This post is a part of an ongoing series entitled MIP (Man In Progress).After my 25th Birthday I decided to improve three aspects of my life, my physical well-being, my romantic relationships, and my writing career. My philosophy is that a writer’s work and his life are irrevocably intertwined and in order to improve one, we inevitably have to improve the other.
“Look at all those people,” I said.
I am standing next to my ex (whom I will refer to from now on as “Y”) and I’m pointing at the crowd below us.
We are standing on the second floor of a department store, and we’re looking out of a wall made completely of glass. Through this wall of glass, we can see clearly below us at the large group of people making their way through the outdoor shopping center.
I am pointing at all those strangers passing by: mothers and fathers, children, couples, single men and women, all rushing around, all looking incredibly engrossed in their own lives, as if they do not recognize the multitude that surrounds them.
“Look at all those people,” I tell Y. “Each of them has their own story. Their own lives, separate from ours. And they have no idea, they don’t have any clue that our lives our going on right now. They’re just stuck in their own worlds. Sure, we’re close by, but even so: we’re not a part of their lives, and we may never be a part of their lives–and they won’t ever know the difference. Isn’t that interesting?”
Y nods and smiles.
“You were always so poetic,” he says with a sweet chuckle.
We make our way out of the department store and head over to The Cheesecake Factory. This is where I took him on our first date more than 5 years ago. We end up sharing a cheesecake like we did 5 years ago, but this time, the sweetness of the desert is mixed with something bitter and salty. (I’m not sure if it’s the crust: maybe it was made out of pretzel, I don’t remember.)
Finally, I tell him how I feel.
He is shocked. He tells me he is surprised. He tells me that for the last several years he has been with someone else, and he has moved on, and that he is sorry. He only returned to visit me as a friend.
We go on talking for a bit more, but since I am quietly devastated, I don’t think I hear much of it. At one point we leave the Cheesecake Factory and walk over to the courtyard outside. This courtyard features a small, quaint bridge huddled over a tiny, artificial lake.
On this lake, as if on cue, a small water show is now playing.
Jets of water fly into the air, forming wonderful arcs and spirals across space. Lights from the lake’s bottom illuminate the show and offer the right amount of pizzazz.
Me and Y approach this water show just as the music that accompanies it reached its crescendo:
“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amoreeeeeeee!”
The jets of water shoot to their highest level yet, and then they disappear abruptly. The lights go out. The music stops. The courtyard returns to its normal, everyday plainness.
How perfect, I thought bitterly: my love story had just reached its abrupt and sad end and it got a perfect soundtrack to accompany it.
Today, I think of that crowd in that shopping center. I think of all those people and how each of them, like me, had their own love story. In their heads, they were, of course, the center of that love story. It was a love story that ended happily, or one that ended tragically, or one that is still unfolding, or one that is still just a dream for now.
Each of them think that they are the only one’s looking for love, searching for it, finding it, and dealing with its consequences. Each of them think that they are deserving of that happy ending, the one they are yearning for: the kiss at the end story, when the conflict that separated the two lovers up until this point gets removed, and suddenly the two of them come together–and it’s like magic.
Every person in that crowd yearns for love, searches for it, dreams for it, and ponders its great mystery.
And for a brief moment, from out of that multitude, my ex–my Y–emerged out of the multitude to join me. And, for a brief moment, we had our own little love story. It unfolded and then, at the end of it, my Y said goodbye and walked back into that crowd. He disappeared among all those other strangers–all those strangers with their own love stories, love stories whose details were hidden from me, whose drama was unfolding without my knowledge, and who’s importance and urgency was not felt by me at all.
No. No love story but my own was important and urgent. No love story but my own was detailed and dramatic. I was engrossed, forgetting I was part of the multitude. Forgetting that there was a bigger picture and I was just part of it.
When I shared my love story with others, with my family and friends, it was as if their darkened hearts lit up for a moment. Quickly they would reveal to me their own love story that had not ended quite as they had expected–a love story that had been kept hidden from me up until now. They spoke of loves they had lost, loves they were currently struggling with, and loves they dreamed would happen, but never came.
It turns out I wasn’t the only one.
So many of us have a love story that didn’t end the way we wish it had (or never came at all).
I struggled to share my own love story with you today, but I know that I am part of that bigger picture, and that although I can’t offer much comfort at this moment, what I can say for certain is that if you’ve gone through something similar to what I’ve gone through, then you are not alone.
You are not the only one who has loved and found their love not returned.
So, today, if you are walking in that multitude with me, and you too have a love story that did not end as you had hoped, then please do me a little favor: turn around and look at me. Look at my face painted with sadness, bewilderment, and confusion, and wave at me. I promise you I will turn around and see your face in return–your face which, like mine, is probably also mixed with sadness, bewilderment, and confusion.
And while we have stopped to look at each other, we will cease being so engrossed in our own loves stories and recognize, for a brief moment, the bigger picture: that even though we don’t know the details, the drama, and the importance of our own individual love stories, we can at least know that there is still one heart that joins us together.
No, nothing will make us feel better right now except for, maybe, knowing that we are not alone.
much (almost) love,
Today’s Courage Exercise
If your love story has not ended quite as you had hoped it would, then today pause and turn around to look at the multitude that surrounds you. Realize that you are not the only one with a love story. Then, search for another kindred spirit across the multitude whose face is painted with the same sadness, bewilderment, and confusion as yours is, and then smile at them. Wave at them. Do this so that the both of you can recognize that, as sad as you both may be, you are not alone.
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