To the blows of insecurity. Feeding the cancer of my intellect, the blood of love, soon neglected, lay dying in the strength of its impurity.."-Indigo Girls, "Love's Recovery"
My first year of college was both the greatest feeling of freedom in my entire life, and my introduction to heartache. I shouldn't say that: I suppose my real introduction to THAT had been when my parents separated when I was very young. But I won't count that because I had built psychological walls around it that I wouldn't even discover existed for many years beyond the time I'm talking about. But after high school years spent dreaming of other places, other worlds, other realities, in college I finally opened my heart enough to others for something resembling real pain, longing, sorrow, and yes, mostly happiness, to be felt.
Of course there were the first few weeks of getting my feet on the ground. Just how far out were the boundaries here, anyway? Could I date the prom queen from high school? Did I go to fraternity houses and "party"? Did I really have to sleep at night? I don't mean to portray these as 'wild' times, because they weren't. But socially, I really did feel that I was in a dark room and had to feel around to find where the walls lay. This was partly by my own design, and partly the way that time of life has to be.
But within the first few weeks, I found myself surrounded by a group of friends who ate together, hung out every night together, went out on weekends together, and I don't need to keep telling you these things because you each know very well what friends do. But despite my belief that I had somehow killed all my illusions when I left high school, I really truly totally believed that I had now found my lifelong friends.
Only one of them would be at my wedding.
"Meanwhile our friends we thought were so together left each other one by one in search of fairer weather, and we sit here in our storm and drink a toast to the slim chance of love's recovery."
Sororities. Transfers to other schools. Predictably, relationships. (Or was that me?) Somehow, by the end of freshman year, those life-long friends were people I saw less and less of. How had this happened? Those I was closest to were becoming strangers. And in some cases, awkward strangers, at that.
And then along came facebook.
Well, it's not quite that simple. But honestly, it felt almost that simple. Because there had been new friends, other friends to replace those freshman-year friends. It was only years later that I deeply began to wonder just what had happened to them.
Now I have some (not all) of the answers. Sad stories of illness and failed marriage. Happy stories of cross-country moves and large families. And in some cases, no story at all. Emptiness. Mystery. Which used to be par for the course, but in the "new age", feels simply unacceptable.
And the slim chance of love's recovery.
But is there really such a thing? Facebook can be- in very limited circumstances- an amazing thing, a tool to bring long-ago relationships back to life. I've watched it happen in my own life. Old scars have been reopened and closed properly. And that is slim, rare, and wonderful.
But often, as each of us surely knows, there is simply the stating of long-ago relationships, and the realization that no current relationship exists at all, nor should it.
As far as I can tell, there is truly no way to predict which will be which. I have become new friends with people I hardly knew, and I have been in the same apartment as "old friends" from that time, and neither of us has even acknowledged the relationship ever existed. And I'm not just talking about relationships with the opposite sex.
"There I am in younger days, star gazing, painting picture perfect maps of how my life and love would be"
How wonderful that life didn't turn out like I'd pictured it then. But also, how horrible, in a way. I feel like I was so much more confident and maybe even able to do things then. Surely it's simply some kind of mental coping mechanism, but when I think of Habitat for Humanity trips and fundraisers, of concerts I attended and even set up myself, I am amazed I ever did those things. I certainly don't do them now. But is it that I can't, or that the possibilities were so open and hopeful then that I would try anything? Or maybe I just had a lot more time on my hands before a job, a wife, and a child.
How my life and love would be. I thought I had love figured out back then. And again. And again. Then I thought I'd discovered something profound, that I'd depend on myself and not the love of a girl.. How interesting, odd, and yes, wonderful, that when love finally pursued and attacked me like a cheetah and a gazelle (almost like reading Song of Solomon, isn't it?) it was nothing like all those maps I'd made for myself, all my self-lectures about waiting for the perfect person and blah blah blah. Don't read that wrong- my wife is perfect, all right. My soul mate. For real. It's just that it took me awhile to understand what perfect truly meant. I'd been looking for one thing when what love really was consisted of something totally different. I just thank God I ever figured it out- or she did and just didn't let go.
So, to paraphrase the song a bit, these are ghosts and mirages, all these searches for fairer weather. If I've learned something after all these years, that's perhaps it. All the anger, all the pain, all the regret. It's essentially useless. If you want to love, love. And if the slim chance of love's recovery doesn't pan out, life is too short to agonize. For too long I've been a bridge trying to hold onto slippery memories of water and ice that passed by long ago. If that water wants to rise to the clouds and return as new water- let it. Otherwise, let it flow away.
And drink a toast to the slim chance.