February 28, 2006

First Love: The Fall

Perspective is an interesting thing. As you get further and further away from an object, other items get obscured or revealed. The object itself often seems less and less significant in comparison to others that suddenly are revealed in the foreground. Sometimes the object disappears from view altogether, at other times it lingers there in the background; no longer the focus of attention, but still a part of what makes the view uniquely itself.

In some ways it is hard for me, with 30 years of added distance and changed perspective, to remember clearly what First Love was like. In others - well, it perhaps does not seem like yesterday, but at least last week...


I didn't go through the crushes and vicissitudes of the usual High School Life Romantic. Like my mother before me, I had One Great Love during my entire high school career, and for my first year of college. I had every intention (as did my great love) of getting married when our college years were done, of moving somewhere new and exciting, of forging a life together. I believed in this future with a near religious fervor. Romeo and Juliette had nothing on us - we were the Real Thing.

Of COURSE we were. We were young, we were attractive, we had interests in common. We were clever, talented, idealistic and passionate. He was ambitious and sharp. I was creative and tender. We shared a reasonable number of values, and weren't overly offended where there wasn't overlap. We shared and understood certain traumas in each other's lives. We had compatible senses of humor and esthetics, and a shared vision of the future. We had an amusing yet romantic tale of our first encounter with which to regale our future grandchildren: we met as participants in our local Renaissance Fair - I bedecked in velvet gown and crowned with flowers, he tiddly on mead and wearing tights. He declared his intention of marrying me on that first day. It was meant to be. What cloud could there possibly be on the horizon of our life together?

I don't know which of us was more surprised and appalled when I found myself telling him that I loved him but now realized that I could never *live* with him and be happy.

It was a slow-developing realization for me, that love did not necessarily equate with happiness. It had never occurred to me in those years of First Love that there were things that I could not share with this lovely young man, and that trying to keep those parts of my life separate would eventually create a rift between us that could not be bridged adequately. It had never occurred to me that very small differences in visions for the future could end up looming large in the Big Picture when one started to look at just how long the expanse of one's adult lifetime could be.

Love isn't necessarily *enough*.

I think that has been the hardest lesson I've ever had to learn. It's certainly one that I keep having to relearn, to my sorrow, over and over again. Our culture is, in spite of what politically minded folks would have us believe, all about the redemptive power of Love. We believe, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that Love Conquers All. Romantic Love, Maternal Love, the Love of Family, Platonic Love, Love of Mankind... "Love is all you need," right?


The realization that love *isn't* all we need dawned on my First Love and I at nearly the same moment, although I had crept up to it slowly, with trepidation, while he had it thrust upon him suddenly and unawares. I handed him the Apple and watched him as he bit, saw the agony as it rose in his eyes.

Being Eve *sucks*.


I don't, at this moment, even armed with whatever wisdom the perspective of thirty years of extra living affords me, presume to judge which sort of pain is worse.

To be the person who voluntarily ends a passage of True Love is like being caught in the Press... you feel each stone as it is piled atop you, you feel each moment of damage as it is happening, you see the agonizing end long before it's upon you and yet feel helpless to prevent it. It's a dark and messy thing, made worse by the sneaking suspicion that the person who is piling the stones might be your own self.

To be the person on whom the end of True Love is inflicted is a cleaner thing, a stabbing blow to the heart rather than a slow crushing. To many the death seems unexpected, a betrayer's attack that may have been presaged in any number of ways but whose signals we have somehow missed or ignored. There may be a certain protective quality to the shock we experience at first. But the pain is searing and the disillusionment overwhelming.

Either way, if you live through the experience there are lasting scars.

I know now that the scars are part of life, that they are necessary lessons learned, that in the end they make us deeper, more understanding, wiser people. I know now that strength comes from the testing of our weaknesses, that pain does end and joy begin again. I know that love, like a pair of shoes, can be brighter and more tempting when new and untried, but is much more comfortable and durable when worn and scuffed and tested. I know my grandmother was right when she repeated her panacea, "This, too, shall pass."

I didn't know it then, when I was Eve. My son doesn't know it now, as he faces his own Eve. It's a gift that comes with perspective, which is something that is hard-won, but which comes to everyone with time. After we survive the Fall.

I hope we survive the Fall.

This, too, shall pass...


Blogger Tink said...

Isn't that the bitter truth? I don't think Eve's gift is an apple. It's a lemon. I ended a two year relationship with a man I truly loved for the very same reason. Love wasn't enough. I don't think he ever understood. But he felt it.

8:03 AM  
Blogger mrspao said...

pao and I are doing a marriage course at the moment and we are beginning to understand how complex relationships really are. We have both brought aspects of our own parent's marriages and these have coloured our expectations. And we have to learn to how deal with these. It has been quite an eye opener for both of us as it has forced us to address issues which we've left to one side and helped us to realise that there is more to our relationship than we thought. I suppose I'd say that love is a starting point but in reality, you need to have a firmer foundation.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Sending a *hug* to the Vampire. :(

5:57 PM  
Blogger mE said...

Tink~ I'm with you, there! No real lemonade from this lemon, just whatever scars left over when you survive the wounds. I imagine it's no comfort to the Vampire that they are scars that we *all* carry...

Mrs. Pao~ Very true. I suppose the longer our relationships go on, the more 'layers' they develop, like rings on a tree or strata in the earth. When we go through a particular period we develop coping mechanisms (based on our experience of previous 'layers'), and each leaves its own particular pattern of bumps and hollows that affect the shape of the layers that follow, even when those coping mechanism are no longer effective. I suppose your course is rather like a forensic examination of those various layers - I can see where it would give you a lot of insight, some appreciation of what you have gone through together and survived, and in some cases a bit of dismay at what had been left laying about undealt with. I'm glad that it worked/is working out well for you and Mr. Pao! :)

Chris~ Thanks, I'll hug him a bit extra on your behalf. He needs all the support he can get right now, poor kid.

7:55 AM  
Blogger mama_tulip said...

*hugs* for Vampire too...

12:17 PM  
Blogger mrspao said...

I like your description. I do feel for the Vampire. It is only after you have loved your first love that you start to realise that there is more than that and you become knit together bumps and slipped stitches along the way (do you like the way I got a knitting analogy in there?)

2:49 PM  
Blogger mE said...

I think you're brilliant! :D

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Jinny said...

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4:47 AM  

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