Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Very Inclusive Club

I love my hair stylist.

It’s true—she’s wonderful. Sweet, sexy, talented—all the things a good stylist should be. She’s also become a friend, which makes my every-five-weeks (gotta lotta grays to cover up!) visits to her even more enjoyable.

As it sometimes happens when you’re in close proximity to someone for better than an hour (especially in the semi-confidential setting of the stylist’s chair) talk often turns to relationships. At this morning’s appointment, talk turned to past lovers. No, no, we weren’t doing the “oh, I miss him so much” thing (especially for me—my last “real love” prior to my husband was almost 16 years ago). We weren’t mourning the loss of the “almost.” She’s in a blissfully happy relationship, and I have been one half of a mostly successful marriage for over a decade. We’re both committed-type gals.

It was a really insightful conversation. I left feeling somehow lighter; it was a relief that I wasn’t the only one out there who still feels certain ways about certain things.

Then, driving a short distance up the road to a Peet’s Coffee in Anaheim Hills (where I’ve been doing a lot of my work lately—being at home is not necessarily conducive to actually working, I’m discovering) I spotted a group of people crossing from the office buildings to the smattering of restaurants across the way. As I watched them walk—three guys and two girls, laughing, talking, obviously looking forward to enjoying a fun lunch together—it occurred to me that every one of those 20-to-30 something people had, at one point in their life, had their heart broken. Just like me. Just like my stylist. Just like my friends. And anyone else who has managed to survive the dating world past the age of 25. And it made me think about the impact these lost loves have had on all of us—and how, even after many years away from them, even years after you know the last shred of love you had for them is gone, these lost loves still have an influence in your life, however small, and the way you view the world.

For me, it is a small, dull ache, like an old bruise—along with an absolute certainty that he was not the right guy for me. I spent years in my 20s, following the split, trying to “get back” at him (which was really quite hilarious, considering that we stopped all contact after our break up and he had no way of knowing what I was up to). I played the “I don’t want to get hurt” card on every date, and in turn, hurt others. It took a very long time for me to open up my heart again, and by that time I was nearly 29, much more settled and focused. I also had something I didn’t before—perspective. Not everything—including the break up—was about me. We just were not right for each other—it was to his credit that he recognized it before I did. His credit, and his unbroken heart.

And I'll admit to this: now and then I do wonder what he's up to. And I have googled him once or twice. I even found him on Facebook, though we are not "friends." In my circle of close friends, most have admitted that, like me, they still have a special place in their past for the one who changed their view of the romantic world. And they, like me, despite normal curiosity about their "past love," are for the most part happy with the journey their life has taken them on, and the person they've taken that journey with.

So I'm part of a very large, very inclusive club: the club of people who've had their heart broken, stomped on, crushed, twisted, torn apart, and otherwise mangled almost beyond recognition. And I'm also part of the club whose members (all of us, it would seem) discover that hearts really do mend, though it takes time, energy, effort, and most of all, perspective. I think, for the most part, these two clubs are actually one and the same. Because after all, most of us end up in a long term relationship. It may not be with our first love (in fact, 9 times out of 10 it's not) but it is with, God willing, our real love.

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