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LESSONS IN LOVE
What if I'd married the first man who told me he loved me too fast? He told me after just a few weeks of going steady, my junior year in high school...he told me he could see us getting married, having kids. He joined a bible study group and a choir because I was in them, despite his authority-snubbing long hair and worship of hard rock. He wrote nice things about me in the school paper and took me to dances. The thing is, I'm pretty sure even now that he was sincere and not just trying to get into my strait-laced choirgirl pants.

Marriage and children! Even as I carried on going steady with him for 7 more months, mostly because I didn't know how to break up with him, even then not wanting to hurt someone's feelings, I had already withdrawn from the relationship the moment after he showed me that vision in his head. I found out many years later that he was married to his college sweetheart, the father of 4 kids and a born-again Christian.

I had only 3 months with the sweetheart of my high school life, right before the end of the school year and the departure of both of us to distant parts of a distant country, to the ribbons of time and experience that were already unreeling in different directions when we got together. That boy taught me about romance, about long hours spent talking with heads on shoulders and arms around each other, about filling a small notebook full with letters to him during a concert tour bus trip I went on, away from him for over a week, in the first days of our relationship, knowing already then it was a bubble, a shining ephemeral thing to be pressed like the blue paper flowers from prom in a book of memories.

College taught me flirting, it taught me fun, it taught me not to take things seriously. I had no heart, I was only a cartoon character despite falling in and out of innocent couplehood with a few laughing boys. Then I fell and I fell hard, my feet swept out from under me completely, totally blind to everything else in the world except the wonder of the size my heart had expanded to. What if? What if I had never learned to love?

What if the person who broke my heart after that 5-year relationship had never done it? Never taught me the power of betrayal, the truth of the cliché that the things that don't kill you make you stronger? Some days I still long for the giddy heights that relationship took me to. Some days I wish I had never taken it for granted in the first place. After that, I put my own ring on my finger, a ring of strength and independence (my preciousss), and inwardly declared that I would never replace it until I was sure that its replacement would be permanent.

What if I'd married the second man who told me he loved me too fast? He, too, made the mistake of mentioning marriage and children. I never made any secret of my aversion to the 2nd and disdain for the first. 3 months we'd been a couple, and a long-distance one to boot. "Love me?" I said, "You don't even know me." That was the beginning of the end.

The one after that didn't believe I could be so cruel to break up with him at all. He made me promise to think about it for a month, even though I knew my decision was final, and meet him for dinner to tell him all over again that I hadn't changed my mind.

The one after that forced me to see that I was not nearly as nonchalant about life as I had thought. He was too beautiful for me in the end, though, and too callous. We made something and broke it together. I still miss the flowers he brought me every week. I miss the way he made me feel in that red and black dress and high heels. I don't miss the high heels, though. And, you know, I don't miss him.

What if I'd married the man who never told me he loved me, the one I told instead, learning what it felt like to be on the other end of that statement and facing someone without a heart, someone like the someone I had been for so long? The one I meant when I confided to my grandmother, a woman for whom propriety and conformity were highest in importance, that I was going to marry him someday. I was wrong, thank goodness, and while I miss him as a friend, miss his unexpected sly humor, his slow smile, his carpenter hands, the relationship I had with him was ultimately all in my own head.

When I put on the ring that I wear now, I knew it was the right one to replace the hardness I had carried around my heart, around my hand, around my life for so long. Maybe I softened with experience; maybe it just took the right place and the right time, to meet the right man. A man who both took me at face value and took the time to learn the value behind the face. What if I had never learned all those lessons? How to love, how not to love, how to be lovable.

The algebra of love, a mathematical sum that brings me to where I am now, never just a simple addition or subtraction. Both plus and minus, a secret x which stands for my heart and y which stands for his heart, a line drawn between us, parentheses enclosing us. I was never good at math, but I've always been an excellent student, and I've been lucky in my teachers.
 happy
mood: happy
music: Alanis Morrissette—You Learn


Comments

What an incredible entry, you are so eloquent. If only I could come close to writing something like this. The "what ifs" can be so powerful, but each person of significance in our lives is here to make a difference and we will never be the same again if they move away from us or if we choose to go into a different direction. I also feel that once a relationship is over we see a much more realistic view of what really happened. Looking back now I can't believe some of the decisions I made in my past but I do see that I had to go through it all to be where I am today.

Damn it, Liz, you turned on my water works now!

awww...how beautiful! yer yankin on me heart! *sniffle*

you leave me speachless. that was breathtaking. thank you.

*takes a deep breath*
So beautiful, so true.

This truck a special cord with me:
"Some days I still long for the giddy heights that relationship took me to. Some days I wish I had never taken it for granted in the first place. After that, I put my own ring on my finger, a ring of strength and independence (my preciousss), and inwardly declared that I would never replace it until I was sure that its replacement would be permanent."

It is interesting how no love is the same. How each love diffracts through you in a different way, revealing different nuances in your needs and strengths. How you will often miss certain aspects of an old love, or perhaps more accurately different aspects that this love brought out in you.

Yeah, it's so true, and it's both wonderful and, at times, confusing for a moment. I find when I fall into patches of loneliness that I can build something up in my head that's not necessarily all good, just one aspect that I loved, no, love. And that's fine. I need to remember that.

thanks, so honestly spoken and shared! ahh!! :))) i've learned that one has to be friends first before anything can show to become something. :) because my guy needs ultimately be my best friend. :) can't be anything less. :)

peace&love,
sari

in fact, it couldn't have come in a more appropriate time, your post. :) haha! it further strenghtens. :)

Beautiful post Liz. You've got everyone thinking...

I liked that recital. One of my girlfriends used to say that when people asked her how she got so lucky with her smart, successful, loving husband, she would answer, "I learn from my mistakes. It's called dating."

Beautiful and interesting contemplations, as usual Liz.


The learning of ourselves, and others. Would we be with the same people if they had been at a different time in meeting us - perhaps not. We grow, they grow, Virgo. Oh really. I am Saggitarius....(and this comment is getting a little Studio 64....so ends....)

Great post!

Well written.

thank you

That's my favourite post so far :) And that's a big call ;)

I could so relate to that AND learn from it which is a lovely combination, thanks.

wow, that is a post to remember, and so very true, now i have to go and ponder these things...

That was lovely and very meaningful. I'm so glad to be here and reading. What have I been missing?

aww, that was sweet :) thank you!

(Anonymous)

Beautiful, beautiful post, Liz. ~Marilyn

Liz - this is just beautiful. Extremely thoughtful. And isn't it just as important to learn how NOT to love, and how to be lovable?

Absolutely :)

I am hoping in my next life I might have learned some of these lessons. This life is a wash. What I have learned is that forgiveness isn't all that it's cracked up to be. And that old adage that things happen for a reason, doesn't come close to eradicating regret. I'm sure that's the way it's supposed to be.

This life can't be a wash yet, you have at least half of it, if not more still ahead of you. *hugs*

Liz, your writing is always incredible, but this really was special. It truly touched my heart and I feel that you offered us a piece of your heart with this beautiful work of prose. It also gave me food for thought!

What if I had never learned all those lessons? How to love, how not to love, how to be lovable.
Alas, you'd have ended up like me. But I am not going to be a fatalist ... perhaps my true love is still out there.

I truly believe that for you! Every lesson takes us closer :) Hang in there!!

What a wonderful entry! Thank you!

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