A: "No, but I've stepped in it a couple of times."
It's an old joke, I'll grant you. But the idea that love is either a big, black chasm into which you fall haplessly, or something that needs to be scraped off of your shoe, is really how we tend to think. Either way, it's nothing we can control, we're sure. It is something that happens to us, like a chin pimple or the measles, rather than something we choose, like a vacation trip or acquiring a puppy.
What does that say about us and the way we see love? This isn't a lecture here. The question isn't rhetorical. I'm serious. Why are most of my friends so very lousy at love? (Sorry, you guys -- you know I love you, but you suck at it, as do I.) I'm thinking the whole "falling in love" thing might have something to do with it. Some of my most controlling, anal-retentive friends suddenly become mere flotsam and jetsom in the Sea of Love, tossed about on the waves, washing in and out with the tide, with no ability at self-propulsion whatsoever.
Why am I divorced? How is it, after waiting so long to find someone I thought I could marry -- could be married to -- it turns out I was so terribly wrong? He was a good guy, to be sure. He's a good father. But he wasn't a good husband -- at least not for me. Much of my hesitance in getting involved again is that I'm afraid that I'll end up in the same predicament, until I figure out how this whole thing works.
How can I play "the game" when I know neither the rules nor the object? It isn't to live happily ever after. We know that. There is no such thing. And I've heard all the stuff about being "friends" so that when love fades, you have something to fall back on. But I have friends. Good friends. Friends who've already lived through the worst of my life with me (and me of theirs). They've "done the time," as it were. Do I need another friend? Maybe it's a different kind of friendship.
Maybe there are no rules. Maybe there is no object. Someone said recently that, when you think about it, love never lasts forever. Either you die before you break up, or you break up before you die. So the first step in all of this is to realize that it's okay to only love a little while. Maybe each relationship has it's own half-life, and we should just sort of simmer in it until it's done, then move on. Seems like an awful lot of trouble for something so temporal, if you ask me. I have friendships that have lasted for 26 years. And I don't have to worry about them hogging the covers or leaving hairs in the sink.
Still, there is the "warm-fuzzy" aspect. It's been a very long time since I've felt truly good about caring for someone. I can't even remember what it feels like. I stick to school-girl style crushes that require no energy or effort. Part of it is time -- I still haven't figured out how to create the 48-hour day. Part of it is fear -- the fear of picking wrong again. The fear that I seem to be drawn to semi-neurotic, somewhat depressed artist/writer types. I suppose the semi-neurotic and somewhat depressed need love, too. And who better to love them than someone who knows them so well, and appreciates them in all of their mentally unbalanced glory.
I don't know. I'm open to suggestions. I do know this. I'd rather believe on any day of the week that love, whether it's good or bad, healthy or dysfunctional, happy or sad, is a choice that we make, rather than something that happens to us by accident -- or worse still, that we need to scrape off onto the nearest concrete curb, lest we stink up the car. I'd like to think that if I ever get this figured out - this whole love thing - that I can make a conscious choice to do it.
I have hope. No clue, but hope. That's something anyway.