I woke up the other morning with a question: is cynicism an easier load to bear than the pain of hoping/believing and having a dream shatter? In the moment perhaps but in the end I'd rather die having had my heart bruised over and over again and having played full out than give in to the burst of cynicism that follows each loss.
I can't remember a time growing up when I believed in true and forever love - at least not for myself. I'm sure I did at some point. I hoped and I dreamed, often stupidly. As little girls do, I suppose, I drew wedding dresses and imagined my handsome prince, though those fantasies were always more about a pretty dress and a party, and seldom about the prince and the happily ever after. I had many crushes, but little else. So I don't remember when I actually believed. Or when it stopped.
Any belief that love was my fate certainly didn't survive past the age of 12, after being taller than most, and more outspoken than most. After being publicly shamed by my elementary school 'boyfriend.' After going through all of highschool being asked out only by a terrible bully and a weirdo.
I thought relationships were probably a good idea, at least on paper, but in the way that I thought being all around 'less' was a good idea - a way to not feel so different. Though really, the best I could hope for was to like someone who ticked most of the boxes on a human grocery list and who could stand being with me. Armed with those low expectations I sallied forth and stumbled upon my paper knight.
When I got married at the ripe old age of 20, it was not for love. I thought I could tough it out - that by sheer force of will & stubbornness I could make something work, and that while that was happening love would grow. After all, people in arranged marriages sometimes fall in love, so why not me? I figured I might as well marry someone who checked off most of the list - shared values (I thought); hard-working; close-knit family; cute. I'd work the rest out. And, for a long while I did. And then I didn't.
In the (ever-stretching) years since, I've dated. I've had some good times and some terrible times. I've edited and re-written and update and finally abandoned the checklist with each passing lesson. I feel a bit like the little bird in
Are You My Mother - ever searching for an increasingly ludicrous match.
But I haven't really truly believed in love - lust, like, romance, deep friendship, and the ability to choose to be with someone or not were the new 'best it gets.' Aside from one bright and shining light - distant as the north star - there were a lot of dim bulbs.
And then it happened. Me and my sturdy tree trunk legs somehow got weak in the knees. As in actually weak in the knees the first time he kissed me - I had to lean against him for support. That was new. He was kind and funny and gentle and could literally sweep me off my feet. That was also new. Initially it seemed he had enough belief for both of us. Eventually, that belief got worn down.
Three and a half years on, we are negotiating the frigid sometimes turbulent waters of friendship. Like the NorthWest Passage, it's sometimes hard to see a way ahead. We bob along wondering how to get through this when the person we're each used to turning to is the person being grieved.
And I am awake with the question - is the cynicism that accompanies disappointed hopes and dreams worse than the half-life of never loving and being loved? Obviously no - and curse hope ifor being so damnably irrepressible. I just pray that someday I discover there really is a third option.