What most people call loving consists of picking out a woman and marrying her. They pick her out, I swear, I’ve seen them. As if you could pick in love, as if it were not a lightning bolt that splits your bones and leaves you staked out in the middle of the courtyard. They probably say that they pick her out because-they-love-her, I think it’s just the opposite. Beatrice wasn’t picked out, Juliet wasn’t picked out. You don’t pick out the rain that soaks you to the skin when you come out of a concert.
Up to a certain point in my life, I tried to manage my romantic impulses. I acted on curiosity or physical attraction but I avoided falling head over heels in love — until I was forty years old. As fate would have it, I met a young woman quite unexpectedly who was the “lightning bolt that split my bones,” as Cortazar puts it. The choice was made for me by forces beyond my control. I was thrown headlong into a deeper life, a life that I tried my best to manage in spite of all my insecurities and fixed ideas. I felt exposed and vulnerable.
Now, I feel safe, but it took years of sailing through the inevitable storms and high seas of a real relationship. There were times when I was hanging on by my fingernails. I see now that I didn’t believe real loyalty and caring was possible. I had gathered proof of that belief over the years, but I know now that my experience was limited, strangely enough, to unloyal people. I played the game too by being undependable. That was my protection, I regret to say.
When the Universe decided I was ready, it blindsided me with the real thing. I stepped into that world completely unprepared, exposed and naked, fighting against imagined assaults and indignities. It took years, really, to calm down and believe I was in fact ok.
The threat to your self concept is real, when it comes to the “coup de foudre” of this kind. It really is like being struck by lightning, but it can also be a stroke of luck. It can give your life a current of truth flowing through it because you are facing who you are and you are learning what love really is. You are learning what kinds of love you are capable of, and what kinds of sacrifices you are willing to make for it.
You are learning whether or not you can grow. A love like this is a challenge to your constructed self, which can be taken apart and put back together in a different form.
Someone said to me once, “ Well, it was time for me to get married and she seemed like the best candidate.”
My story is different, and I know I’m lucky that it is. Life sometimes takes you in hand in spite of your best laid plans. It knows you are capable of greater substance. It’s up to you to live up to the challenge.
How real do you want to be?