, I have also used more than conversations with friends as resource material.  I have also been watching clever romantic comedies that manage to honestly and wisely portray love’s complexities without giving in to sentimentality or relying on the trite depiction of a modern day, “independent” woman suffering through lonely nights of bitterness until some  random mediocre man enters her life and chases all the suffering away.

Recently, I watched the well-written indie rom-com, 500 Days of Summer.  Unique in its take on love, 500 Days follows an overly romantic young man, Tom, who spent much of his boyhood fantasizing about meeting “the one.”  When he does meet her (Summer), he is so blissful enjoying the reality of what had until now been only a fantasy, that Tom is left crushed and unable to function when Summer inevitably breaks up with him.  For the next 500 days, he replays all the memories he shared with Summer, trying to do what brokenhearted lovers have attempted since humans crawled out of trees several hundred years ago.  Figure out how such amazing memories could have culminated in a painful, abrupt end and more importantly, load those memories with enough power, enough sincere hope, that they would magically summon his soul mate back  into the fantasy he had spent most of his life envisioning.

Critical to Tom’s ability to move on was his personal little yoda: his 12 year old sister.  In all of the conversations I have had so far in my course on love, this little sage shared the most insightful tidbit of knowledge.  “I don’t know why you thought Summer was the one,” she admits to Tom one day.  “I never did.  When you go back and look at everything you think the two of you had, maybe you should look twice.”

For the past year or so, I had been looking back on the memories I shared with my male version of Summer.  Much like Tom, there was an almost constant replaying of the moments in our relationship that for me, signified our status as hopelessly in love.  When I voluntarily reviewed these memories, they brought me equal amounts of comfort (it was good while it was good) and confusion (if it was so good, why didn’t it last).

Tom looked at his Summer memories twice.  And so did I.

Much like Tom, a second scanning of my heartfelt memories with the male Summer revealed me to be an expert in revisionist history.  Upon second viewing, the memories I most cherished held glaring signs that what the ex and I shared was pretty much doomed from the start.  My favorite memory was the one where he was introduced to my friends.  At a small dinner party in my apartment, he was charming and loving, draping his arm around me several times and making sure everything was running smoothly.  During the requisite how-could-this-go-wrong months following my first break up with him, I thought long and hard about that night.  How he seemed so eager to be my boyfriend.  How his whole demeanor that night seemed to scream: “I am falling in love with you.”

That astute 12 year old gave her brother some damn good advice. Like an obedient Tom, I relived that night slower, with more clarity.  Looked twice.  What I saw was the part of that night that was more convenient not to remember.  When my friends had gone home and we were going to bed, I told him proudly: “I can tell my friends really liked you.”  The second scanning brought back his look of discomfort.  His avoidance of talking about the dinner that had just happened and the realization I didn’t need to voice out loud because it had already settled solidly in my bones: He is unsure about this.  He does not want to be here in the same way I want him to be here.

Almost every memory that had served as evidence of my being in a “healthy” relationship did not hold up under a second, more thorough viewing.  It is slightly ridiculous how flimsy the memories really became.  How paper thin our relationship had always been, without my noticing. After thoroughly scanning my cherished memories, I was able to revise a common cliché about l.o.v.e.  No, love is not completely blind; it just needs glasses.

It took Tom a few more weeks before he could admit the truth of his love for Summer.  That it was one-sided.  That he had chosen a woman who was indifferent about him and openly disinterested in commitment, particularly commitment to HIM.  And perhaps the hardest for anyone to admit: He knew all of this.  In the deepest part of him, he knew the love story taking place in his head was not the one playing out in his life.  But, he went along with it anyway.

I am happy to report I am much smarter than Tom (and almost as smart as his sister).  While Tom was still refusing to believe he had revised a great deal of he and Summer’s  history, I was deleting my Summer from my phone.  After months of justifying why I should not completely erase him from my life, the deletion process had become amazingly easy.   I simply held  firm to the truth of our memories and what our relationship really was instead of what I remembered it to be.

The love-clouded mind is truly an unreliable source.  It is shrewd in its ability to write a complete work of fiction and then pass off its creative little novel as a memoir.  Perhaps the lesson isn’t to look twice at your memories of passionate love, but to be aware that your mind is not always accurate.  And memories, although comforting, can also be quite misleading.

8 Responses

  1. wow! did you nail that one!!
    bravo, girl, you keep on writing……….and writing the jerk out of your life……you deserve much better, and at the very least, a more honest partner.

  2. THanks Susan! But, my “Summer” was actually really honest with me. In words, but most of all, in ACTIONS. That is what I want to come across most clearly in this post….my misleading memories were generated by ME and although this does not exonorate him from his flaws, it really does speak to the heart of the matter: I am/was responsible for how I conduct myself in the reality of the relationship I choose to be in. It’s not about Summer at all. It, as always, is/was about me (And Tom…lol)

  3. Hey Keturah, You are a brave soul. We do lie to ourselves all the time, especially about ourselves and our lives. It is brave to tell the truth, and braver still to tell the truth to ourselves. Keep lighting the path and sharing what you learn along the way.

  4. Well honey, you know how I’ve yakked, yakked and yakked some mo’ and I finally get what others have been doing for years……LYING TO THEMSELVES! I have decided to live in denial. And so far it’s working 🙂
    Great blog shawty!!!

  5. Keturah,

    This was an excellent blog entry. We should all be so eagle-eyed and clear, even if it’s in hindsight (20-20, right?). We must be careful not to fall for the fairy-tale, but it’s so easy because we’re fed a steady diet from our introduction to the Cinderella story as children. But keep on loving because it is part of our humanity; our hearts should never grow cold.

  6. Oh my goodness! I LOVE this! You are so on the mark. Thank you for sharing.

  7. My dear, you are oh so right! And I also have to applaud you for being so honest. It shows character and unfortunately there will only be a few of us that will be brave enough throughout our lives to constantly seek the truth.

  8. It’s a difficult thing to dissect oneself in public on the off chance that someone else might be helped. You’re a brave soul.

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