American Love Story
I am a hopeless romantic.
I’ve spent a good bit of time trying in earnest to change this. A trail of broken hearts, like bread crumbs, meanders its way through my past and should be enough to get someone to stop believing in love stories.
But not me. My faith in love stories endures.
* * *
Call it the Disney-effect, or maybe the result of over-exposure to Julia Roberts in my younger years, but until recently I considered the most desirable love stories to follow a set formula:
Boy and girl meet.
Boy and girl spend a sufficient time dating.
Boy and girl get married.
Boy and girl live happily ever after.
The harder I clung to this formula, the more it alluded me, the harder I clung to it.
Real love was easy, straight forward, devoid of any real hurdles.
And then I woke up.
* * *
True to 2016’s form, the last few weeks have been full of heartbreak. Between having to step away from a volunteer role I cherished because I just couldn’t find a way to get my heart to agree that my sins were less than someone else’s and the results of the election this week (the devastation of which needs no explanation), my heart has been hovering somewhere around my abdomen and I think I should have bought stock in Kleenex sometime around October 1. Things seem bleak, to say the best.
Is this really the world we live in?
While, sure, it would have been nice to see a woman in the White House, that’s not the part that gets me. Its that survivors of sexual abuse - women like me and far too many of my friends – now have to contend with many men feeling like they have a renewed pass touch us when we rather they’d not. Its that Facebook is being overrun with stories of people who aren’t white or who weren’t born here (or who were but apparently don’t “look like” they were) being verbally abused and physically attacked less than a week out from the election. Its that many people who I love very much are scared that their families may be in jeopardy simply because they love someone who shares the same sex organs they do.
This is our world? Really?
* * *
Here is the thing I’ve learned about love stories. The best ones – the truly epic ones – they don’t follow that formula I clung so hard to. They’re the ones that are steeped in heartbreak or separation or uphill climbs. They are the stories of people who found each other long before they were ready, only to be reunited sometime later. The stories of people who had to make the painful choice to go their own ways before coming together again. The stories of people who couldn’t be together – for whatever reason – but whose hearts remained connected through the ether by a love that wouldn’t fade. No matter how dark, no matter how long, no matter how lonely, their love stayed the course through the hard parts, until they could be together again.
Those are the love stories of novels and poems. Their beauty comes from the fact that their love survived the depths. Not from the fact that they came by it easily.
When people who have those love stories talk about their reunions, very rarely do they say they wished they had skipped over that void of time when they were separated. Why is that?
I can’t say for sure, but I’d wager that in that space they learned to love in a different way. That they learned to cherish each other in a capacity that can’t be reached when you never have to feel the kind of longing they surely did. That they learned that while they are perfectly capable of life without each other, they’d rather not have to live it. That they learned very clearly the distinction between need and want.
And while there is nothing wrong with telling the grand kids a story about how easily grandma and grandpa fell in love and got married and lived happily ever after, I have to believe that a special kind of magic comes when you get to share a story of two people who found each other again after being apart, knowing they didn’t want to live life without each other.
That is a real love story.
* * *
Things are dark right now for a lot of us. People are rightfully scared and people are worried and people aren’t sure what is coming next.
Like lovers who long to be together but can’t be, its in this space of grief and the great unknown that we can become stronger, brighter, more full of love than we ever imagined. We will learn that we can bring light into even the darkest of times – that we do not need our government to do that. We will learn that love can, in the end, conquer all and that we really do have the ability to create Heaven here on earth – with or without our leaders buying in. We will learn that we each have the distinct ability to add our brand of light to the space, and collectively we will banish the darkness and bask in the glow we’ve created.
We will learn that what we want is a system that isn’t looking to dim that light or fuel the darkness. That what we want is to live in a country founded on love.
And after we learn that – we’ll create it.
* * *
I ran from my hopeless romantic heart much the way I ran from God for so long. But in the end, we can never really run from who we truly are. For me, God and love remain the cornerstones on which the foundation of my life is established. They always were. Always will be.
And I truly believe the same cornerstones still shore up the foundation of our country. Even though it doesn't look that way this week.
For us, I still believe that there is far more love and light in this country than there is hate and anger. I believe that this is our void – the place our love must survive in order to flourish into something worth remembering – to make us a country a worth telling the grand kids about.
This is an American love story.