Gritty Scary Love

Of all the myths I’d love to dispel about love, it’s the idea that love is pretty.

courtesy Euthman via FlickrCC
See what I mean? Click on the image for the full effect.

Beautiful, that I can buy. Lots of awful things are beautiful. I once had a job digitizing slides of malignant cancer cells for the UW Medical School for use with their continuing education program. A kind of weird place for a guy with a recent dance degree to end up, I grant you, but that’s another story. The slides themselves were thin slices of flesh, stained carefully and frozen in amazing Hubble-telescopesque panoramas. My colleague AJ and I speculated once about turning some of the more astonishing ones into a calendar.

When we took that idea to the boss, though, he made a face. “You don’t understand,” he said, none too gently. “When you look at that, you see ‘Oh, pretty colors!’ When a cytopathologist looks at that, they see ‘Oh, that person’s gonna die.'”

Being In the Scary

The same thing often happens in regards to love. We watch Romeo & Juliet or Some Kind of Wonderful or A Prince of Tides or Last of the Mohicans (to name some of the more romantic movies I can think of) over and over because we think there is some kind of beauty to the tales told of love lost, love found, or love regained. What you don’t usually see is the love worked-our-asses-off-to-just-barely-make-it-through-another-day-together.

Do you think Cora Munro (the female romantic lead in Last of the Mohicans, who loses her father, her sister, and sees hundreds of others massacred before the end of the movie) would appreciate someone coming up to her, tear-soaked hanky in hand, saying “Oh, that was so romantic!“? I don’t think it was romantic for her. I think it was more like a horror movie, frankly, as wars usually are.

That’s talking about fiction. Real life is even more scary, because there’s not actually a story arc. There’s no rolling credits. Is it any wonder that the divorce rate is so high? Is it any wonder that so many couples that stay together don’t actually live in each others worlds? Trying to actually hash out and feel the actual reality of love is quite a scary place.

It’s much easier to float from relationship to relationship, enjoying the New Relationship Energy buzz from each. Or to let the fading of that NRE turn into a distance between the two of you, living separate lives with an “acceptable” level of interaction but with a limited level of actual intimacy.

Dealing with the changes that actually happen, making yourself vulnerable to the other person, and accepting that doing that will not always end up in happily ever after: that’s courage.

Most of the readers of this blog don’t have bears and tigers and such to test our courage, and aside from the occasional natural disaster we don’t really have our courage tested in the ways that past generations have. Even the media chooses to insulate us, and provides us with vicarious stresses to distract us from dealing with our own.

Thank goodness for that. Because when you take all that away? Love is a gritty and scary place.

Oh, and breathtakingly, awesomely, indubitably beautiful.

Now, while it’s only tangentially related to this post, I invite you to put on headphones (or a good speaker system) and watch/listen to this clip. It is one of the most amazing examples of sheer talent combined with detailed planning combined with flawless execution that I’ve ever seen.

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