How I ended up with a broken – or at least bruised – heart isn’t terribly important. I lost my heart, temporarily, briefly, to someone who was ridiculously cute, with tastes ridiculously astute, and I struggled with it for a while. I had been swept up in something I could not control. It became clear that while I had really loved, for whatever misguided reasons, I had loved someone who did not really exist as he had temporarily existed for the brief moment we had. Maybe I did not really exist in that way either except for that moment in time. Who knows? It’s irrelevant now. It took some fumbling in the dark to realize that that’s really okay – it does not, as he had once said, take away anything from that moment. He was right. I was never in the game of pointing fingers and laying blame about anything – it was never like that. It’s easy to get lost in the maze of feelings, twisted up inside by injudicious expectations… until you map your way out.
Always life’s impossible balance between expectation and hope. Probably in my life I had expected that certain events would play out as though they were predestined – like when I was a child I imagined that it would be perfectly reasonable that I might be married and even have a child by the age of 25. I suppose I thought and even expected this because it was the reality modeled for me. My parents had me when they were 24, and they had been married just over a year. Their marriage to each other was already a second marriage for both of them. I didn’t consider that perhaps my life would take a different path, that I would spend so much time undertaking formal education, that I would want to uproot myself from where I came from to explore the world, that I would come to think of being 24 or 25 as being almost a baby still, that nothing I did would lend itself to ‘family life’. I didn’t like ‘family life’ as a kid or growing up, so as time went on, I realized that having some other form of family life – one I built myself – was not a priority. The expectation slowly went away, deferred for an undetermined hope of “someday, maybe”.
This hope was dashed early on for various other reasons, but I was still very young, so I had time to get used to the new paradigm, to build different expectations and hopes while convincing myself most convincingly (!) that I didn’t need or want this ‘family life’ or anything like it – ever.
Did hope die then? I don’t think so. It’s just that when you are in your 20s, you don’t feel like it matters. Expectation, though, was dead and buried. Year by year, one by one, all the friends become ‘family people’ (pod people?!). I live on my own island, making the best of, the most of, it. It’s fulfilling enough, but is it enough? Is there still, against all hope or reason, some hope remaining for something that is the unlikeliest of unlikelies? It’s hard to say for sure – there are glimmers. I have made my peace with it.
Still, the body gives and takes away. Strapping young armcandy-like men swoop in and buoy me up but also remind me that I am not 30 like they are. (Who imagined that one day I’d be old enough to refer to someone in his early 30s as ‘shockingly young’?) These virile ‘youngsters’ who casually exclaim, “Marry me!” because we both watch the same tv shows cannot understand how this (in)delicate balance becomes unbalanced – when expectation shifts to outside hope before toppling over completely. Nor can they understand the set of deeply conflicted, jarring feelings that accompanies this whole thing. The older, the wiser, the better.
He: Actually, I think about this a lot. At 6 AM, most 45-year-old men are probably shaving, putting on a tie and getting ready to have a family breakfast before the morning commute.
She: How do you feel about not being one of them?
He: Sad. Elated. Lucky. Hard done by. Jealous. Smug…
She: Heavens. That sounds exactly like me.
How doleful, but unexpectedly joyous, to consider this shared fate, this shared set of discordant, inconsistent feelings and to know, at least in some way, this part of making our way through the maze is not something we have to do completely alone.