I cried today. Feelings surfaced, rising up through the murk of a difficult and confusing few days; seeping through the layers of tiredness accumulated over these last few weeks of uncertainty. Love can make the strongest of us vulnerable and open; it is the nature of love to shake the walls and foundations, let the light in, allow the deluge to wash over us. It is both thrilling and terrifying; comforting and unnerving. New love, at it’s most tender and burgeoning, can have us flighty as teenagers and just as unsure; we feel every emotion possible in a single day, and we feel it intensely.
In the course of leaving my marriage of 27 years, I met, once again, someone whom I had loved many years ago. Falling in love all over again has been an extraordinary experience, one that has brought both pain – as both of us tackle the challenges of leaving long-term relationships – and undeniable joy.
No one expects when they marry to walk away from that relationship; we hope that love will endure; that we will continue to grow together as couples. For many this remains a reality, for others, we learn that we can love and be loved by more than one person in a lifetime; that couples can grow apart and that, beyond an honest effort to work at something, can reside the hurt of having to accept that a relationship has run its course. This realization brings deep sadness and guilt and a host of paradoxical feelings.
I met my husband when I was seventeen. I married at nineteen. Looking at our wedding photographs, we are children, our faces plump, fuller in the way that young people’s are before a little aging sculpts them and they lose their puppy fat. I look at kids of that age now and am shocked at how unformed and naive they are, knowing full well that I was the same but yet was making choices and decisions complicated enough for adults, let alone teenagers. I had so much more certainty and trust back then, launching out into love and life in the most reckless of ways, barely thinking about the consequences, merely living to the rhythm of my own emotions. It was a turbulent time but the deep love I felt for my husband and the bond of our friendship (which thankfully still remains), meant that moving forward was simple and direct – difficult at times but direct nonetheless.
With age comes the inevitable painful experiences that might lead us to temper our recklessness and forgo our trust in happy endings. We might replace it with a stifling caution that can, at times, keep us emotionally safe but also cripple our spontaneity and undermine our sense of faith that love can work. In short, love can get more complex and tricky, and the stakes higher, the older we get.
I never thought I would fall in love again. I had gotten to the stage where I believed that it was merely a set of psychological processes, one that could be deconstructed, explained away by hormones or nature’s imperative to reproduce. I knew that love was real, that we feel love for our children, families, friends, pets, partners etc, but falling ‘in’ love could not be trusted.
My cynicism was really a cover for a deep sadness that the feeling of intense emotion - that perfect madness, the ecstatic sickness that falling in love can be – was lost to me. What I didn’t bargain for was that life would prove me wrong; would challenge my assumption by bringing the one person who could have touched and changed me, back into my life. And he has done just that – touched me back into life.
I wrestle with the endings – the hurt that both our estranged partners are feeling; the life-time of shared experiences left behind – on a daily basis. It isn’t easy to walk away from home and security; from a world that is safe and known; from companionship, from people who have perhaps witnessed us at our lowest and our best. However, sometimes we reach a point when we recognize that something in us is dying, and nothing less that the most drastic of measures will save us.
Today, when I cried, the man who has brought that love back into my life, held me. And in that simple but deep act of sharing I see that – there amongst the wreckage – love is a green shoot, surprisingly resilient. It grabs us and shakes us beyond our will or reason back into life, wringing out of us the fear and the passion; the joy; the churning uncertainty and the stillness at the heart of chaos. Love is fingers entwined in the darkness; the soft touch of the future on your cheek; it is a song once lost, now remembered…and when it comes, it changes everything.