I started trying to write this piece in January. It is now May. I don’t think I have ever sat on a piece of prose for so long. I’ve been having some D and M chats with a bunch of different close friends in this time and I guess this is the final result. It’s been a hard one to get my head around at times but I guess I’m feeling a bit more positive about it all right now.
I can still remember my English teacher’s advice while studying Enduring Love by Ian McEwan, a book that I read and pretended to understand in order to get good grades. She told us “we spend a lifetime trying to find the perfect lover, rather than trying to make the perfect love”. Just as the book, her advice went well over the head of my ‘never been kissed’ teenage self.
I guess the thing I never accepted about relationships until very recently is that they are never perfect. Disney lied to us all. Or more accurately they never bother to follow up on Cinderella and Prince Charming two, three, fifteen years after that fateful kiss. We get the meet-cute and the assumption everything post event was “happily ever after”.
It’s one thing to be told a fact in a year 12 English class. It’s another to live it. The older I get, the more I travel, the more hobbies I have, the more mistakes I make, the more I see how true it is. There are a lot of different people in this world I could live failing at happily ever after with. My life might have to take different forms and shapes to what I can imagine right now but when you meet one of those people you can only find yourself imagining those alternate realities.
I watched “marriage story” the other day. The acting is pretty phenomenal and while I was a little disappointed the easy-out ending I think it did a wonderful job of questioning all the “alternate endings” our lives could have. Maybe if she’d just read the goddamn letter at the start they’d have stayed together. Maybe if they’d stayed together she’d never have become as successful as she was by the end of the film. Maybe she would’ve been happier, maybe she wouldn’t. There isn’t a “right answer” until you make it one and there are always a thousand other ways “it could have been”.
I visited J and J, friends of mine in Christchurch, back in January. At times it was like an intensive relationship therapy session. It was fantastic. They are both extremely open about their relationship and the struggles they have faced. They are also both followers of my blog and don’t mind coming down the rabbit hole with me.
In summary, J and J both admit that when they got married they were “very very young” and had no real idea what they were getting themselves into. They both admit that perhaps if they weren’t married they would have gone their separate ways at times but the marriage has provided enough commitment for them to stay together and work on their issues.
I just adored their openness and willingness to acknowledge that relationships are hard work but you get out what you put in. For the first time I started to think realistically about what I wanted out of a relationship and what I was willing to put in to get it. It made me believe that while no relationship is ever “perfect” with honesty, openness, and realism you might get pretty close. It made me want to build the perfect love not just expect to stumble across it at the end of the grocery aisle.
Self love paragraph. These three words have sat here as a placeholder for a very long time. I know I risk sounding like a tacky black poster with white cursive writing by uttering the “you can’t love someone else if you don’t love yourself” rhetoric I have sneered at for most of my conscious existence. However, I recently stumbled across a phrasing that seemed to sit apart from the tired cliches “someone else loving you does not save you from the job loving yourself”. You can attempt to use another person’s love to patch the holes in your own self esteem, to hide from your flaws, but I don’t think it is sustainable. If you want to build a strong relationship then you have to believe you truly deserve one.
Last week I found part of a poem by Rupi Kaur, it summarises what I am trying to say far more beautifully than I ever could. So I am just going to leave this here and shut up now. This has been one of the most challenging pieces I have ever attempted to write and yet Rupi Kaur seems to summarise it in 191 words. Incredible.
“maybe we’re looking at it wrong
we think it’s something to search for out there
something meant to crash into us
on our way out of an elevator
or slip into our chair at a cafe somewhere
appear at the end of an aisle at the bookstore
looking the right amount of sexy and intellectual
but i think love starts here
everything else is just desire and projection
of all our wants needs and fantasies
but those externalities could never work out
if we didn’t turn inward and learn
how to love ourselves in order to love other people
love does not look like a person
love is our actions
love is giving all we can
even if it’s just the bigger slice of cake
love is understanding
we have the power to hurt one another
but we are going to do everything in our power
to make sure we don’t
love is figuring out all the kind sweetness we deserve
and when someone shows up
saying they will provide it as you do
but their actions seem to break you
rather than build you
love is knowing who to choose”
~ Rupi Kaur